Engineer and Visual Artist: Interview with Junwoo Kim

JUNWOO KIM is the inventor of ARS COIN, and a talented visual artist, engineer, and a good friend.

Hey Jun great having you. To start off, can you introduce yourself? What’s your life story and how does photography enter?

Hey Eric, thanks for having me.

I like to think of myself as an engineer and a visual artist. Those are the two defining characteristics and main passion for me. I found my passion for software engineering earlier than I did for photography – it was about 6 years apart.

Although I fully enjoyed studying to be and working as an engineer, when engineering was my only passion I felt as if something was lacking or rather, missing from my life. I didn’t have a creative outlet. I can’t draw or play music well, so I bought a used Canon tT5 after Black Friday and I started shooting.

We talked about this notion of “art tech” while we were in Denver. Can you share why you think this is such an epic idea?

Two passions of mine, art and technology balances each other and created synergy. I started viewing code and software architecture as something that can be aesthetically pleasing and I started analyzing photos more. Beautiful things can happen when you mix two subjects together and I think that is exactly what we’re doing at ARS by empowering artists.

You are the principal engineer and master mind behind ARS COIN. What was your vision for ARS COIN and what were the interesting programming challenges in building it?

My vision was to build a robust and secure economy. Finding the solutions for problems such as audit record logging or blocking double requests were interesting challenges for me.

There are some interesting projects on the horizon for ARS COIN, e.g. integration with blockchain, to get us to where we envisioned when we first started working on this feature.

Why do you like to make photos?

It’s a creative outlet and I love it when the photo comes out better than how I saw the scene. It also helps me turn off my work brain. Sometimes I feel like I am a different person when I’m making photographs and I almost always end up having a lot of fun as that person.

Who are some of your photo, art, entrepreneurial heroes?

I’ve had the same answer for the past 15 years or so. Dr. Richard Feynman is my personal hero. He was a physicist and that was his major passion, but he didn’t stop there. He explored areas outside of his comfort zone and he became an artist as well. He painted, he played drums, he picked locks for fun, the list goes on. Man’s lived a very interesting life and most importantly, had fun along the way. His life inspired me to take art seriously and use my creativity.

What are your epic life goals?

My answer hasn’t changed since New York, and it is to leave a legacy. We’ll all die one day and I want to have done something worth remembering. In more realistic terms, making great photographs, and/or writing innovative software.

Why should photographers use ARS instead of just Instagram and Facebook?

Political reasons aside, Instagram or Facebook is probably the worst place to improve your art. So many comments are short and insincere and written by bots. Also, using highly arbitrary metric of success like number of followers, likes, etc is not going to be helpful.

On the contrary, ARS engages artists to give honest feedback and constructive criticism. It also help users develop an eye for reading photographs as they provide critiques.

We have some features in the pipeline which will help us maximize discussions between artists which I believe will maximize the benefit from using ARS.

If you started photography, computer science, your life again — what would you do differently? What advice would you give to your younger self?

If I started photography all over again, I have two pieces of advice for myself:

  1. Please don’t buy all that gear; Get a Ricoh and be done with it
  2. Start studying fundamentals and other artists sooner. [Learn from the masters of photography]

Similar for CS, I’d tell myself to focus on the fundamentals. So much more could be built on a solid foundation.

As for life, well, nothing. I’m sure he can figure it out.

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