Photographer Jason Kim seeks to capture a sense of adventure while also exploring the balance between peace and chaos that exists within nature and each of us.
In his current exhibit, “Road to Homer,” currently on display at Homer Council on the Arts, Kim shares images of a five-year journey that began with the idea to visit Alaska and culminated in calling Homer home.
Kim said that while his journey north was a long and winding path with many unexpected turns, he can draw a straight line from where it all began, which was during a trip to Iceland in 2017.
“Iceland had a raw, blustery beauty with volcanoes and glaciers, bipolar moods in weather and ever-changing landscapes that felt surreal and otherworldly,” he said. “I can still vividly recall the sensory overload — the wind rushing against my face and the humbling emotions I felt standing beneath the shadow of colossal mountains.”
Enthralled by his Icelandic experience, Kim returned home to Baltimore, Maryland, inspired to re-evaluate his path forward, determined to move somewhere close to mountains and the ocean and to build a camper van and drive it there. His adventurous side drawn to the extreme elements of life in the Far North and his introverted side to the months of cold and darkness, he set his sights on Alaska.
“Road to Homer” showcases 31 images taken between 2017 when his dream was inspired, including a photograph from Kerlingarfjöll, Iceland, where he captured a woman wearing a bright yellow rain jacket walking into a landscape of geothermal hot springs and snowcapped mountains. Having experienced the loss of a relationship at the time, Kim said that the moodiness of his surroundings matched his inner turmoil.
“That particular experience is burned into my memory as such a contrast of colors and the sensory feelings of the emotions I was feeling,” he said.
“Upper Paint Brush” shows the jagged landscape of Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, taken during a multiday hike. “Upper Reed Lake” is an image shot this past June from his drone, which became his navigation tool when he lost his phone, which served as his camera and GPS while hiking snowpacked trails in the Talkeetna Mountains.
“The hike should have been easy, but the snow was especially difficult and I was too inexperienced,” he said. “That photograph is from the point where I could see the parking lot, which was supposed to be a simple 6-mile hike out and the easiest portion of the hike. Instead, I fell off cliffs, caused a mini avalanche and came off the trail with two sprained ankles.”
Another image from that hike, “Mint Hut” serves as a reminder for Kim of the place he met the experienced Alaskan hikers who encouraged him to do the full hike, rather than turn back.
Between Iceland and Alaska, Kim wandered between different states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Idaho and New Jersey. He picked up odd jobs at print shops, metal fabrication shops and as a handyman, where he learned to be resourceful, work with his hands and problem-solve. He purchased and built out camper vans, like the white Ford E350 that was originally intended to be a food truck and that a FedEx truck rolled into and totaled, a box truck that left him on the side of the road requiring the transfer of his belongings to a U-Haul and the old Toyota Dolphin RV he reframed and outfitted with a wood stove, running water and a shower, that has a history in Homer, and that he drove to Alaska.
During these adventures, he also encountered individuals who have become lifelong friends, like Seth, who he met in Iceland and who accompanied Kim on the monthlong drive from Wyoming to Alaska when the borders reopened last year.
With no game plan for his time in Alaska, Kim’s only desire was to have an adventure, knowing he could plant himself anywhere he wanted to and live out of his RV. Fatigued from the drive to and around Alaska, when the pair ran out of gas when they reached Homer, Kim took it as a sign, found an apartment and work in construction, then building aluminum boats, doing video work for local businesses and now, at South Peninsula Hospital.
“My journey wasn’t just a jaunt, but moving between multiple locations, getting to know places and the people that inhabit them, making mistakes, making friends and learning a lot about myself,” he said. “Even before coming to Alaska, my ongoing joke with Seth was what does all this journeying mean, what is it leading to? I’m very nomadic and I think I needed to experience moving from place to place, but that was also exhausting. Looking back, I think I was trying to find a home base.”
Raised by a mother who is a fine artist and a father who prior to his passing was a craftsman shipbuilder and master carpenter, Kim has had small art exhibits in coffee shops around the U.S. Showing his paintings and carvings and “Road to Homer” is his first photography exhibit.
“I realized that during the course of the past six years I had built up a body of work of photographs,” he said. “I wanted to share not only my journey, but the messages of not giving up, enjoying the ride and appreciating where you are. Just like in Iceland, I’m drawn to the moods of the Alaskan landscape. You look across the bay and it’s never the same scene. Every single day is different and something about that is quite spectacular to me.”
Settling into Homer, Kim refers to himself as The Alaskaneer. Find his photography, videography, illustration and fine art at alaskaneer.com and on Instagram, @thealaskaneer and @akalaskaneer where he can be reached for custom and customized work.