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Former student’s photograph collection donated to NDSU Archives

Photo of Leo Kim

Leo Kim

The NDSU Archives recently acquired nearly 22 linear feet of photographs, negatives, slides and records produced by distinguished photographer and former NDSU student Leo Kim.

The collection reflects Kim’s ability to discover light, texture, shape and form while capturing his subject.

“From beautiful landscapes to unique commercial work, the Archives is thrilled to add this powerful collection to their regional treasures,” said John Hallberg, archives associate. “The donation of Leo Kim’s celebrated work greatly enhances the NDSU Archives’ strong photojournalism collections. His work will continue to inspire others as the Archives preserves the collection and makes it accessible to the public.”

Kim was born in Shanghai, China, in 1946 to Korean immigrants. His father died before his birth, leaving his mother with four young children. After being forced out of China, missionaries helped the family move to Macao; at times they also lived in Hong Kong. In 1966, Kim’s mother was killed in a plane crash on Mount Fuji in Japan. Kim then moved to Austria and studied art history at the University of Vienna.

In 1969, he moved to the United States to continue his education. He was drawn to North Dakota because of low tuition rates and living expenses, and was intrigued by the smaller population and wide-open spaces.

Kim became an architecture student at NDSU, where he took photos for The Spectrum student newspaper and co-edited the 1971-72 Bison Annual.

He began his photojournalism career working for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. For a short time, he volunteered as editor of the Standing Rock Star on the Fort Yates Reservation, and then returned to Fargo where he worked as a contract photographer.

In 1985, Kim moved to Minneapolis and continued his work while maintaining his connections with North Dakota. In 1999, he traveled around the state capturing its serene landscapes. The images were compiled into a book, “North Dakota: Prairie Landscape,” which he dedicated to the people of North Dakota.

Kim followed with another book, “Saint Paul Serenity,” that captured Minnesota’s capital city while devoid of people.

His works were exhibited in galleries across North Dakota and Minnesota, and traveled around Germany. They can be found in many private collections and publications. Kim died Aug.18, 2019, at the age of 73.

The NDSU Archives other collections include the work of Cal Olson and Chet Gebert, who helped The Forum win the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 1957 Fargo Tornado. The Archives also holds the work of Mike Lien, a skilled photographer whose career started at The Forum and then led him to the New York Times Washington Bureau during the early 1970s.

The mission of the NDSU Archives is to preserve the history of North Dakota and the Red River Valley.

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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
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