Leo Kim was born in Japanese-occupied Shanghai,China, to a Korean mother. His father died a month before Kim was born, and he and his family were forced to flee to Macao, a Portuguese colony, and later to Hong Kong, when he was young. Kim lost his mother in a 1966 plane crash. At that time, he moved to Vienna, Austria, to live with his sister, and began studying art history at the University of Vienna. Two years later, he moved to North Dakota, where he eventually studied at North Dakota State University.
Today, Kim works as a corporate photographer in Minneapolis. Recipient of the Gold Award for excellence in corporate photography from Photo/Design, New York, his other accolades include a Gold Award from the national Community Relations Report and the Best of Show for the photography and design of the North Dakota Arts and Humanities annual report. He has been featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the International Photo District News as well as several other publications.
With so much turmoil in his early life, Kim is still able to bring fresh eyes to his photography. “I try to look at things as though I’ve never seen them before,” he once said in an interview. “I strive not to be influenced by other people’s preconceptions of how things ought to look.” The same goes for planning a photo shoot. “It doesn’t really work to plan a photograph, then go out and take it,” Kim continued. “What I do is go to a place I think might be interesting, then try to have the patience to let the photograph come to me.”