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Gallery: Suitman, the world's best-dressed traveler
The Korean-American artist wears a suit wherever he goes ... now he's being recognized for more than just snappy dress
It’s not only superheroes who have alter egos.
Korean-American artist Young Kim, 52, has been building a following in the contemporary art scene with his quirky second identity, dubbed Suitman.
When he assumes the character of Suitman, the Kim travels the world, photographing himself in beautiful settings, looking wildly out of place and yet entirely at home.
Kim says the inspiration for this lifelong project occurred more than 20 years ago, when he was living on the East Coast of the United States and decided to drive cross-country.
“I was wearing a suit at the time, and so I decided I was going to wear that suit every day and see people’s reactions,” says Kim.
“I started taking my own pictures in a national park and I got weird responses from people. Back then, people wearing suits were not regarded positively -- suits represented conformity and salarymen.”
Alienation and alter egos
In his artist manifesto, the Seoul-born, Hong Kong-based artist says that Suitman is the physical manifestation of the “lifelong alienation” produced by constantly relocating from the East to the West and back again and feeling unaccepted by society each time.
“When I take on the Suitman role, I become Suitman on the road,” says Kim. “I eat and sleep in the suit. I’ve been doing so for 20 years.”
Before he became an artist, Kim worked in graphic design, advertising and marketing.
He says he incorporated what he learned when creating his alter ego.
“I always kept my camera and a sketchbook and a journal with me,” says Kim. “When I came back from my travels I would make color copies and send them to people I met on my travels.”
New career, new travels
When a friend opened a gallery on Orchard Street in New York in 2002, Kim was invited to do a showing of his work.
His exhibition received positive reviews, which led to a second show, where French fashion designer agnès b. liked his work so much that she invited him to travel through Asia with his show.
Five years ago, he decided to become a full-time artist and now takes extensive trips two or three times a year.
The most recent trip was to India.
“My favorite place is always the latest place I’ve been to,” says Kim. “I try to create my own agenda and another small project each time.”
In Munnar, India, he came across old Bollywood posters and decided to search for the man who for decades hand-painted all the movie posters in the region, but who went out of business with the arrival of digital printing.
Kim says he cherishes the opportunity to find such artists on his travels and share their work.
Watch for Suitman’s upcoming solo show "SUITMAN WAS HERE" at the Lorenzetti Gallery Leon, France, on October 12, followed by a show in Singapore in late October.
More on CNN: Gallery: A year in the life of a travel photographer