Downtown LA in Color by Eric Kim

Issue 48

This is a series of color photographs I shot in Downtown LA from 2011-2012. For five years before the project, I shot more or less black and white exclusively for my work. For my early work, I was first interested in light, composition, and form in black and white – with inspiration from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Andre Kertesz. When I felt bored with that approach—simply finding an interesting background and waiting for the right person to step into the frame, I tried a new approach. I started shooting street photography with a flash at close distances, inspired by the likes of Bruce Gilden, William Klein, and Diane Arbus.

I never liked the look of color on digital. It has always looked too artificial and plasticky for me. But when I made the switch from digital to film about two years ago, I started experimenting with color film. It was a challenge “seeing the world in color” – to have color add to a photograph rather than being a distraction. Not only that, but color looked beautiful on film. It was powerful and beautifully-saturated, especially when I would shoot with a flash. Upon studying more work by William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, and Martin Parr—I decided to undertake a project that I would use exclusively color film in Downtown LA.

This project doesn’t have much of a sociological or documentary angle to it—it is merely my vision of Downtown LA and the colorful and vibrant people. In the project I used a Leica M6 and a Leica MP and Kodak Portra 400 with a hotshoe-mounted flash. Most of the shots are shot with a flash to saturate the colors, with the exception of the first image which is shot with natural light.

I looked specifically for interesting characters and colors that juxtaposed well within the frame—and added a visual punch. I also tried to sequence the project so the colors flowed well—from red to blue, to yellow, to cyan, to green, and finally pink.

After this project, I have found a new joy in photographing street photography in color. Although photographing in color is a challenge, it is something that I find very exciting that will hopefully take my street photography to gain new insights about photography and the society which I capture.

Eric Kim is currently based in East Lansing, Michigan.
To view more of Eric's work, please visit his website.