2013, May 10
Chu-Ha Chung Exhibit at Session House in Tokyo

© Chung Chu-Ha

Korean photographer Chu-Ha Chung has a show of his work “Does Spring Comes to Stolen Fields?” at Session House  in Kagurazaka, through May 16. The website 1 is kind of a mess, so here’s a link to a map 2 of the gallery.

Last year I wrote a long article for American Photo 3 explaining the background of this work, which draws its title from a Korean poem written under Japanese occupation. I don’t want to bill this exhibit as a Shiga-esque 4 tour de force, but I would recommend seeing it if you can.


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3/11 Earthquake, Chu-Ha Chung, Korea

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2012, Dec 19
Could Photos From Fukushima Bring Japan and Korea Closer Together?

© Chu-Ha Chung

I have neglected to post links to some of the things that I’ve written for American Photo over the past couple of months, and while I’m planning to do a larger link dump, I want to highlight one post in particular since it relates directly to Japan. It’s a long piece on the work of a Korean photographer, Chu-Ha Chung 1, who traveled to Fukushima in the wake of the 3/11 nuclear accident to take photos there. If you keep an eye on Asian news you’ll be aware that tensions between Japan and Korea are running extremely high, and the name of Chung’s project, “Does Spring Come To Stolen Fields?”, references the title of a famous Korean poem written under Japanese occupation. However, Chung is very sincere about creating understanding through his work, and I think his project deserves a careful look.


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3/11 Earthquake, Chu-Ha Chung, Korea

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2012, Sep 08
Water, again

Seeking out the visible, documenting it and presenting it through the medium can have meaning, but I derive no value from that. For example, isn’t it the case that if you research a certain subject you wish to photograph you will find that there are already tens of thousands of images related to that subject floating around? Confronted by this situation, I feel that even if I can create a slightly better photographic image, it will still feel like squirting a water pistol underwater.

Seung Woo Back, interviewed in “Seung Woo Back: Nobody Reads Pictures1

The last quote I put up from this book 2 received a number of comments which showed varying degrees of denial about the situation of making photographs in 2012. I am not asking everyone to stop pointing their lens-based image-creating devices at real-world phenomena. Do I even need to make that clear? To be really plain about it, this situation isn’t anything more than the air we are breathing, or, you know, the water in which we’re swimming. It’s depressing to think that this thought would be considered inflammatory when it’s so obvious.

We have talked around the concept of a goal, which I would venture to say goes beyond questions of representation, or aesthetics. This is why Back is skeptical about taking the “slightly better photographic image.” If that aesthetic effect also constitutes the entire goal of the work itself, the work is useless, i.e. it has no real effect, because this effect is immediately canceled out. John 3 brought up Tumblr, which I think that can show why this is true: just look at the volume of aesthetically pleasing images that a user like jesuisperdu 4 posts every day. Like Back, jesuisperdu also puts forth an argument against an aesthetically-motivated photography, because whatever single photograph you take, there’s a Russian teen who can take one that’s just about as good. The challenge for photographers is not to find a style but a goal.

http://kenshukan.net/john/archives/2012/09/07/on-photography-as-of-late/: John is thinking about these things too, from the perspective of a working photographer
http://jesuisperdu.tumblr.com/: Tumblr user who posts a frightening quantity of excellent images


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Interviews, Korea, Seung Woo Back

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2012, Sep 06
“The sea of images”

What an excellent way to start a book:

In this era of images, there is nothing beyond the production and consumption of images. Photography is, of course, at the core of these processes. However, the traditional method of producing images that consisted of wandering passionately in search of subjects and shooting photos of them, no longer guarantees the meaning of photographic images as it once did. The explosion of digital images challenges the basic assumptions of photography that have been its support for the last one hundred and fifty years. The myth of direct representation, whether of a dramatic moment or a beautiful scene, has started to collapse and is finally coming to an end. It is true that luckily some images can still stand out when rescued from the sea of images. This, however, is something that photographers today are unable to attain and discourse on “the death of photography” may be the most evident reflection of this sense of crisis.

Introduction to “Seung Woo Back: Nobody Reads Pictures,” 1 by Sunjung Kim & Suki Kim

This passage indicates the way that my own thinking has changed about photography over the past few years. Photographers who fail (or refuse) to grasp the insight contained here will be left behind. I want to say it’s surprising that Japan has not yet produced a photographer like Seung Woo Back 2, but I should think about that some more—maybe it’s not surprising at all, or maybe (less likely) someone here shares Back’s approach.

I’ll post another quote from the book later. Note that the translation is obviously a little suspect, but I haven’t touched it.

http://www.strandbooks.com/product/seung-woo-back-nobody-reads-pictures ISBN 9788965640189. Strand has a copy of this book for $20, but otherwise it looks very difficult to find online


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Korea, Seung Woo Back

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