Dive in to photographer’s underwater world

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Dive in to photographer’s underwater world

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A school of sardines underwater in Cebu, Philippines. The photo is part of the exhibition “Mare.” [NEWSIS]

A silvery school of fish swimming through the sea resembles flocks of migratory birds hurrying through the blue sky. The deep, dark blue sea carries a certain grandeur that’s captivating for anyone looking at it, simultaneously invoking a sense of thrill and awe.

The first photo exhibition by Chang Nam Won, titled “Mare,” conveys the artist’s love and passion for the sea. Chang’s photographs, which are largely shot underwater, have attracted the attention of the Korean art world.

“I am left without words in the face of the mightiness of the sea,” said Chang, an established photojournalist who specializes in images of the sea. Chang currently serves as a photography adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo.

“The sea fills all the empty spaces in my heart and makes me a different person every day,” Chang said. “I owe the sea so much. I’ve been thinking for a long time about how to express my love for the sea, and also how to repay my debt, and I came up with the idea of showing the world the photos I took when I was underwater.”

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Chang Nam Won

Chang said that it wasn’t long after he started his photojournalism career when he first came to fall in love with the ocean - an entity that sometimes welcomed him with warmth and comfort and at other times filled him with awe.

“The sea is the greatest museum God has ever created,” Chang said. “You can’t imagine how beautiful and mysterious it is ... and it is miraculous to see all the creatures that exist down there. We probably won’t be able to know everything under there. But the sea will always be waiting for us.”

Taking photos underwater is complicated and physically demanding. Chang suffers from Bell’s palsy, a result of having stayed underwater for too long. His hearing is also failing.

The job also requires a great deal of patience. Chang once had to wait almost a year to spot a humpback whale. He said that professional landscape photographers do not always understand the feeling he has after getting a shot after such a long wait. There is a big difference, Chang says, between looking for something in the open and boundless sea and shooting an image of a landscape.

When asked what he feels when he goes to the sea, Chang said the prayer he offers to the sea every time he goes underwater reflects his feelings very well: “Oh sea, the mother of all living creatures, you fill the emptiness, and your virtue lets everything flow as it should. I am throwing myself into your arms once again for your wisdom, mercy and strength. Kindly lead me your heart and fill me with your warmth.”

*“Mare” will run until July 18 at the Lotte Gallery, located on the 9th floor of the Lotte Department Store’s Avenuel branch in Sogong-dong, central Seoul. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Go to Euljiro 1-ga Station, line No. 2, exit 7. For more information, call (02) 726-4428.


By Chung Jae-suk [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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