Photographer's Long Career: High Drama To High-TechThe 63-year-old photographer Hwang Kyu-tae says he began working with the computer program Photoshop after discovering the dynamic possibilities of digital technology. But Hwang uses only the most minimal functions of this computer program, things that can also be done manually, such as zooming, toning, cropping and enlarging. For all intents and purposes, he does not digitally manipulate his photographs, and the artist seems to take particular pride in that. He describes his photographs as "pure."
Perhaps his work habits and philosophy of photography come directly from his background: Before becoming a fine-arts photographer, Hwang was a photojournalist for Kyunghyang Sinmun, a daily newspaper. His pictures documented some of the most dramatic moments in modern Korean history.
A significant portion of his works in his exhibition, "Hwang Kyu-tae: Contemporary Photography," on display at the Artsonje Center, consists of photographs he took while a journalist. Hwang scanned the black and white negatives from the 1960s and reinterpreted them.
As a result, the photographs on display are quite different from their original prints. Among them are images of President Park Chung Hee smoking in his back yards, a group of government officers in dark suits gossiping among themselves and children eating red bean buns on the street.
Another part of the exhibition is a collection of the artist's more recent works done in color. Consisting of enlarged images of computer monitors, drug capsules and sticker labels, Hwang says these works were inspired when he worked in a processing lab in the United States. "It's interesting because the style of the photographs displayed here often imitate the salon photographs that were frequent among the modernists," says Lee Young-jun, the curator of the exhibition. Salon photographs depicted landscape images, such as wet fog and trees, often based on melodrama. But Lee adds, "Hwang's images provoke something much more daring in content, even in a contemporary context."
The exhibition runs Saturday through Feb. 24. For more information, contact the Artsonje Museum at 02-733-8945.
by Park Soo-mee