In Conversation with Sophie Spence

Sophie Spence: Can you tell us a little about your project Humidity?

Aishah Kenton: Humidity is a personal response to the onset of emotions following a 3000km move to a new home in the tropics. Observations brought on by moments of quietness and contemplation on whether I made the right decision, Humidity is as much a process of feelings as it is a sensation and questioning of my new environment. In this part of the world when the heat confuses your mind, it can be hard to fathom what it actually is I am doing here. The thick air reminds me of Malaysia where I grew up, of family who now - out of reach in the pandemic - feel like they are a whole other world away. It’s not what I thought here, perhaps it has changed, or perhaps I never really knew what it was like in the first place.

SS: How did you approach translating these feelings of longing into images?

AK: Before shooting Humidity, I had mainly shot on 35mm and usually with flash but with Humidity I decided to shoot with a medium format camera, and found that through this change, I had slowed down my process. I found that carrying the heavy medium format camera into the landscape really made me rethink my way of photographing, but also gave me space to think about longing for my family, who were in Malaysia at the time, and due the pandemic, was out of reach. I found that as I was exploring this new environment I had just moved into, I started to find that I was constantly reminded of my family.

SS: In what ways does your project Humidity approach the intertwining of people and nature?

AK: Before moving to Cairns, I had lived in Canberra, and the landscape was very dry, bare and hot. Cairns however really took me back to my childhood living in Malaysia, where humidity also takes over the entire environment. The biggest change with the move was definitely the environment, and so this is what I focused on. I wouldn’t call myself a landscape photographer, but the series does have a lot of the environment, and I think this is because I wanted to translate a sense of isolation.

SS: There is a really visceral feeling to the images, I can almost feel the humidity, how do you approach photographing these sensations?

AK: I followed how I felt (emotionally) in the landscape when shooting for Humidity. When we moved to Cairns, we stepped right into the wet season, where the weather is oppressive and takes over you. It was the first time since the pandemic where I was also in an environment where I felt closer to my parents and Malaysia, due to the similarities of landscape, and so I longed to be back, and the only way I could do this emotionally was to photograph the landscape, and the intensity of humidity at the time. I still find it interesting looking back at the series now, that I had not really picked up the camera after the wet season.

SS: Why black and white?

AK: I didn’t want distractions within the photographs, so I felt shooting in black and white suited the series. The intensity of the lush green of the thick rainforest, I felt would take over the sensation of isolation, I was trying to photograph.

SS: A feeling of intimacy carries across all of the portraits in the series, how do you approach these relationships?

AK: My partner is the only individual photographed in the landscape within the series. I am lucky that he is also a photographer, so the camera is ever so present in our lives. I believe this allows me to create a feeling of intimacy in my photographs, and the fact that we have and still continuously photograph our relationship. Although our relationship isn’t at the forefront of this series, I think the photos where my partner is present allows a shared sense of isolation.


(Nur) Aishah Kenton grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Aishah graduated from the Australian National University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (2018), where she majored in photography at the School of Art and Design.

Aishah is primarily concerned with photographing her personal experiences, which result in photographs that are engaged and have intimate relationships with her subjects.

To see more work by Aishah Kenton, visit - Website / Instagram