Images of Leo Kim with his camera
September 2, 2021

We invite you to visit the NDSU Memorial Union Gallery for an exhibition of the work and life of distinguished photographer and former NDSU student, Leo Kim. On display are original prints created by Leo Kim himself, that come from the Leo Kim Collection at the NDSU Archives. The exhibit shares Kim's skillful ability to discover light, texture, shape, and movement with his work. Visitors will learn about Leo's story and how this collection adds his important legacy to the NDSU Archives' strong photojournalism collection.

A correlating event will not be held for the safety of our patrons during these unprecedented times. We hope you can comfortably visit the exhibit at your leisure while you experience the powerful work and story of Leo Kim.

On View: September 21–October 14, 2021

Gallery Hours: Monday–Friday | 9am-5pm

The NDSU Memorial Union Gallery events are free and open to the public. It is on the second floor of the NDSU Memorial Union, located at 1401 Administrative Avenue in Fargo. Visitor parking is available in the South Union Lot; free parking available after 4:30pm.

This exhibit is sponsored by Friends of the Libraries.


About Leo Kim

Leo Kim was born in 1946 and lived his early life in Hong Kong, Macao, and Austria. At the age of twenty-two he immigrated to the U.S. and decided to touch down in North Dakota because of the advertised low cost of living, college tuition, and wide-open spaces. He began by freelancing and taking pictures for NDSU’s student newspaper The Spectrum, and was brought onto the 1971/1972 Bison Annual for designing, photography, and coediting. He worked at The Forum in Fargo and The Standing Rock Star in Fort Yates at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Leo went on to spend time living in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area doing freelance and commercial work.

He was later drawn back to North Dakota for a new project that highlights his ability to skillfully capture North Dakota’s beauty–his 2003 book, North Dakota Prairie Landscape. Even though Leo deliberately kept people out of these photographs, there is certainly evidence that people inhabited the land. Published in 2010 was Leo's final, grand project, St. Paul Serenity, including natural parks and urban squares. Like the prairie landscapes of North Dakota, they have no people present in them, adding an even more powerful feeling of serenity and timelessness to an often-bustling place. 

Leo passed away in 2019. By the end of his career, he had produced roughly 3,607 prints, 29,966 negatives, and 11,400 slides. He is noted to be personable, humble, intelligent, and creative. Leo once stated, "I try to look at things as though I've never seen them before. I try to see them for the first time. I strive not to be influenced by other people's preconceptions of how things ought to look."

Leo Kim's collection of photographs, negatives, slides, and records was generously donated to the NDSU Archives in 2019.


Leo Kim Resources

Books and Posters: Leo Kim books and posters will be available to purchase on the NDSU Archives website. Items will be coming soon. Proceeds help the Archives continue to collect, preserve, and provide access to our region's unique history and culture.

Online Exhibit: A Photographic Journey: The Life & Work of Leo Kim provides an engaging experience that shares details of Leo’s life and various examples of his work.

Virtual Program Recording: Local photographers who were inspired by Leo discussed his achievements and his impact on photography in the community at a virtual program held in April 2021.

Exhibit at the Main Library: North Dakota Prairie Landscapes was installed in the Main Library stairwell in June 2021. Visit any time during open hours.

Leo Kim Collection: Information and materials about Leo Kim’s life and work can be found in the Leo Kim Collection online or in-person at the NDSU Archives (at this time, appointments are requested).


Thank you

Thank you to all those who made this special exhibit possible: Friends of the Libraries for their sponsorship; Mary Ruff and Kevin Smith for donating this powerful collection; Mike Smith for processing the collection and providing wisdom during the curation process; Noah Petters for processing the collection and creating the online exhibit; NDSU Department of Communication; Carin Noreiga for the custom framing; NDSU Libraries Exhibits Committee members Lindsay Condry, John Hallberg, Jeremy Kopp, Hallie Pritchett, and Matt Tallant; Anthony Faris and the MU Gallery staff; and Leo Kim for showing us beauty through his life and work.


How To Get Involved

The NDSU Archives actively seeks additions to its collections and relies on material and financial donations from the community to fulfill its mission. To learn more about our collections or make a donation, visit or contact us at

Friends of the Libraries help make events like this happen. Our Friends share a passion for their community and a strong appreciation of NDSU Libraries. If you would like to support students and help advance research, teaching, and learning opportunities within the Libraries, join today at or visit to learn more.