Artist Kym Cox ARPS hadn’t intended to become one of the world’s foremost photographers of bubbles. In fact, her fascination with the soapy globes was sparked more by frustration than anything else.
“Whatever you try to photograph, if you can’t get it right the first go, you just try and try again until you get it right,” she says. “When I started photographing bubbles, it was a nightmare. And because I’m competitive, it was a question of, ‘Why can’t I do this?’”
Cox had been trying to photograph bubbles for an AS-level exam, which she needed to complete to get onto a degree course. “That’s when I photographed them for the first time,” she says. “And that’s when it went …” She pushes her hands together and makes the sound of an explosion.
Cox has truly mastered the art of showcasing the iridescent beauty of bubbles since she began photographing them in 2009. She was a finalist in the RPS Science Photographer of the Year 2019 and received the Scientific Imaging Award from the Society in 2021.
Her workspace – a commercial unit in Dorset – is full of old bubble formulas, some dating back years. “You have to make lots of solutions,” she explains. “So, there’s various combinations I make up. Some can take months and months to get to a good working consistency, so my old solutions wait for their right moment.
“With time, once you know what bubbles can do and how you can manipulate them, I wouldn’t say it gets easier, but it certainly can be done more quickly. It doesn’t get simpler. If anything, it gets more complex. I don’t want to take photographs that other people have taken, either. I like new things.”
A search for innovation has led Cox to explore new terrain, such as the relationship between bubbles and music. Her series My Way, for example, shows how the soundwaves from Frank Sinatra’s much-loved song can alter the soap’s thickness and change the colours that show up.
“Because my work is macro photography, when the soap film responds to the soundwaves, it moves,” Cox says, laughing. “It goes in and out of focus all the time, so that series was weeks of work, but it’s worth it. No one else will do that.”
A former fingerprints expert who trained at Durham Police HQ – “I like the idea of knowing quite a lot about a very, very limited subject” – Cox has also identified a scientific value to her work.
“Time is what I can offer,” she says. “Because with researchers, the people I work with, they obviously get budgets for certain projects they’re working on. They’re better spending their time doing what they’re best at and letting me photograph what they want.
“Science always needs good, interesting images. It’s a very easy way to promote really complex theories.”
'My Way, Frank Sinatra'