“If we gave every person in this neighborhood a camera and told them to take a picture of something beautiful, there still wouldn’t be enough cameras to capture everything that’s beautiful about this place,” Enoch Ku mused.
When I first came across Ordinary Sacramento, I was entranced. The photos illustrated my hometown in such a charming light. I found myself scrolling through them for almost an hour.
This project is run by Enoch Ku, a Sacramento-based photographer who also grew up in Rosemont. His work consists of photos of street signs, trees, and broken fences — ordinary things — yet it is just as captivating as any photo of scenic landscape. The best part was that it was all familiar to me. This is the place I grew up in, illustrated in neat boxes.
As I continued exploring his website, I came across a photobook titled “My Neighborhood Rosemont, CA (우리 동네 로즈먼트)” and an apology note address to the neighborhood and I could not help feeling as though it were written from my perspective.
“For the entirety of my life, my mind was consumed with thoughts of the future. This longing for something far off meant I took you for granted, but you responded with patience. You graciously taught me that life is not found in an unknown future but in the ordinary moments found in the present and that all I have to do is slow down enough to discover it occurring all around me.”
Reading Ku’s note made me reflect on my own relationship with Rosemont. The past years of my life all revolved around finding a way to college away from home and I never spent much time appreciating where I was in the moment. Ku had felt the same way.
“I was a high school senior, the big thing on my mind was, ‘Oh, Sacramento is boring. I want to leave Rosemont. There’s just nothing to do here,’” he reminisced. After high school, Ku attended UCLA and there he encountered an environment that contrasted vastly with that of Rosemont.
“There’s a different speed of life down there. Everyone was trying to hustle for their goals [and] work hard. On days where we were just hanging out with friends, it felt like no one wanted to be where they were. No one wanted to be where they’re at. There’s always something better. There’s a better restaurant to eat at. There’s a better place to be. There are cooler people to hang out with.”
Once he moved back home to Sacramento, he began to slow down and began appreciating his life in a new way. That’s how Ordinary Sacramento was born.
“The thesis of my photography is that there are beautiful moments happening all around us. I wanted to test that belief. So instead of traveling — if I really believe that there are beautiful moments happening everywhere, then I have to believe that if I stepped out my door, it’s going to be there,” Ku explained.
He set off walking around Rosemont with a camera in hand. His original intention was to make a small zine, but before long, he had accumulated around 9000 photos.
“I was just condensing it and condensing it. And it got to a point where I didn’t want to get rid of anything.” What originally was supposed to be 24 pages became 120 pages, so Ku decided to put together a photography book instead.
His idea was for someone to look at the book and feel as though Ku was showing them around his neighborhood.
“It’s like we’re walking together and we’re just kind of noticing small things that are the personality of Rosemont — the things that kind of bring life to our neighborhood.”
The aim of his photobook is not necessarily to promote the beauty of Rosemont, but rather to promote the philosophy that allowed Ku to find beauty in Rosemont.
“I think if I was born anywhere else, it would be that neighborhood. I want [the book] to be an invitation for people to experience their own neighborhood in a different way. My book is just my own experience.”
Within a week, he sold out of all 130 copies of his book. Because of the high demand, Ku is currently working with a new company to restock.
His work and message has resonated with people all over the world, not just in Sacramento. People from Germany, Australia, and Belgium have also been enthralled by Ku’s view of Rosemont.
“There’s no greater honor than to be able to help change someone’s perspective or how they view certain things. I am blown away. I can’t believe it. I had someone who reached out to me from Ukraine!”
Ku’s style differs from the norm of photography in that it challenges the conventions of beauty.
“The typical type of ‘cool photography’ [is of] mountains and beaches and beautiful scenery. In my opinion, the world needs less of those photos and more of just ordinary photos because you don’t need to go to a beautiful beach in Hawaii […] to experience beauty. Real beauty can be experienced in being present with your surroundings and appreciating what is there in front of you,” he said.
“When I take that shutter, it’s like I was born to experience this. I was born to be in this moment, right where I am right now. This is where I’m supposed to be … I’m supposed to be standing in front of this bush, taking a picture of it.”
Ku’s take on Rosemont is both new and familiar to me. It is the neighborhood I have lived in for fifteen years in a different light.
“I feel like even though I’ve been a year into this project and have taken a lot of pictures of Rosemont, I still have not discovered all the beautiful things about Rosemont. I don’t think I will ever find everything beautiful about Rosemont, because so many things are changing. It is a living entity almost. It’s growing as we are growing.”
Before I leave in August, I will be adopting Ku’s philosophy. I will stop to enjoy the ordinary moments — as many as I can before I have to say goodbye to my neighborhood Rosemont.