Artist develops love for buildings

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Artist develops love for buildings

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At first, Murai Osamu, 77, denies that he favors one medium over the other when it comes to his job as a photographer of architecture. “I take photographs only because I love architecture,” he says with a tinge of pride.
But if he were to compromise, he admits he would choose photography over architecture.
“In my works, the building takes up 20 percent of the image while the photographer’s sensibility takes up the rest,” he explained. “But even then, people only see 50 percent of the photographer’s touch in an image.”
For over 30 years, Mr. Osamu, a native of Japan who is in Seoul for an exhibit, shot static images over living ones. Earlier in his career, he had shot portraits for publications such as Life Magazine, but he eventually decided to become fully committed to architecture. “I’m a timid man,” he said. “I can’t bear to have people staring me in the face while I shoot. You don’t have to deal with that in architectural photography. It’s a completely subjective working procedure.”
Osamu is better known among architects than he is among photographers, perhaps because he has spent the last five decades working closely with building designers from around the world. He had a 30-year friendship with the late Korean architect Kim Su-geun.
Osamu’s interest in Korean architecture, however, is markedly in favor of the traditional. He loves the royal shrine at Jongmyo and has published a book on architecture from the Yi Dynasty, done jointly with Itami Jun, a Korean-born architect living in Japan.
“I’m beginning to learn about Western religious buildings, how they were typically built with vertical extensions and a dome on top,” he said. “But Eastern religious structures are the opposite. They tend to make things long and horizontal. “
Part of Mr. Osamu’s collection currently on display at COEX brings together photographs of Mr. Kim’s buildings with aerial photographs of urban environments such as a redevelopment project in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Mr. Osamu also held a solo exhibition earlier this year at the Crocetti Foundation in Rome. Titled, “Harmony/Sculpture and Environment,” the show featured photos of sculptures from around the world.
One of the photographs at the COEX exhibit is of Gyeongdong Church, in northern Seoul. Mr. Osamu’s use of a wide lens looking upward results in a striking view of the building, shadowed by tree branches, creating an almost mystical image. The dramatic vision contrasts with Mr. Kim’s sharper and precise take on architecture, his usual style.
These days, Mr. Osamu is documenting the works of Seung Hyo-sang, who was a student of Mr. Kim’s and won the Artist of the Year 2002 award from the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea.
“I’m not an architect,” he said, “but when I shoot a photograph, I do it from the eyes of a critic.”


by Park Soo-mee

The exhibition by Murai Osamu runs through Sunday at Taepyungyang Hall at COEX. For more information call (02) 774-8050.

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