Photographer Vivian Kim mixes analog and digital to get the most out of both
Photos by Jake Howell | @wolf_howell
Vivian Kim’s photos are natural and unfussy, which, we’ve learned since we first met her through our mutual friend Forrest from JuneShine, is kind of how Vivian is as a human. She seems like a Viv to us, though we’ve never called her that or asked if we could, which seems like something we neglected to ask when we did this long distance interview as part go our Hill City High Performance Humans series. So Viv is easy going, which maybe isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “high performance,” but then you look at the work she does and you see why Viv’s part of this conversation.
Hill City supplied the thought bubble “how would you spend your ideal day?” and sent Viv some HC gear, the you-know-what threw the wrench in the whole operation and Vivian went with it all and found the silver lining.
Follow Viv at @viviankimx
First things first: What’s the dog’s name and how did you two meet?
Vivian: Brixton! Well, all good stories start with heartbreak, right?! I was very close to my ex’s dog. After the break up, I had a hole in my heart that only a dog could fill. So I hopped on Craigslist just to look at pups and dogs… as opposed to irresponsibly and impulsively getting one.
Well, I found a pic of the sweetest Red Merle Aussie, a ranch dog, obsessed over him, then got off the computer. Within the next week, I kept going back to the link to look at him and dreading the heartbreak that would come once he was sold. Then, on the tenth day or so, I realized that I was going to go for it. I grew up with dogs and spent the past days thinking about how I could create a beautiful life in the mountains or by the sea for him.
I drove up to Bakersfield (kinda middle of nowhere) to Victor’s ranch, and we’ve been two peas in a pod ever since.
Where and how have you been spending your quarantime?
Vivian: I have been at home in Playa Del Rey, a little seaside town, which feels like a hidden gem of LA. There aren’t major freeways that lead to it, so it’s much quieter than the rest of LA. I have been getting out in nature, playing music, surfing, skating, painting on everything—canvas, denim, etc. Oh, and I’ve been baking a ton, but that’s nothing new.
We asked you how you’d spend your ideal day and then asked for some pics of you doing it. And granted it was during that time, but what did you end up doing for your ideal day?
Vivian: Well, during the time that I shot this, a lot of stuff was closed… so this was my ideal quarantine day. I made coffee and ate banana bread, ran by the beach, took Brixton for a hike, ceramics with my friend Patrick at Temple of Mediclaytion, spent time with my plants, listened to music, and played with pastels.
Considering Ghost is the greatest movie to ever feature a potter’s wheel, who would you most want to be haunted by?
Vivian: I would love to be haunted by my favorite pollinators—butterflies and bees.
How has the quarantine or the you-know-what, or whatever we want to call it now, affected your idea of a good day?
Vivian: Well, I’m such an outside person. I love being with people and being in nature. It’s limiting in a way, but I was able to adapt and find things I love to do that were still accessible to me at home. This time has made me appreciate our freedom and nature so much more. In fact, I haven’t even felt terrible for being home, because 1) I felt privileged to even be having such thoughts, and 2) I got to watch spring bloom and plants thrive from my window. I was forced to sit and observe, which I rarely ever do. The perfect day comes with our perspective and approach to each activity we partake in. We are all very lucky.
This time has made me appreciate our freedom and nature so much more.
How have your routines changed?
Vivian: It made me slow down. I feel like I was on a hamster wheel last year, working, squeezing in hobbies and exercise, trying to excel and trying to do it all. I’ve really learned to be ok with just being ok, and be patient with myself and others.
How did you become interested in photography?
Vivian: I’ve always loved old things. I love the mechanics of older tools and machines. My best friend in high school inherited a film camera from his grandfather. We became obsessed with experimenting and capturing moments with our friends. We would mess around with manually shooting double exposures, manipulating light for our shots, etc. I was living in Malibu as this interest was growing, and I wanted to capture any and every beautiful thing.
Do you always have a camera on you?
Vivian: Not always, because I like to take a break from creating, to just breathe and enjoy.
A time you wish you had one and didn’t?
Vivian: This is going to sound superficial, but one time I was stuck in PCH traffic and I saw a man dressed in an ultra cool red two piece set sticking out his hand to halt my car. He was trying to cross the street, so I, of course, stopped for him. As he was crossing, we made eye contact, and I realized it was Snoop Dogg. I was tripping out and wanted to take a photo because he was so majestic and god-like in his stance and approach.
Geeking over Snoop is never superficial. What’s your favorite camera or cameras to shoot with and why?
Vivian: I love my Mamiya 645, it’s a medium format camera that has allowed me to shoot some of my favorite portraits. However, more recently, I’ve been loving my Leica mini point and shoot. It’s not as fancy as it sounds, it’s a plastic point and shoot with a slightly better than average lens… but I love it because of how portable and simple it is.
When you are shooting super 8 how does it change your approach to video?
Vivian: It makes me slow down and have to really think through every shot. I only get 2–3 mins per roll, depending on the FPS (frames per second) I’m shooting at, so there’s really no time to waste. Plus it gets very expensive, so you want to be more strategic about your shots.
Name three things that are high performance?
Vivian: Shortboarding, racecars, and Hill City gear (naturally).
What’s something that inspires you creatively?
Vivian: Nature, always. And people who aren’t afraid to create boundlessly. People who create solely to make art and express themselves, without worry or care about what others may think. Those who break the rules.
Three IG accounts we should follow?
Vivian: @lincoln_james: My friend Lincoln is a great photographer and just an overall cool Aussie guy!
@mignonettetakespictures: Cuteness overload for guys and girls everywhere. If you’re gonna wake up and scroll, you might as well fill your feed with baby farm animals.
@lifeof_riley: My friend Riley also posts epic photos that make you want to travel and find adventure everywhere.
The most challenging but rewarding shoot you’ve been on?
Vivian: Hmmm, last year, I went to Arizona with the Wrangler Australia team, whom I adore greatly! It was just insanely hot, so working in the heat was a challenge. We were trying to do photo and video for a lot of looks, so we were trying to be as efficient as we could and stay on schedule. With that said, it wasn’t even difficult, the heat was just intense to work through. Ultimately, I always have so much fun with this team, and we had a blast creating the campaign.
An amazing place you’ve been for a photoshoot that you wish everyone could visit?
Vivian: Portugal! It’s so full of life and beauty, and tourism isn’t as gnarly quite yet in some places. And Mallorca! Mallorca is just heaven on earth.