“I wanted to appreciate what I have,” says Korean image-maker KangHee Kim, whose work was born out of her inability to leave the US due to Visa restrictions
When Kanghee Kim started making photographs, it was out of frustration. Due to visa complications, Kim hasn’t been able to leave the US for 10 years, even to visit her relatives back home in Korea, because her entry back into the states isn’t guaranteed.
Now 27, Kim moved to New York with her family when she was 14. Getting a green card should have been simple – at the time there was a need for more nurses in the states, and her mother was helping to fill that gap – but their lawyer missed a deadline, and Kim was never able to secure a citizenship. Eventually, she was protected under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy, but her status has made leaving the country too much of a risk.
“I really miss Korea, especially over the last few years,” she says. “Korea is the motherland. Whenever I see photos or hear about it I feel a bit torn.”
Kim didn’t get into photography until her final year of studying painting at Maryland Institute College of Art. It was just about the time when smartphone cameras were getting good, and she was frustrated by how much space and materials were needed to paint. “I love walking around and being outside. Approaching photography as a painting was solving that problem.”
Golden Hour is Kim’s second book to be published by Same Paper, who are based in Shanghai, China. Its carefully-assembled pictures are captured during the magic of the “golden hour” – the moment immediately before sunrise or sunset – and is part of her ongoing body of work, Street Errands. Most of Kim’s images are taken in New York, California, Colorado, and Hawaii, the furthest place she could go within the states. “When I first went to California, I was pretty shocked,” says Kim, who was inspired to work with images of the sky after visiting the West Coast. “The sky felt so close to me. I saw palm trees for the first time, I’d only ever seen them on the internet.”
By using photoshop to manipulate and merge her photographs, Kim feels that she can escape, creating a “new space that feels almost like travelling to an unknown place”. “When I’m working on these images. It feels very therapeutic,” she adds, “I’m so focused I don’t think about my problems”. Making these surreal images has also been a way for Kim to appreciate what she can do within her current situation. “I used to get bored of doing the same things in the same surroundings, so finding the moments that I really like and layering them helped me to not be so pessimistic or self-pitying.”