Collection: Road to Homer

It took me 5 years, 2 van builds, 4 cross-country road trips, and 1 pandemic to finally make it to Alaska.

In fact, the week of the opening for this show will mark my one-year anniversary of when I moved to Homer.

Although the journey to get here was a long and winding path with many unexpected turns, I can draw a straight line from where it all began in the summer of 2017, of all places in Iceland.

The country had a raw, blustery beauty with volcanoes and glaciers, bipolar moods in weather, and ever-changing landscapes that felt surreal and otherworldly. I can still vividly recall the sensory overload I experienced while exploring that country - the wind rushing against my face and the humbling emotions I felt from standing beneath the shadow of colossal mountains.

When I returned home, I knew two things: 1) I wanted to leave Baltimore and live somewhere that was close to mountains and the ocean and 2) I wanted to build a camper van and drive it there. Thus began my 5 year move towards Alaska, sojourning between seven different states while picking up odd jobs and meeting people I consider to be family along the way. Even though I didn't know the exact details of where I would end up at the time, looking back I now realize that the most challenging parts of my journey often led to the most rewarding experiences.

These photos were taken over the past six years during my time on the road which ultimately led me here to Homer, a place where I can finally call home.

Jason Kim

I am a Baltimore-born photographer and visual artist living in Homer, Alaska. I seek to capture a sense of exploration and adventure through my photography. I am particularly drawn to capturing mountain ranges and outdoor scenery, and the emotions they evoke.  My work explores the balance between peace and chaos such as found in nature and encourages the viewer to discover their inner landscapes hidden amidst the vast and untamed wilderness.

Road to Homer

It took me 5 years, 2 van builds, 4 cross-country road trips, and 1 pandemic to finally make it to Alaska. In fact, the week of the opening for this show will mark my one-year anniversary of when I moved to Homer. Although the journey to get here was a long and winding path with many unexpected turns, I can draw a straight line from where it all began in the summer of 2017, of all places in Iceland. The country had a raw, blustery beauty with volcanoes and glaciers, bipolar moods in weather, and ever-changing landscapes that felt surreal and otherworldly. I can still vividly recall the sensory overload I experienced while exploring that country - the wind rushing against my face and the humbling emotions I felt from standing beneath the shadow of colossal mountains.  When I returned home, I knew two things: 1) I wanted to leave Baltimore and live somewhere that was close to mountains and the ocean and 2) I wanted to build a camper van and drive it there. Thus began my 5 year move towards Alaska, sojourning between seven different states while picking up odd jobs and meeting people I consider to be family along the way. Even though I didn't know the exact details of where I would end up at the time, looking back I now realize that the most challenging parts of my journey often led to the most rewarding experiences. These photos were taken over the past six years during my time on the road which ultimately led me here to Homer, a place where I can finally call home.

Layovers and Odd Jobs

In the fall of 2017 I moved to Philadelphia, PA where I acquired a white handicap-modded Ford E-350 with a raised roof that I could stand upright in. I affectionately named it “Big Beluga Benny” in reference to the protruding fiberglass hump that was over the cab that resembled a Beluga whale’s forehead. Benny was a reference to my friend from Australia who was originally supposed to join me on this trip but was unable to due to the pandemic. At the time I did not possess many of the skills needed to build out a camper such as welding, plumbing, and basic 12-volt wiring. This led me on a path to take odd jobs in different cities that were in line with my goals.  During that time I lived and worked at a print/metal fabrication shop and was given full access to the company's CNC routers, water jet cutters and welding equipment. In 2019, I left Philly to move to Brooklyn, NY where I lived out of my then half-finished van and worked as a handyman's assistant. I could probably write a book about my experiences working for that Brooklyn handyman. The final chapter would undoubtedly crescendo with him accidentally setting a fire in a client’s home that we were laying wood flooring in. Thankfully, I was not working on site that day but whoever was, forgot to empty the bag from the sander that was full of residual solvent which then spontaneously combusted overnight. This forced the fire department to shatter all the windows of the top floor and to drill a hole through the roof in order to let a hose in to douse the fire. Till this day, I marvel at the fact that the client whose apartment my employer set fire to in Brooklyn, had once been a part of a joint art show with an artist I would later end up working for the following year in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I used him as a reference to which he gave me an incendiary review. The fire incident prompted me to leave the handyman in late 2019 and I was able to find work as a large format print operator in Hackensack, New Jersey printing the interior wallpapers for all Google and Amazon headquarters in the US. The entire company was eventually furloughed when the pandemic hit in March of 2020. I took this opportunity to finish building the van and raced it toward the border when it was still unclear whether Canadians were letting people through to Alaska. They were not, and I was turned away. Twice. Knowing well that this would be a possibility, I changed plans and instead did a cross-country roadtrip tour, visiting friends and family throughout the lower 48 while doing some spectacular backcountry hiking along the way. This was when I fell in love with the Tetons in Wyoming. Prior to this I had never experienced the interior of the states. I was absolutely blown away by mountains the likes of which I had seen in places like New Zealand and Iceland. It was also where I would find myself living for the next year and a half while waiting for the Canadian border to open back up. During that time, which I refer back to as my “layover years”, I worked as an apprentice knife maker for an ABS Master bladesmith in Idaho, an airplane mechanic in Afton, Wyoming, and an assistant for the aforementioned artist in Jackson, Wyoming.

The Crash

By the time I had finished my cross country roadtrip and made it back to the east coast, I had put around 15k miles onto Big Beluga Benny. Aside from a single flat tire in Page, Arizona, Benny handled like a champ. I was in a Panera Bread while waiting to have new tires installed when I received a phone call from the shop manager asking if I was sitting down. Apparently, the brakes on a fully loaded FedEx truck that was on a hill just above where my van was parked had cut loose while the driver stepped away to make a delivery. It had rolled down the hill and slid into the side of my van. Benny was toast. It was a total freak accident. I was stuck for two months at my mother’s house in Pittsburgh near the site of the accident during the height of the pandemic when New York City felt like a ghost town and everything was under quarantine. I received a small settlement from the crash and with that I accepted an invitation from a good friend that I had reunited with during the roadtrip to move to Idaho.

The Reframe

After two months in Idaho, I purchased an old Toyota Dolphin in Ogden, Utah from a fellow named Fritz. I thought the name to be odd until a couple years later when I moved to Homer. It turns out that he was from here and so was the Dolphin. It had sustained some serious water damage that caused the roof to sag to the point where it prevented the passenger door from opening. However with less than 30k miles on engine and it’s cult following as a legendary “mini-micro motorhome”, I decided to gut the whole thing and reframe it with metal. Some friends I had met in Afton, Wyoming invited me to use their garage for the mammoth project which took much longer to accomplish than originally anticipated due to my body’s inability to acclimate to the 7000+ ft of elevation gain in that Wyoming mountain town. I will forever be indebted to the kindness and generosity of my friends there during that time. I utilized previous skills and learned new ones while reframing, reskinning and even fiberglassing the rooftop of the dolphin in preparation for rainy weather in Alaska. I completed it in the fall of 2021 and experienced my first Wyoming winter which can get arguably colder than parts of Alaska including Homer. By the time of it’s completion it was barely recognizable from when I first got it and I renamed it the “Porpoise”.

The Estate

The Canadian borders finally opened back up in spring of 2022 after a long two year wait since the start of the pandemic. By that time I had reduced all my earthly possessions to a motorhome, 4runner and tiny trailer for spare tires and tools I would need in order to make the trip up the AlCan. My best friend Seth, who I had originally met on my road trip to Iceland back in 2017 joined along for the ride as we caravanned north through the Canadian Rockies and onto the Klondike Highway taking our sweet time while backpacking at various points along the way. The hitch to the trailer in tow broke multiple times but thankfully I had brought my welder and was able to patch things up in Dawson City. The 4runner required a new starter and spark plugs that I was able to find parts for and managed to fix myself. The Porpoise had no issues whatsoever and proved to be the more reliable of the two vehicles on the trip much to my relief. In mid July of 2022 we finally made it to Alaska via the Top of the World Highway. We drove from Tok to Valdez. From Valdez to the Denali Highway cutting across to Cantwell and from there we drove down to Anchorage. It was rainy weather all the way from Seward to Anchor Point but as soon as we reached Homer, the clouds parted as if to welcome us, revealing the glorious views of the Kachemak Bay as we made the drive into town.