Interview: Beachcombing Photographer Arranges Her Finds into Rainbow Compositions

Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South

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Photographer Caroline South is a beachcomber who shares her finds in artful arrangements that celebrate found objects and color. Based in West Sussex, she and her family spend time exploring the southern coastline and uncovering hidden treasures along the way, from plastic objects to sea glass. Once these things are cleaned and organized, she positions them in tidy compositions that allow you to appreciate her discoveries. We’re left marveling at how even the most mundane items can be made beautiful when viewed in the right format.

Although found objects are a big part of South’s whimsical photography, she also incorporates items that are not from the beach but fit her aesthetic. Flowers, fashion, and food are other elements of her work, and they abide by the same rainbow color palette and gradient arrangements that are pleasing to the eye—a fact that's amplified when you scroll through her popular Instagram feed.

We spoke with South about her photography, including the equipment she uses to capture her colorful images. Scroll down for My Modern Met's exclusive interview.

Caroline South combs the beach and uses her discoveries as elements in her whimsical photography. Learn more about her work in our interview below.

Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South

When did you start taking photographs? 

I originally started taking photographs for my blog where I shared a combination of images of both my family, my beach collections, and various craft projects. When I joined Instagram, about 6 years ago now, it became my creative outlet and a place to share my images.

Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South

You and your family spend time exploring the beach and finding things from there. How much of it ends up in your images?

I spend lots of time exploring the south coastline collecting treasures and beach cleaning. I keep most of the bits I find and have many ongoing collections ready to use in future photographs. My pieces are all organized in jars or tubs in either color order or by themed collection.

What would you consider your greatest find while on the beach?

The Lego Lost at Sea is one of my favorite things to find. These (ironically sea themed) pieces have been in the sea since 1997 when containers fell from the container ship, The Tokio Express, and they are still washing up today. I have found many Lego flippers, scuba tanks, and spear guns – though am yet to find a rare octopus or dragon! I also love finding unusual and vintage plastic items such as army men, cracker toys, vintage hair pins, and connecting beads.

Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South

What do you do to prep for a shoot?

When getting ready for a shoot, I will first collect together all the materials or colored pieces needed to make up the picture. An image such as the organized plastics can take a few days to complete and I will often stick down the pieces meaning I am able to come back to it without worrying they may have moved position.

Do you know exactly how and what objects you'll use for it?

Before starting an image, I will usually have a good idea of the finished look in my head, but I equally like to go with the flow and play around, adding pieces until I am happy with the final shape or gradient.

Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South Whimsical Photography by Caroline South

Your images have the most eye-pleasing color palettes. How do you plan your use of color? 

My feed is made up of a similar color palette of pastel pinks, peaches, blue and yellow—both in the backgrounds and in the objects themselves. I tend to stick to a similar palette so that my feed has a consistent feel to it. Color is an important aspect of my work and I love to play around with color-themed photographs, organizing my finds in ombre or rainbow order.

Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South Whimsical Photography Ideas by Caroline South

What's your favorite photo you've taken?

I think my favorite photo is a square of organized leaves. I love the movement and pattern in the image.

What equipment do you use to capture your photos?

To capture my photos I use a Canon 1300D, a Manfrotto tripod, and plenty of backdrop colors. I use mountboard in my favorite pastel shades.

Whimsical Photography by Caroline South Whimsical Photography by Caroline South Whimsical Photography by Caroline South Whimsical Photography by Caroline South Whimsical Photography by Caroline South

Caroline South: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Caroline South. 

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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