The Inspirations: Kirsty Mitchell

Lavender Princess

I came across the work of Kirsty Mitchell via flickr a few years ago. It was her ‘Lavender Princess’ image (above) that I first saw and I was immediately hooked. I’d never seen anything like it and I was smitten…head over heels in love in fact! It’s actually hard for me to articulate how Kirsty’s work makes me feel but needless to say she transports me to a magical world with every image that I’m lucky enough to see.

If possible, Kirsty’s story is even more moving than her incredible images. Get ready to be inspired…

The Faraway Tree

Hi Kirsty, can you tell us your story – how you started in photography and a little bit about your journey from then till now?

I studied analog photography many years ago when I was 18 at art school, but this was before digital became mainstream. It was my first contact with the medium, and sadly I felt defeated and frustrated by my tutor’s focus on the technical processes rather than creative expression. I saw photography as an art form not a science, and so in the end I followed a career into fashion design instead. It was another 13 years until I picked up a camera again in the summer of 2007. I was in the process of recovering from 4 months of chronic insomnia brought on by posttraumatic stress. The drugs I had been prescribed, had numbed my senses to the point where I had pretty much lost all awareness of touch, temperature and interest in the lives of the people around me, I was a zombie. I was undergoing hypnotherapy and slowly things began to return, but my sensitivity came back at an almost heightened state. It’s hard to describe without it sounding like a cliché, but it was like I was seeing the world for the first time, and I had an overwhelming urge to record everything around me.

So I simply started with a little point and shoot I kept in my handbag, and just took as many pictures as I could on the way to work, on the train, the bus, wherever I was. It was a sudden and very emotional awakening, that I still can’t explain, but it was utterly addictive to me. It was shortly after this that my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and I was thrown into the horrors of her treatment and decline. My camera became my escape and my only outlet for self-expression. As well as street photography, I began photographing myself, creating more and more elaborate pictures, to push the real world as far away as I possibly could.

Tragically my mother died in 2008, and that was the catalyst for beginning my project ‘Wonderland’ in her memory. It is such a complicated story it is impossible to explain everything in a short answer, but it is this work that 2.5 years later has gained a world wide following, and led me to leave my career in fashion to work as an artist.