Localize It: Daniel Wongi Kim

Alaska is one of the most beautiful and untouched places our world gets to wonder about, and we are lucky enough to get to call the mountain ranges and aurora night skies our playground. In the world of photography, Alaska is a gold mine, practically bursting at the seams with beautiful scenery begging to get its picture taken, no matter where one looks. Local photographers take all the advantage that Alaska’s beauty has to offer, and Daniel Wongi Kim is one of those few.

Known by many but seen by few, Daniel Wongi Kim has become of Anchorage’s most well known and talented young photographers, and you can always find him behind the lens. Kim, currently a business major at UAA, balances being a full-time student with being a full-time professional photographer. It is hard to believe that Kim has only been in the photography business for less than five years, and even harder to believe that there was a time when he didn’t have much interest in the idea of taking pictures.

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Daniel Kim, known to many as Wongi, has made a name for himself photographing a wide variety of subject material in Anchorage, Alaska. One can often find human component in many of the landscape photographs he creates. Photo credit: Young Kim

“Over the summer I was working for my cousin, helping him out taking senior pictures. He said he would pay me, but ended up not being able to, so instead, he handed me an old camera. I didn’t want it at first, I actually tried putting it up on Craigslist to sell, but later that week I went on an adventure with some friends and took the camera with me. I ended up liking it, taking pictures of my friends laughing and stuff. It stuck with me,” Kim said.

Since that moment, Wongi has yet to put down the camera. In fact, he currently owns one digital camera with five different lenses, two film cameras, two polaroid cameras, and a shelf at home that holds six more film cameras as his disposal. Most of the film and polaroid cameras are used for his own enjoyment, and he uses his digital camera, a Canon 6d, for his professional work.

Wongi takes photos for weddings, families, senior portraits, and has even been asked by multiple companies to photograph their product in his pictures. Like any Alaskan, Wongi’s favorite pictures to take are of the scenery that surrounds him.

“I love to photograph landscapes, but I’ve realized that in almost every single photo I have [there’s] one single tiny person in the landscape. That must be my signature style in my photos because I have very few landscape images without that one tiny person in the corner. It’s gotta be some sort of subconscious thing,” Kim said.

With DSLR camera’s now so easily in reach of so many people, it can be quite difficult for a photographer to find their own unique style, something that makes their images stand out in different ways than the others. For Wongi, it is all about paying attention to smaller details that maybe others don’t see and spreading his talent across the entire spectrum of photography.

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“I pay a lot of attention to contrast, which I think maybe not so many other people or photographers notice. I take a lot of black and white photos too, I really like comparing those lights and darks,” Kim said.

Kim’s attention to detail is very apparent in his pictures, and anyone can see his talent by looking at just one of his images. For being as young as he is, without any real training or teaching, Kim has taken the local photography community in Anchorage and shown them exactly who he is, and what he is capable of.

“I’m proud of being able to do a lot of different types of photography. I don’t just stick with one thing, I can do all of it when I need to. For my age, I think I’m pretty experienced which is really cool to be able to say,” Kim said.

Kim’s photography career is far from over, and in the coming years, he will surely only become more and more talented. It is photographers like him that help show both the beauty that exists around us in this state, and the beauty that exists in the people in this state as well. Daniel Wongi Kim will be a name we will likely hear of again, and the quality of his work will only continue to grow.