My name is Ken Shin.
I’m currently a university student in Los Angeles.
I like to take pictures, but I’m poor. For most of my high school life, I was living in a white Ford Econoline molester van. I showered in my neighbor’s bathroom and cooked in their garage.
I want to enter a photography contest, but I can’t afford to pay the entry fee, since even with two jobs I am still struggling to keep up with my tuition.
A good result from a contest would not only help me break into a saturated industry, but it would also reduce the financial stress or keeping up with tuition.
Winning would mean I could maybe think about buying a real camera instead of using a point-and-shoot.
Anything will help.
You started photography back in High school?
My family situation wasn’t that good and I spent a lot of my time outside. At one point, I found my dad’s old point and shoot so I always messed around with that.
I saw your GoFundMe, did you really live in back of a van?
Not in the back of a van, just in a van. I wouldn’t just stay in the back of it…that’s weird.
Nice, no limitations then.
Yeah, I lived in the driver seat, passenger seat. It’s one of those white ford molester vans.
The panel vans with no windows?
Yeah. At one point I was going to take pictures for this kid for his grad photos. It was at a park so I circled around a couple of times and eventually I had the cops called on me.
You were still in high school at the time?
I saw that you went to the Trump rally in Orange County, what was that like?
Yeah, it’s more of a morbid curiosity I guess. I wanted to see what kind of people go there. I can see what those people look like, but I won’t know them. I can make generalization about them, but I won’t know them.
We’re you still there when the riot broke out?
I was just finished shooting with another guy and we got out of the rally, we didn’t know about the riot outside. We were being escorted out and saw an orange glow, as I looked down, I saw that things were burning.
What’s your approach to street photography?
I kind of wander around like a loose Alzheimer’s patient and I keep my eyes peeled.
I heard this story when I was little, it was about this farmer. He was working his field and as he looked up, he saw a rabbit run into a tree stump. The rabbit just * raspberry sound * dies.
He decided, “hey I don’t need to farm anymore, I’ll just wait at this tree stump for more rabbits to run into it.” So he didn’t tend to his fields, so he starved and his family starved then his family died because he was a failure.
That kind of stuck with me so I thought if I walk around and cover lots of ground, I’ll just see more. It’s like putting out a lot of stumps for more rabbits to run into. It’s all luck.
You were in Korea over the summer, what was that experience like?
You take their picture with anything, Leica, digital, or whatever, it doesn’t matter because they’ll lose their shit.
It’s this weird thing where people will either assume you’re a pervert, rapist, or pedophile. If they don’t default to those three. They’ll assume you’re working with a prosecutor or investigating them.
What do you usually do when they confront you?
I tell them I’m a photographer.
I figured out my statement, if I tell them I’m a photography student from a University for the United States! Then they’ll be okay. Koreans are self-important, but they’ll always bow to authority. It’s that confucian values thing.
What are you hoping to capture? What makes you decide to press the shutter button?
I avoid making pictures look like they were taken in some other time. I’m taking pictures to see what now looks like, so I want them to look like they were taken now. This exact moment, this exact feeling right now.
I want to remember what this time looks like. What people look like, what they do, what they want.
Life happens in 360 degrees, the camera only captures a fraction of that. It is up to the photographers to decide what little slice of that pie to present to the viewer. It’s not about what’s in the frame, it’s what you leave out.
Photos Courtesy of Ken Shin