Artists of Theory - Pep Kim
Artists of Theory – Pep Kim
Interview by Isaac McKay-Randozzi
Portrait by Koki Sato
For some subject of this interview might be as unfamiliar to you as an elephant wrench. While he’s not an illusive individual akin to Daniel Harold Stuart, there is an air of mystery about him. Why wouldn’t he give his full name when asked? Why is his nickname related to sweet caffeinated beverage? Does it belie an undercurrent of torrential rage that boils over into a Tasmanian Devil like tempest? Is he running from his past? Perhaps the Korean mafia? Not really, he’s a very nice person with a passion for what he does and a distinct style and a mastery of light and lens. His client list is both impressive and diverse including photography and film direction, from editorial to advertising. He is a man of vision and his one of the few that can adapt to different stylistic needs of the client and project while retaining touches that make it a Pep Kim piece. But how did he get to Brooklyn? A letter and some family direction helped to push him onto the streets of New York where his skills put him in the position to assist in creating the most recent chapters in the Static series and some of Hopps early imagery. For a while he was running around the streets of NYC documenting the smooth stylings of Aaron Herrington and others on a daily and nightly basis. His attention then turned to the world of fabrics and socks when he and Mr. Herrington decided to form up like a two-man Voltron and create the clothing company, Chrystie. A brand of complicated simplicity grounded in stoke and style. What follows are some photographs selected by Mr. Kim that highlight the subtle fleeting moments in our shared activity. Moments of laughter, exertion and pause that make a session with friends or alone – special.
When did you start skating and how were you introduced to it in South Korea?
It was winter 1996. When I was 15. We already had stores that was selling skateboards in Korea but I had never seen modernized shapes until I first saw this cheesy TV commercial. I spent days and nights to figure out what it is and where to buy it. I purchased Prime astronaut graphic deck, Gullwing trucks and 53mm Prime wheels for the first complete I believe.
What came first, soccer or skating?
Soccer. But it wasn’t anything serious. I wasn’t good at it either that time. I just loved kicking the ball around and even I dribbled around in the street everywhere. But like I said, as the soccer culture wasn’t as big as what it has been in Europe or Latin America so I never took it too seriously. Then I got into BMX. There was no place to learn how to do bunny-hop and all that but I just loved riding BMX fast in the street. Like jumping down curb and hopping back up.
Is Pep short for something?
My nickname, Pepsi. Everyone has a dumb story about their nicknames, no?
When did the camera become a part of your life?
I shot and collaged “The Great Wall” in Beijing with a Kodak point and shoot camera in 1993 or 1994. Then I started shooting photos more seriously from 2000. My dad had this Yashica camera and he never used it anymore so I took it and started shooting my friends skating at a local spot. I was lucky enough to test this zoom teleport lens that my dad gave me with the camera and it made photography way more interesting to me. You know, in the beginning you always wanna try something new and seeing objects thru this long lens was pretty epic. Because you already knew right timings of skateboarding from magazines like TWS and Thrasher. Then you just put your subject at the right position in the frame and shoot with the widest aperture. It was still the time period before the big secret of photography portal got opened up by youtube, google. So just using long/fisheye lens made you kinda feel so professional and special.
Mark Suciu, Cooper Union, NYC, 2018
What’s your go to skate camera rig right now?
A basic digital set, Nikon F3, Leica CL, Nizo 801.
Which do you prefer; going out and capturing the moment or doing the editing and creating the vibe in the edit?
Going out. You can feel much more freedom.
I’m def a field guy.
Would it be fare to say photography became your life?
Dunno. I’m not really a full time photo dude anymore so whatever people call me, I don’t mind. So not sure if it’s my life. But I’m still working on a few projects pretty seriously.
You came to study photography but you could have done that anywhere, what was it about NYC that drew you?
That’s true. In fact, I was actually gonna move to Berlin. Then I got this letter from ICP(International Center of Photography) in NYC. I was pretty attracted by the lifestyle and city of Berlin so I hesitated for a bit but my family encouraged me to move to “The best city in the world”. The concept of “The best city in the world” is very relative but it definitely was the right decision to move to NY for me.