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Ja Soon Kim

MAGIC IN THE DESERT

Photographer Ja Soon Kim is on the floor moving rocks. Small rocks. Millimeter by millimeter. “You have to be focused when you do art,” she tells us as she examines the grouping of foraged objects. Ja Soon’s photos of meticulous yet meditative arrangements have prompted recognition and praise, but for her, it’s all about the experience.

We’re visiting Ja Soon at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The house is filled with treasures from the natural world: rocks, tumbleweeds, cacti, dried flowers, sticks, branches, nests, shells, feathers, and antlers. Her home is serene and artistically ordered, with every disparate item coexisting harmoniously next to its neighbor.

Ja Soon Kim was born in Seoul, Korea, and moved to the United States to study painting at college. After graduating, she embarked on a career path that would include artist, designer, award-winning art director, photographer, and certified yoga instructor. Ja Soon describes herself as a “hard-charging” individual. And indeed, she’s traveled the world and made a home in major cities such as New York, London, and Honolulu. When she came to Santa Fe, she only planned on staying for three years. That was 18 years ago. Ja Soon confesses, the peaceful landscape softened her and eventually won her over. “The desert has magic, absolute magic,” she tells us.

She pauses for a moment and adds a statement as simple and beautiful as her photographs:

“It’s good to be alive, no matter the season.”

Once Ja Soon took up hiking in New Mexico, she began collecting rocks, leaves, and feathers—anything that caught her eye. At home, she organizes the pieces on the floor, atop a simple white or black background. She takes test shots with her iPhone, and if she’s pleased, photographs the assemblage using her digital camera. However, if the test photos aren’t working, she’ll carefully adjust the items, sometimes with a small stick. This method of editing can take hours, but the process has taught her an invaluable skill: patience.

Ja Soon is now standing on a chair, looking down at the collection of rocks through her camera lens. She relishes the fact that she cannot think of anything else while creating and photographing her arrangements; it becomes a form of meditation. Ja Soon considers the entire experience therapeutic. Even the quiet walks to forage provide peaceful introspection: “With the desert, you have no choice but to get to know yourself.”

It is fitting that Ja Soon is a featured artist for the AIMEE LACALLE 2017 fall collection—it’s her favorite time of year in Santa Fe. She describes how the shifting landscape, temperate weather, and colorful foliage transform New Mexico into her “playground.” She pauses for a moment and adds a statement as simple and beautiful as her photographs: “It’s good to be alive, no matter the season.”