In film noir, fog is practically a character. In the photo series The Foggy Night, photographer Kyle Kim does something similar, given that not a human is in sight in his frames. Though he uses the fog like a noir director of old, Kim also aesthetically explores its atmospheric effect on light—how it diffuses light in beautiful ways, but also changes its color and depth. Unlike the teenage photographer who scaled New York City's tallest buildings to capture the metropolis in fog, Kim stays on the ground for an equally magical streetside view of a city wrapped in water vapor.
Born in Seoul but raised in Saitama, Japan, Kim says Japanese culture has influenced him since his earliest days. While in high school, he saw a film about photography that ended up influencing how he perceives and captures landscapes. The film, Collage of our Life, is one of the most inspiring movies Kim has ever seen.
Around the same time, Kim's father gave him a film camera as a gift, which formally sparked his interest in photography. After studying law and photography at Pai Chai University in Daejeon, South Korea, Kim decided to forego a legal career and focus on images, and soon began working as an assistant and photographer at a commercial studio in Seoul. Kim is now in graduate school at San Francisco's Academy of Art University, which is how he started photographing the foggy city at night.
"The Foggy Night is a fine art landscape project," Kim explains. "My subject matter is film-based landscapes. In order to create unique landscapes, I shoot urban scenes in foggy conditions at night."
"Overall, my images' moods are calm and silent because I fully expect my work to linger in the minds of its viewers," he adds. "As I intend for the photos to exude a sense of quiet, the images are very emotional in mood using both fog and artificial found lights. I capture my subjects with both available light and artificial lights because artificial lights can create a very unique feel in foggy conditions."
For Kim, The Foggy Night is about finding uncommon beauty under night lights. He had grown bored with Korea's landscape of endless apartment buildings, finding America's landscape, which combines the living environment with artificial exterior lighting, far more interesting.
"Due to continued transformation, the night lights never disappoint me as they show a different face with each visit, revealing their strange elegance," says Kim. "The fog soaks into the color of the artificial lights, and changes their colors. Through the dim lights and subjects, I plan to show the changeability of color in these still images to viewers because we can get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to actually look at our surroundings and see what is amazing about them."
In early 2016, Kim ditched his Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 24–70mm zoom lens for a Hasselblad medium format film camera and an 80mm lens. The camera and the film format quickly became much more satisfying than the digital photographic medium. This is the format Kim used in The Foggy Night.
"As a photographer, I work tirelessly to push beyond the limitations of exposure time and aperture, in order to shine light into dark places," he adds. "Shapes, colors, shadows, contrasts, lines, juxtaposition, reflections—all elements are natural sensations for me, as I begin to experience buildings. Perhaps it's because I am profoundly an introvert, and my experience of my surroundings is heavily filtered by observation and interior dialogue that I have chosen this subject and means of expression."
Part of what Kim is trying to do is create a new reality. In his mind, the warmer, desaturated color palette works harmoniously with background landscape on a foggy night.
Since The Foggy Night is a work-in-progress, Kim intends to visually refine the concept. He expects to shift away from Kodak Portra 160 film for upcoming work in the hopes of finding film that represents his own unique color palette. He also plans on capturing more landscapes during the day time, as he did with the clear skies in the Stand Alone series, but also daytime cityscapes cloaked in fog.