Explore the work of Eunji Kim, a self-portrait photographer who creates astounding imagery using everyday objects.
Through her scenes, she strives for a melancholic/romantic feeling and uses handmade props to augment her creative vision.
What made you interested in photography?
My passion for photography started when I was maybe around 10 years old. The first time my dad bought my oldest sister a camera, I used to sneak into her room and steal it to take photos. The inciting moment where I really admired photography was when I took a photo of a dragonfly and was able to look at every detail so clearly, that was the moment I fell in love with it and all it can transmit.
When did you begin making creative self-portraits?
I started in 2020. I used to take only landscapes but due to Covid and the confinements, I decided to experiment and practice my photography skills by taking self-portraits. Once I discovered that I could transmit so many feelings through it, it became my favorite thing to do.
Do you find self-portraiture to be difficult as you’re always working with the same model, in this case, yourself? How do you come up with creative ideas to show yourself in a different light?
I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, it’s just a matter of trial and error. I love the idea of becoming different “characters” for each project. I like the way I can force myself to try new poses, outfits, makeup styles, etc. I’d even say that it helps me to get to know myself better, my photography/modeling strengths, and how to fix my weaknesses. Pinterest and Instagram are my main sources to find new ideas, you can find amazing photos and projects by talented photographers and recreate them in your own style.
Are there any themes or feelings you aim to convey through your work?
Yes, melancholic, romantic, and passionate feelings.
Do you shoot on film, digital, or a combination of both?
Digital, but I try to give it a film look.
How do you decide on the colour tones/colour grading? What tones do you find yourself gravitating to?
I’m a fan of warm tones because I think those are the ones that transmit my feelings the best. The combination of oranges, yellows, browns, and reds gives me the melancholic/romantic vibe that I’m always looking for.
You’ve got some interesting props and locations in your work. Do you usually set up a home studio? And where do you get the props?
Yes, everything happens in a little corner in my room, right beside the closet (that’s my lighting). It really depends on the project I’m working on to find the props that I need; sometimes I’ll find them at a thrift store, sometimes in my house or at the market, but mainly at a school supplies store.
What has been your experience with handmade props/accessories? Were there any favourites?
It’s difficult for me to have a “favorite” one, because every time I make a new one, it becomes the one I’m most proud of. Making your own props can be stressful if it doesn’t come out the way you are expecting to (sometimes you just need a little bit of patience), but at the same time, it teaches you new ways to boost your creativity and your ability to create.
In some of your photos, you interact with strong elements of light, such as a projector beam or a flame. Aside from light being the essence of photography, what is the significance of these elements of light in your photos?
As much as I’d like to say they have different meanings, they don’t. I just love to play with light sources and the way they can change a mood completely. Lighting can take something from looking simple to magnificent and inspiring, and I think that’s the reason I like to play with it in every photo.
Behind the Projector Shoot (Red Letters) Scene:
I want to talk about this one because some people have been interested in learning the making process.
Projector photoshoots might not be as easy and simple as they seem, but they’re fun and worth trying. This one took about 4-5 hours to make, and you might think “wow! That much and it's not even that hard” but man… for me, it was. I used a Sony a6000, 50mm 1.8 lens, Epson 3LCD projector, and Canva (to write the phrase). After placing the phrase and the projector “strategically” I got the photo I wanted, and I was happy about it. Also, if you want to know more about this photoshoot, I made an IGTV explaining the whole process and you can find it on my profile if you want to check it out.
The difficulty I found while making this photo was that I was trying to project the phrase on my face only and not on the background (does that make sense?) and to achieve that I had to change the size and positioning of the phrase several times, it was a bit frustrating.
Next step, post-production. As I mentioned before, I love warm tones, so I try to apply them in every photo of mine, then add a bit of grain and dust to attempt a “film” look and we’re done (you can also find a tutorial on my profile on how I apply grain and dust on my photos).
My favorite thing about this one is that I was able to achieve the result I was looking for! I’m proud of it.
What was your journey like as a self-taught artist? Were there any resources that you used to help you along the way?
I believe it has been an exciting journey so far, discovering what I’m capable of feels amazing. I used to watch some YouTube tutorials to learn different poses and color grading (not my thing because I get impatient too quickly) so what's worked the best for me is to look at others' projects and try to analyze them until I can understand how the photo was made and try to recreate it.
What helps you get through creative challenges?
My love and passion for photography. There isn’t a challenge big enough to make me quit. Sometimes, when I have a project in mind but it becomes really difficult to complete I try to remember a phrase I once read: “You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.” And it really helps me to keep going and trying.
"The first contest I ever won was a food photography contest for a beer brand, it was back in 2016-17. It gave me a lot of confidence. Other contests I’ve participated in are Creative Contests run by Vogove and B.Woelf.
Some of my photos have been featured in amazing Instagram profiles like 314image, Teneromag, Collective Trend, The Portrait Bazaar, among others, and I’d like to thank them for it"
How do you envision your work developing in the future?
I would absolutely love my work to reach a level where I can help others through it, teach about self-portraiture, and be able to motivate people along their journey.
What is something you are proud of?
I’m proud of myself and how far I’ve come in my photography journey. Lately, I’ve learned (not to the fullest extent and I’m still working on it) to stop comparing myself, my work, and my abilities to others. I guess reaching a point where you can see others as an inspiration to become a better version of yourself instead of competition is something you can be proud of.
In the process of creating work, what have you learned about yourself?
I’ve learned that I can achieve anything I want to if I put my mind to it. It might sound arrogant but it’s true and it applies to everyone in this world.
You can check out more of Eunji's work on her Instagram @eunjimik