KangHee Kim

Interview by: James Wrigley

Korea-born, Brooklyn based photographer KangHee Kim, creates illusionistic and fictional narratives within the mundane. Kim’s work is a personal reflection on her desire to be free. Unable to leave the U.S. due to visa restrictions; Kim uses photography as a means to liberate, manipulating images to enter new worlds within the every day. With a BFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Kanghee Kim is also an awarding winning photographer and has been in a range of group and solo exhibitions such as the "Adidas photo show II" in New York, as well as the "Tracing" exhibition at K&P Gallery in New York.

I'd like to start by asking you a little about your background. I read that you moved from South Korea at age 14 with your mother and older brother for a better education. Could you tell me about the move and your first interests in art and photography?

I have always been interested in art but I'd always suppressed my dream of being an artist because of the strictly structured academic educational system. After I moved to the U.S, I was able to be myself freely without getting the same unrelenting pressure put on every Korean student. I am thankful for the support of individuality here in the States. I started to take art classes in high school again and fell in love with painting. My older brother was pursuing art, which was a big influence on me as well. I got into photography by playing around with my cell phone camera and Instagram in my junior year in college. I never knew I’d get into photography. 

In what ways do you feel you were able to be yourself more freely?

Mostly free from my VISA state. I cannot travel outside of the US. The fact that I cannot travel and don't know when I can be free stresses me out sometimes. Also, letting out what’s in my mind through photography feels very liberating. 

You seem to have a great respect for education? What are your opinions on education, what is it that you feel you gained most?

I do! It might be because my dad used to be a high school math teacher. There are definitely pros and cons. I mostly learned a lot from my peers. Even though I hated doing assignments, I learned a lot from doing them. They helped me get out of my comfort zone. Also, you have to know what to take in or not and cannot be so reliant on other people to tell you about your work. 

In your Street Errands you create these surreal and imaginative spaces within original photographs, do you actively seek out locations or is more natural than that?

It’s mostly natural. I like discovering places naturally to shoot. I search for places I want to visit and I take my camera with me.

Throughout your different bodies of work it seems you maintain an interest in the illusion and fictional, where did your more graphical approach to photography develop?

I was looking through my old paintings and sculptures, it seems that I’ve always been interested in illusion and creating fictional narratives. Creating illusions and the fictional provides me a room to be in a state of freedom without any restraints and limitations from reality. My graphical approach to photography may have been developed from the way I paint. 

Where do you get your inspiration from day to day?

I get my inspiration from my surroundings and nature. Finding something new from something familiar is a big inspiration.

Where do you see your work heading in the future? Are you working on anything new?

I am going to continue with what I have been making, and thinking about expanding to installation. 

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

I was told to believe in yourself and your intuition. Also, do not stop making work and be ready for the luck. 

For more of KangHee's work you can visit her Website, or follow her on Instagram