Images shine light into Asia’s soul

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Images shine light into Asia’s soul

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A wailing woman holding her grandson in her arms, young children on the battlefield, factories making high-tech gadgets, Mongolian nomads wandering in the Gobi desert: these stunning images that portray the contrasting lives of Asians are currently on display at the 2006 Daegu Photo Biennale.
Daegu, the capital of Northern Gyeongsang province, about two hours from Seoul, is home to many of Korea’s renowned photographers, such as Lee Myung-dong and Kang Woon-gu.
To bolster its reputation as the country’s leading site for photography since the 1930’s, the city has organized its first large-scale exhibition this year. The new Daegu Photo Biennale, hosted by the city and Daegu EXCO, the Exhibition and Convention Center, features more than 1,000 works by 56 photographers from 10 different countries. Three curators, Park Ju-seok, Seok Jae-hyun and Wolfgang Valler, have organized the exhibition into two parts: the Main and Special Exhibitions.
“The photographs on display were selected specifically for this Daegu Photo Biennale, and most of the photographers showed their support by traveling to Daegu for the opening,” said Mr. Seok, who teaches at Kyungil University.
For this first Daegu Photo Biennale, 723 pieces have been selected for the Main Exhibition to represent “Images of Asia in Photographs,” and they seek to define the identity of Asia by displaying both the traditional and dynamically changing images of the region.
The special exhibition, sub-titled “Arts in Photography and Photography in Arts,” takes place at the Daegu Culture and Arts Center. Led by 22 Korean photographers, it will show more than 350 pieces.
In the scale of its collections the Biennale is by far the most ambitious ever undertaken in Asia. The Main Exhibition includes “Steve McCurry’s Asia” and “Sunrise in Asia,” in which multinational photographers have supplied documentary images of Asia in five categories: “Culture and Heritage,” “Forcing the Pace,” “Labor and Industry,” “Environment and Life” and “Daily life in Asia.”
The American photographer, Steve McCurry was a newspaper photographer until he became a freelance photojournalist and crossed into Afghanistan where he photographed the civil war that pre-dated the Russian invasion of the 1980s. McCurry re-entered Pakistan with rolls of film sewn into his clothes and turban, and these images, published around the world, won him the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographer Reporting from Abroad, which is given to photojournalists working under the most adverse circumstances. He was the National Press Photographers Association’s Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1984. He has covered wars from Cambodia to Iran-Iraq to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and he frequently re-visits Afghanistan.
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McCurry has 100 photographs on display, taken over the past 30 years. “Most of my images are of people and I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition,” he said in an interview. Mr. McCurry is also scheduled to participate in the biennale’s international symposium.
One of his most renowned photographs, “Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh Refugee Camp near Peshawar” (Pakistan, 1984) is exhibited along with other pieces such as “Dust Storm” (Rajasthan, India, 1983).
Chris Hondros is another talented photojournalist. A Pulitzer Prize nominee, U.S. born Hondros has photographed in most of the world’s conflict zones since the late 1990s, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. His work has appeared on the covers of Newsweek and on the front pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post. His works have won multiple awards including the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club. His photographs include “A Girl Screams after her Parents were Killed by US Soldiers,” (Tal Afar, Iraq, 2005) and “Anti-Taliban Soldiers (Tora Bora, Afghanistan, 2001),” are on display.
Chinese photographer Lu Guang captured images of Chinese people in an AIDs Village located in Henan province. His work seeks to show that it is poverty that caused these people to be infected with HIV, since they have no other option than to sell their blood to survive.
Alessandro Belgiojoso, an Italian photographer, presents the images he made during his journey through North Korea in August, 2005. He tried to reveal the extent of desolation in small towns, as opposed to the celebration of power by the state in Pyongyang, visible in flashy displays such as military parades and mass gymnastic exhibitions.
The Special Exhibition, “Arts in Photography and Photography in Arts” is intended to examine the concept of “photo art” and to show the extent to which photography has penetrated the territory of fine arts. Around 400 pieces by Korean photographers such as Kim Joong-man, Gu Bon-chang and Hong Sung-do are on display.
Besides the photo exhibitions, other events, such as the “The Imaging Show,” “The Multimedia Show” and “Photography of the 50 Year history of Daegu” will take place during the biennale.
“Through this biennale, we tried to reflect the world’s rising interest in Asia. By inviting both European and Asian artists, we focused on conveying a balanced perspective of Asia,” said Mr. Seok, the curator.


by Chang Sun-young

The 2006 Daegu Photo Biennale runs until Oct.29. The Main Exhibition is at Daegu EXCO and the Special Exhibition at Daegu Culture and Arts Center. Take the express bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal to Dongdaegu Express Bus Terminal. For details, call 053-601-5000 or visit www.excodaegu.co.kr. (English available)

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