Cement-and-all images depict big-city lifePhotographs are like windows: They connect observers to a broader world and the people in it, making the images personal, meaningful and memorable. In today's world of abstract art and altered images, "straight" or realistic photographs can be perceived as refreshing, due to their familiarity and honesty.
Galerie Bhak, an exhibition hall in southern Seoul, is now showing realistic photographs by seven artists from Korea, Japan and China. Titled "In & Out: on the City," the works vary in theme and subject matter, but all provide sketches of daily life in big cities. The effect is modern, powerful and emotional.
The images capture the gamut of humanity. Qualities like desire, solitude, family, pretension, nostalgia, emptiness, and death are portrayed, with modern metropolises for a backdrop. The photos narrate with a certain exuberance the fleeting but meaningful moments of city dwellers. The cities, for their part, are depicted in a way that seems to transcend time and space.
The exhibition includes 10 works by the late Limb Eung-sik, who expertly captured with his lens Seoul street scenes from the 1950s through the 1990s. In these heavily-contrasted black and whites, old Seoul is preserved in frames akin to inspired journal entries.
The works exhibited by the well-regarded Japanese photographer Keizo Kitajima portray cities like stages waiting for a hero to enter. The Shanghai-based Gu Zheng deftly conveys in his images the shattering of Shanghai's age-old mystique and the explosion of its commercialism.
Lim Young-kyun depicts New York City, in a series of before and after Sept. 11 images, as "the vanity of Western capitalism and desire," according to the gallery's curator, Jung Hoon. Another Korean photographer, Lee Yong-hwan, focuses exclusively on images of his own family and relatives to express personal feelings.
The seven photographers, with these fragments of the modern city and its people, provide a frame of reference for appreciating the needs and desires of urbanites, effecting an uncannily personal bond with the viewer.
"In & Out: on the City" runs through Thursday at Galerie Bhak in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. For more information, contact Jung Hoon at 02-544-8481~2.
by Inēs Cho