U.S. photo exhibition offers insight into Korean photography, history

By Lee Woo-young
  • Published : Dec 5, 2012 - 19:39
  • Updated : Dec 7, 2012 - 16:34
The Korea Society presents photographs taken by Korean realist photographers during the turbulent modern days of Korea for the first time in the U.S.

The exhibition titled “Traces of Life: Seen Through Korean Eyes, 1945-1992,” depicts the details of people’s everyday lives during the critical period of transition in modern Korean history, offering fresh insight into Korean history and culture, as well as its photography. 
The cover of “Traces of Life,” a book that features photographs on exhibit at the Korea Society

It features 54 original black-and-white photographs taken by prominent Korean photographers including Joo Myung-duk, Koo Wang-sam, Lee Hyung-rok, Lee Hae-sun and Kim Ki-chan.

The exhibition, which started on Sept. 12, was extended until Jan. 31 due to popular demand, according to Lee Chang-jae, the curator of the exhibition. The exhibition was scheduled to end on Dec. 7.

According to Lee, the exhibition highlights the artists in the larger context of the history of Korean photography and offers a visual experience through which to understand and appreciate Korean history, culture and the arts.

The photographs that show scenes of everyday activities offer a fresh point of view of the transitional era that was marked by industrialization and development, and complex political shifts and rising democratic movements.

Lee Hae-sun depicts a scene where children are playing on the street in front of the presidential election posters, including that of President Park Chung-hee, who seized power through a military coup.

Kim Ki-chan offers a nostalgic look at urban life in Korea during the 1970s when the country’s rural development movement called Saemaeul, or new community movement, flourished under the Park Chung-hee administration.

“This remarkable exhibition of photographs will no doubt spur greater attention to Korea’s photographers, but also turn attention to Korea itself ― the land, the people and the cultural forms from the 20th century,” David McCann, professor of Korean literature at Harvard University, wrote in the exhibition catalogue.

The exhibition continues through Jan. 31 at the Korea Society Gallery in New York. It will then travel to the Manfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University and the Jorgensen Arts Center at University of Connecticut in 2013.

By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@heraldcorp.com)