Submission from Brooklyn, Artist & Tutor
Kevin Kim is an artist and tutor living in Brooklyn. He grew up in North Virginia and moved to New York to pursue a career as an artist. After graduating from university with a math degree, he spent his time driving across the United States with journals and film to shoot. He self-published his first book "Everything is Ok", a book documenting those travels with journal entries and photos as a vicarious journey and inspiration for those wishing to leave their hometowns and travel as well.
After Kevin’s road trip across the states, he lived in San Diego for 6 months feeling isolated. In a need of clarity and intrigue for sacred plant ceremonies, he took a trip to Peru to partake in an intensive healing retreat. In Peru, he opened himself to being in a vulnerable state to work through insecurities and strip away the excess nonsense to focus on what mattered in his eyes.
Learning and teaching is prevalent in Kevin’s life, whether it is learning new techniques in shooting film or teaching students math outside of the traditional school system. In the future, he aims to develop more community-oriented programs and continue traveling. One of Kevin’s goals is to design a youth center that offers education on physical, mental, and spiritual self-care and well-being.
Math and art seem to stimulate such different parts of the brain! What made you transition from one to the other?
I think it was just a matter of getting to know myself more. Once I started traveling, I became more comfortable accepting myself as a creative, partly from meeting so many artists from all around the world and gravitating towards them.
The way I approach math doesn’t seem so different than, say, how I approach a creative project. On a technical level, a lot of my students are actually quicker than me, but I think I’m good at explaining seemingly difficult concepts in a simple way.
What made you want to teach math? Do you teach anything else as well? Would you want to teach anything else?
At the time, I just wanted to help people, and teaching seemed the most fulfilling route for me. Then I started to realize how outdated the education system is and I no longer felt passionate about becoming a high school math teacher.
I love showing people around Brooklyn, and this could be seen as a form of teaching. I think the idea of having someone give a lecture to a group of students is practical on one level, but do we need 6 hours of that every weekday for our entire childhood? I think we learn the most when we are doing, failing, and sharing - and this can take place in many circumstances, not just in a classroom.
Who is the woman that seems to be photographed most in your film?
That’s an amazing girl named Nastya. She’s a filmmaker from Ukraine. We’re actually in the process of getting married so that she can continue living in the U.S.
Describe process of how you shoot.
It’s all a learning experience. Lately, the lesson’s been all about light. That’s the thing about shooting film - the whole process is like alternative education on basic things like shadows, colors, and the sun. Timing is another big thing - how to be at the right place at the right time. Is that even something you can get better at? I think you can.
How did you come across Disposable Magazine?
I think I was looking at different magazines to help me design my first book. The pink and white disposable just made everything more alluring.
What would you say is an aspiration for 10 years?
Traveling the world and focusing on community-oriented projects. I see myself getting involved in designing a center catered to the youth that offers practical education on how to take care of one’s self physically, mentally, and spiritually.
What is the concept behind your book “Everything Is OK”?
After graduating from university and not wanting to start a career as a math teacher, I saved up some money to drive across the States and that’s where the book starts. A lot of people from my hometown talk a lot about leaving, but never do. The book was created with them in mind, basically saying that, “if I can do it, you can too”. Also, I had a feeling my parents would eventually get their hands on it, so part of me wanted to show them what I’ve been up to.
How long have you been shooting film?
Exactly two years ago. I took a handful of disposables to document my trip in Peru.
We as humans all suffer from some insecurities, but some might not have the tools to combat it. Would you care to elaborate on your stay at the intensive healing retreat? Do you have any advice or suggestions to offer?
So after the road trip, I ended up in San Diego and lived there for 6 months. I felt isolated and stuck and was desperate for a sense of clarity. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of sacred plant ceremonies ever since I found out about them in high school. It was like a now-or-never kind of feeling at the time. So I booked my flight and went down to Peru and so many things happened at once. I gained so much respect for plants and the wisdom they carry, and also respect for my body and other people in general. The retreat was a place to strip away the bullshit that we go through everyday in modern society and focus on the few things that actually matter.
I’m not saying that everyone should go to the jungle and drink mind-altering substances. I find that when people are open to change, they’ll receive it, and this can come in many different forms. It’s just a matter of being open and learning to listen to our gut.
Da Nang, Vietnam
What are your plans for this weekend?
Not much as of now, I work this Saturday and my friend is having a celebration for his birthday.
Somewhere Tonight by Beach House
Right or left handed?
What is the best dish you can cook?
A killer oatmeal breakfast - I call it The Ritual ;)
What is your middle name?
What do you do in your free time?
Go on mini adventures with my film camera, edit/organize my photos, play guitar, make instrumentals, play with clay, meditate, go on walks…
What inspires you?
Nature, busy streets, and staring out the window of a moving vehicle
What do you do for money?
I currently work as a barista at a cafe-bar in Brooklyn while teaching math privately on the side, both online and in person.
What do you do for pleasure?
Taking friends and travelers to my favorite cafes in the city while taking film photos of our experience together and sharing it with them. Drinking tea with my feet up and staring out my window with my favorite tunes on at low volume :)
Your idea of happiness?
Walking around a busy city with no agenda and a camera in hand then coming home to a warm bath with candles and incense burning
Your idea of misery?
Believing you’re not good enough
If not yourself, who would you be?
Being Keanu Reeves seems pretty chill
A couple years ago I went to an intensive healing retreat that put me at my most vulnerable state in order for me to conquer some insecurities. The volunteers at that retreat are my heroes.
What is your present state of mind?
Less thinking, more doing!
Bedside table books?
If I could choose anything, Dharma Bums by Kerouac because I haven’t read it yet
What do you do if you can’t sleep at night?
Focus on my breath
Do you collect?
I am starting to collect interesting plants that I find on the street and letters from friends
Tea or coffee?
What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?
I truly believed that my Beanie Babies turned alive when I wasn’t around, like in Toy Story. I had a very serious talk with them one night trying to convince them to show their true selves around me.