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Interview with photographer Sunik Kim

A Korean red pine in the ginkgo © Sunik Kim

F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?

Sunik Kim: I started photography later than others. I grew up interested in car racing rather than art. So I had spent a lot of time on the racing track in my early 20s, but I ended up finishing my career. After that I felt the urge to make an art. When I first thought to express my emotions, I just thought like “Oh I think I can do photography.” It seemed so easy at that time, just pushing the shutter and it would work by itself automatically. However that was totally wrong and rash. I don’t deny that was my starting point of photography. The reason why I began photography and keep going on taking photos until now is very different, which I hope you will understand through this interview.

F-Stop: The current issue of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Garden,” can you tell us about this project? What led to this work?

SK: I’m interested in taking pictures of the elements of where we belong and transferring them into personal thoughts. I regard naturalness importantly in photography and also in my life. We call it ‘it’s natural’ when the rhythm in space and time flow without getting in the way of external factors. We can see this rhythm even where we are living and that is the return of the season. In the spring it saves, in the summer it radiates. On the contrary it definitely kills in the fall and in the winter it empties. This endless cycle creates everything in the universe which is why we exist now here. We are the only beings outside of this cycle. We have the property of owning and increasing. I selected trees, flowers, and plants as specific targets and photographed them. These are likely to be the main subjects of this work which are the questions of how they treat nature, what is naturalness, can we become natural beings or aren’t we trying to own even nature by wrapping it up as beautiful images.

A garden behind the net © Sunik Kim

F-Stop: What is your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?

SK: I think I am not a studio photographer. I basically walk a lot around my place. I enjoy approaching strangers asking to take their portrait. One thing that gives me a big interest through this process is to observe their reaction to my offer. There are various versions of reaction. I am not sure if I have a special process to make photography. Camera technology gives me the freedom that I don’t need many processes for making images. I enjoy and love photography. I am always thinking about it since I’ve started it. I truly need personal thoughts and self-reflection for my work otherwise I can’t take a step forward. All my work has something to do with it.

F-Stop: How do you choose what to photograph, what are you looking to capture?

SK: I’ve always been thinking about how to keep my interest in photography because I’ve seen a lot of people through my career who started and then quit photography. I think the easiest way to photograph is going to a new place, such as traveling the globe. I decided that I would observe something normal around me instead of something special to photograph. I take pictures of something that people just easily pass. So walking around my office became sort of my daily routine.

A green piece inside house ©Sunik Kim

F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why is it the image that speaks to you most?

SK: I would say number 12. (image is above) This is not the best picture, but the most interesting picture I think, because it always gives me a big laugh. Maybe it must have been a huge concern how to deal with this tree when it was under construction.

F-Stop: Are you working on any other projects currently?

SK: I keep working on it. I’ve been taking portraits and pictures of places. They would be a certain style which can be seen only in Korea. I made a working title for this called ‘Korean wave’ but I don’t know where it might end up. I think it’s gonna be a new challenge for creating tension between myself and the subject. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time in the editing process to improve this work.

F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?

SK: Lars Tunbjörk. When I first encountered his work it was a turning point of my understanding in photography. It still encourages me to keep going but I’m not trying to imitate him. I like his humour, critical eyes, concentrating in his way and being an outsider.

To see more of Sunik Kim’s work check out the Portfolio 2021 issue of F-Stop or visit: www.kimsunikstudio.com

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