In 2011, a little-known Dutch model named Laura Kampman caught the eye of Steven Meisel and the world took notice. Their first collaboration came in the form of an edgy, rough-and-tumble morning-after shoot for the Balenciaga Spring 2012 campaign. That was followed up with a bewitching Surrealist cover for Vogue Italia’s February 2012 issue.
Over the next couple years, Laura would go on to book editorials in major magazines, from W to ELLE, and walk in some of the most sought-after runways in New York and Europe. But last September during the Spring 2015 shows, the 20-year-old beauty was noticeably absent. Modeling had lost its allure.
Months later, Laura was serendipitously introduced to Louie Chaban, a model scout who’s been slowly building The Lions‘ roster since 2012 with big names like Agyness Deyn, Karen Elson and Jessica Hart. During the meeting, she told him she only wanted to get back into fashion if she could also foster her artistic talents, and Louie didn’t miss a beat. Last week, Laura signed on with The Lions, which plans on marketing her as the full package; beauty and brains. Because she’s far from just a pretty face. She’s also a fledgling photographer and a damn good one at that. We caught up with Laura while she was vacationing in Paris to get to know the side of her you don’t often see on the runway.
theFashionSpot: How’s Paris treating you?
Laura Kampman: It’s great! I’m not here for work, which feels nice. I’m taking some time for myself and getting back in shape. I’m going to museums and meeting friends, walking the streets and taking photos of people. I get to live slow and walk slow, drink wine for lunch. I’m just making art and being myself right now.
tFS: Last week, you switched over to The Lions from New York Model Management. Tell us about that.
LK: I’m so excited! When I met with The Lions, they really appreciated the artist in me. They want to bring that person out, and I’m looking forward to working with an agency that wants to show me to the world in that way, not just as a model. It’s freeing.
tFS: Did you always want to be a model?
LK: No, never! I didn’t know anything about fashion when I was growing up. I was sitting at a restaurant in high school when someone came up to me and asked me if I wanted to be a model. That’s when I first thought, “How could I be a model? That’s crazy.” But then I was scouted in Holland after an agent saw my photo on Hyves [a social networking site].
tFS: Is your family supportive of your modeling career?
LK: Yes, they’re such loving people. If I was a homeless person, they’d still love me.
tFS: What was it like to work with Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia?
LK: Well, I’d only been modeling for maybe two months when my agency told me I’d booked it. They were really excited for me, but at the time I remember thinking, “Cool, but why is this such a big deal?” I didn’t realize he was so famous! Steven let me be free and creative. I was able to be myself instead of being forced to be someone else. The shoot was so beautiful; it was based on Salvador Dali, who’s my favorite artist.
tFS: When did you first realize you were an artist?
LK: I’ve been creating my whole life. I guess people label that as an “artist,” but I don’t see it that way. I’m just being myself.
tFS: How long have you been taking pictures?
LK: I started to take self-portraits when I was 13 or 14. I never went to a class or anything. I learned a lot about lighting from modeling, though. I mostly just go off feeling and intuition.
tFS: What else has modeling taught you about photography?
LK: I learned how to approach people. I know how you want to be treated and what you like to hear because I’ve been there.
tFS: Do you feel more comfortable in front of the camera or behind it?
LK: I love being able to create an environment, but playing characters is fun, too. Sometimes modeling can be more difficult when the photographer has a different vision. They want me like this and the light like that. Inside I’m thinking, “This is so bad, but of course I can’t say that.”
tFS: What do you like taking pictures of the most?
LK: Purity and openness. That’s why I love taking pictures of friends. They allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of me. It creates such a beautiful picture because you can feel and see their emotion. In a lot of fashion shoots, you have to play a strong character or a mad one or you have to be this amazingly beautiful woman with a lot of makeup. Playing characters is fun, but I’m such a romantic. I’d rather shoot a person’s soul than their mask.
tFS: You were allowed to take pictures on the runway at Sonia Rykiel Fall 2012. Do you always have a camera in your hands?
LK: Yes! Every day I’m shooting on the streets. The camera I always carry with me is an Olympus Stylus 35mm. I also have a really nice Rolleicord.
tFS: Have you shown your work yet?
LK: Right now I’m just making my art and putting it on my website. Sometimes I shoot for friends or for magazines when they ask, but I haven’t focused on publicity. I’d love to show in a gallery, though. I really like Greenpoint Terminal Gallery and Signal. The Journal is great, too. I think my work would fit there.
tFS: Any other hidden talents that we don’t know about?
LK: I’ve been writing my whole life. I actually just launched a blog last week. I write about myself, what I do, dreams. There are so many models that we’ve all just become little numbers. But fashion is changing. Now there are people out there that are supporting us to grow and bloom and inspire others with more than beauty. I love modeling, but I’ll never just be a model.