Seoul State of Mind
Ken Lum Lee is taking the rising star moniker and pushing it beyond all foreseen levels. Starting out by simply retelling of his adventures here in Korea (as Seoul State Of Mind), he’s grown into an omnipresent force. More than likely, you’re already aware of Ken’s work. If you’ve been living on another planet or in a bomb shelter for the past 3 years, then I am telling you to just peak around for a minute. He’s working with various brands including Dior and Korea Tourism, but Ken still remains modest and cautious when talking about his future in photography.
Thinking about someone’s rise to the top of any given profession always brings up questions from those who want in. Maybe he’s just fortunate and unaware of his own secret formula, but people are watching and wanting to work with Ken.
How did he become such a success through blogging and where is he going in the future? How does he continue to pull off such amazing shots of oft-covered places throughout Korea? It’s a challenge to get inside a mind that’s constantly working and moving to create such beauty. In order to understand Ken more completely, one must dig in and look at this icon’s background.
London to Korea and Upwards
Ken Lum Lee spent his pre-Korea life in London and after finishing his degree in Marketing and Business, he felt it was time to move on in order to “find more color and seasoning.” Korea was a fitting destination and as he left behind friends and family, Ken created an online journal (Seoul State of Mind) in order to keep in touch and show them this new life in a far away land. Teaching at a public school in Gwangju, his weekends meant focusing on his hobby, photography.
Mix that with frequent trips to Seoul and Ken found a vast trove of subjects, waiting for his thoughtful and unique perspective. Ken simply took pictures of things that interested him, whether it was buildings or people or both. People responded to his hobby are started talking. Now he’s a pretty big deal on the blogosphere and in Korea’s marketing world, working with huge brands and building his own at the same time. But how did he grow so quickly from a simple private journal?
When I ask how he did it, Ken’s response is a humble “I don’t know” and “literally no clue” but the answer can be found in his photos. Ken’s shots of Seoul demonstrate a dedication to improve and display more than the flash and cheer we are all accustomed to seeing. Unbelievably, he’s self-taught and figured out his style only in the past three years. He’d follow inspirational photographers like Richard Stapleton of Cereal Mag and Nathan Williams of Kinfolk, clearly admitting their presence in his improvement as a photographer.
He’s clearly doing something different from other lifestyle bloggers, as you can see from the distinct light choices and perspectives that he chooses. He explains, “It wasn’t a business or marketing strategy. It was just a way to update my friends and family back home on the beautiful places I’ve visited.” Maybe that’s the secret and the point of his message. Keep it simple by adding a bit of light reading along with some beautiful pictures. Ken might not think so, but that idea clearly resonates with me.
Future Ambitions, Brands
Aside from shooting with his Canon 5D Mk2 and 50 mm 1.4 lens, he’s focusing more on mobile photography because “it’s so much faster and more convenient.” It’s not just the comfort that comes with tech-based shots that keeps Ken interested. He’s organized Instagram meetups (Instameets) in Seoul and gotten quite a response, with huge crowds joining his photo walks through the city. All this for someone who claims to have only learned through “constant practice” and as he puts it, “capturing a place through my own personal perspective.”
Working with more brands and expanding his own would be a great future but Ken feels photography to be a “risky industry,” and that’s a fair assessment. However, big names don’t just knock on someone’s door asking for work by chance. It’s so interesting to think that this all started from, as he puts it, a “way to motivate me to visit places more often.” As can be judged from his work and current prospects, he’ll be seeing more very soon.
Thankfully, we can all keep up with Ken at his blog (www.seoulstateofmind.com) and through his Instagram account (instagram.com/seoul_stateofmind).