how artist tan camera broke A$AP rocky's instagram

Meredith Graves meets Tan Camera (aka Kimi Selfridge), the photographer and multimedia artist behind the cryptic online artwork Rocky posted this week.

by Meredith Graves
14 May 2015, 2:30pm

Photography Hannah Metz

Earlier this week, rap superstar and fashion icon A$AP Rocky shook up his fan base by making two bold artistic statements on social media. The first was a crowd-sourced run of fan art for his upcoming record, At. Long. Last. ASAP (out in the U.S. on June 2nd). The second was a mammoth multiple-upload to his Instagram that ran in 56 horizontal columns of 3 images each: 168 posts in total. Posted swiftly in machine-gun succession to create one large image, three-quarters of the posts were blank space intended to frame a series of collages made up of portraits of the artist. Largely comprised of scanned Polaroids, many of the images used are double exposures that were then layered, painted over, or otherwise fucked up. But it's the portraits themselves that make the piece so stunning and remarkable; with their playful smears of multicolored paint and intimate, diaristic quality, they show a relaxed side and style to Rocky that hasn't been seen before.

The image blast apparently bothered Rocky's fans so much that he felt the need to release a disclaimer (part apology, part defense) on his Twitter:

Rocky had a silent accomplice in the crime of graffiti-ing the shit out of people's timelines: Tan Camera, given name Kimi Selfridge, a photographer, stylist and multimedia artist who was, until very recently, based in New York City (she's since given up her apartment to live out her dream of taking pictures on the road). Her vivid, eccentric wardrobe and waist-length hair, tipped in her trademark electric banana Manic Panic, have made her a fashion icon to her near-60k Instagram followers. Combine that with a Taylor Swift-level coven of friends-turned-portrait-subjects, including Charli XCX, Marina Diamandis (Marina and the Diamonds), Lizzy Plapinger (of Ms Mr), Rachel Trachtenburg, Julia Cumming (of Sunflower Bean), and pop star Melanie Martinez, and it's clear that Kimi Selfridge has built herself one hell of a beautifully curated fantasy world.

But though her life may seem chaotic, clashing, and multicolored to the outside observer, Selfridge is revered among her friends for her incredible patience and unflappable nature. She doesn't drink or party, eats mostly health food, and reads tarot for the people she loves. There's an almost overwhelming sense of peace around her.

All of this, she believes, led to the kismet that was her chance meeting with A$AP Rocky at SXSW some months ago. "It couldn't be more personal-- and to me, beautiful-- how everything has come together," she says.

The two met when a friend of Selfridge's was tapped to interview Rocky before a show. "We ended up smoking a blunt together. Weed does bring people together, so that was a very easy way to connect." After a night of hanging out and talking, including "a very brief, almost non-conversation" about her life's work, she walked away with the understanding that though the night had been fun, it might not lead to any artistic collaboration in the future.

"Then, fast forward to not that long after we'd met, and he went out of his way to bring me into his world. As soon as we were both back in New York from Austin, we connected. He really trusted me to do my thing and brought me in from day one-- something about my work paired with the way our energies naturally flow with each other. He gave me freedom to do my thing in his really interesting and well curated world. He was very unguarded, very trusting— he still is."

Selfridge, who has been taking photographs on disposable and manual 35mm cameras since childhood, reads as someone you can trust, both in person and in her art. Honesty and accessibility have been the driving forces in her work since she shifted from amateur photography to becoming Tan Camera, a name and identity she views as being inseparable from her own. "My intention has always been to create things that inspire other people, that ultimately I will find a way to influence people on a very large scale, positively. The first portion of me giving myself to Tan Camera was specifically intended for me— to create things that made me happy, and hopefully to inspire others, which has been the underlying scheme in everything I do."

Her work made A$AP Rocky happy enough that after weeks of shooting, in combination with art director Robert Gallardo, they conceptualized the collage series that temporarily broke Instagram. "I bought a bunch of things that I had a vision for, color- texture- and shape-wise. There wasn't a plan. I bought these supplies, I go home and lay everything out on the floor and start doing stuff- cutting pictures out, painting over pictures. I submitted them to Rocky and he loved them, and that was the experience."

But she's keeping calm about her ever-changing situation, giving her full focus to whatever she's working on in the moment. The key for her is finding balance, an important word in her life since leaving her previous career (as personal assistant to the senior Vice President fashion director at Barneys) to go off on the hunt for her true passion. She attributes her success as a photographer and artist to her natural sense of balance: "With the Tan Camera aesthetic, I'm trusting myself. Even as a kid, it was like I really understood balance-- or maybe it's that my understanding of balance is something I really believe in. There's something about the way that I view things where, until it's right, it's not right."

So she tips the scales until she gets the exact results she desires. "Beauty is always my goal. Oh, there is no process. Who fuckin' knows."

Whatever her process may or may not be, it's keeping her busy. She'll be spending her summer traveling to festivals with friends' bands, "and kind of just enjoying life a lot, which is a really huge perk of the life work I've been doing." Her first short-- "my first foray into film, first of MANY"-- is, by her estimation, 95% done. It would have been finished last year, but Selfridge isn't at all interested in rushing to create content. "It's been a process to find the right person to score it. I'm hoping that by this summer I can start doing a combination installation and screening setup in different spaces across the world that will make this film feel more like an experience and an event. I'm a perfectionist. It will come out when it's ready… but I really hope and think it will be out this summer."

And when it comes to her future with A$AP, Selfridge is predictably calm-- in the sense that she sort of predicts everything before it actually happens.

"There was something really special that happened when we met. Everything has unfolded very quickly, but very naturally. Timing is really relevant in the way I think we operate in the world, with regard to opportunities. We were in the same place, at the same time, in an open and honest creative mode. The rest, I guess, will be history."

Watch: Part One of Svddxnly, Noisey's Five Part A$AP Rocky Documentary


Text Meredith Graves
Portrait Hannah Metz
All artwork courtesy Tan Camera

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