Min Kim, a London and Seoul-based photographer, revolves around the human experience on her artistic journey, challenging conventional perspectives through the creation of enigmatic images. Since graduating from Kingston with a BA in Photography, she believes in capturing the inherent ambiguity of everyday life, prompting profound self-reflection. Observing others and questioning her identity, actions, and emotions evoked by the gaze upon others are integral to her creative process. She approaches subjects from diverse perspectives, fostering a desire for viewers to engage impartially. Recognizing the relativity of perception, she explores choreographed motions inspired by performative art, navigating the delicate balance between relinquishing and maintaining control. This intentional interplay aims to provoke thought, inviting viewers to explore the intricate tapestry of human existence and the ever-shifting dynamics of perception.
HJ: "Can you share the subject matter or theme that consistently guides your fine art photography work?"
MK: "During my university days, I initiated portrait photography projects, starting with a London-based project where I distributed bo-ja-ki, a piece of cloth from Korea used for wrapping things to people, engaging in performances that allowed them to interpret the diverse meanings associated with the handkerchief. Since then, capturing people as subjects has become a focal point of my work."
"At first, I initiated interactive work using the handkerchief as an object. British people were not familiar with the purpose of handkerchiefs, so I expressed it in ways I had not previously considered. From that point, I developed an interest in interactive work with people, and that's when I began taking portrait photographs.
My work revolves around capturing the back view of individuals and continuous photo movements. Through this, I engage viewers at an exhibition, encouraging them to imagine the actions unfolding in the next frame and envision various events occurring beyond the subject's gaze. By utilising people as mediators in my work, I strive to move away from conventional perspectives, depicting ambiguous movements and changes, injecting a sense of mockery into everyday life, and posing philosophical questions. Through such work, I hope to provide an experience for others to reflect on who they are, what they are doing, and the emotions they are experiencing while observing the artwork."
HJ: "What do you think are the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses that the medium of photography possesses compared to other fine art mediums such as painting or sculpture?"
MK: "I believe that painting and sculpture, as distinct mediums from photography, can more directly express creative elements, allowing artists to create something out of nothing. Painting and sculpture, through the artist's imagination and skills, offer infinite possibilities, shaping materials to create entirely new worlds. On the other hand, photography excels at capturing and recording moments, primarily portraying reality. While photography reveals a specific moment within a selected frame, it may capture only a fraction of reality and may have limitations in conveying depth. This could potentially lead to a loss of consistency in the work. However, photography excels in conveying the emotions and atmosphere of a moment, and due to its nature of faithfully documenting reality, many people cherish and use photographs. Painting, sculpture, and photography each have their strengths and weaknesses, and I believe that these diverse mediums can complement and collaborate, expanding the diversity of art."
HJ: "Could you describe your typical workflow, from ideation to the final print?"
MK: "In the initial stages of idea selection, I strive to focus on everyday emotions or experiences as themes. Within broader subjects, I draw inspiration from personal interests or the surrounding environment to initiate my work. Subsequently, I emphasise specific moments or emotions from daily life. Personally, when determining a theme, I refrain from extensively using a photographer's references during the research process to broaden and expand the scope of research. For example, if I am shooting on a specific theme, I might read related articles or philosophical books to unleash creativity and create images. I believe this approach is more conducive to producing creative results than mere imitation."
"I primarily conduct outdoor shoots, selecting spaces related to the characteristics of the subjects. However, this process requires careful consideration of many aspects, consuming a significant amount of time. Working in the UK, I am particularly influenced by weather conditions. I use both digital and film mediums in my work. Digital is primarily employed to capture dynamic moments continuously, while I prefer film when aiming to convey emotions. When printing the work, I choose various sizes based on the purpose and intent of the artwork. Additionally, depending on the impact or scale of each episode, I may adjust printing sizes accordingly."
HJ: "How do you typically communicate with the subjects when they are standing in front of the camera?"
MK: "I typically prefer to recruit models when working on a project. Although it's not a formal interview, it often involves engaging in casual conversations. For example, I might discuss, 'I want to shoot in this situation; how do you naturally go about your daily life?' or 'What emotions do you feel when you're in this space?"
She often works with models who are acquaintances of her, given the nature of recruiting models. Being friends and photo subjects, our interactions involve a lot of dialogue, where the model's opinions are valued. She makes sure to explain what she wants to express as a photographer, fostering a harmonious collaboration during the shoot. In situations where, as an artist, she needs to lead the model to convey a specific expression, she finds effective ways to address it.
"Naturally, the final result may not precisely match the frame I envisioned initially. Therefore, I make an effort to communicate the theme and purpose of the initial work as clearly as possible. However, if the model wants to express a specific emotion, I guide them by suggesting, 'How about trying it this way?' Even then, the shot may not exactly match my initial vision, but I find that it adds another layer of meaning to the work. During post-processing, which I consider an integral part of the work, I highlight and emphasise the aspects I want to emphasise, adding meaning to the overall composition. While retaining the individual's personality, I provide clear highlights where I want them, creating a balance through adjustments."
HJ: "Can you elaborate on the projects you've been working on?
<Work Description 1>
"I have a friend who is a painter. So, for this project, I performed a certain action, and my friend highlighted it through her drawing. It's a work where black and white photos emphasize movement, and on top of that, my friend interpreted the performance and added emotions through painting, which I adjusted in post-production. When working on this project, I didn't start with the idea of performing a specific action; instead, I first selected everyday objects. Whether it was a handkerchief or a table, we discussed what we could do with these objects within a limited space and expressed it spontaneously."
<Work Description 2>
"This project was done in Ghana. It's challenging to travel to the African continent without friends there. I did this work during a trip to Ghana with a friend. It wasn't planned; I decided to work on it during the journey."
"It was fascinating to break away from a specific group of people and portray objects without bias. When I gave objects to these people and asked them to express how they felt, the variety of expressions was truly remarkable. Accompanied by my friend, we ventured into the outskirts of Ghana, mingling with the local people and being captivated by their lives and colours. The sunlight in Africa is quite different from that in Europe. While trying to capture the brightness of the sunlight, I pondered how to depict their lives effectively. As I continued shooting portraits, I felt a strong resemblance to paintings. Hence, contemplating how to maintain the unique characteristics of these people while highlighting the fabrics they wore, I decided to consistently capture their backs. It was a thoroughly enjoyable project."
HJ: "Challenges faced during the projects?"
MK: "The most challenging aspect is ensuring that the themes do not overlap. Typically, when movement is required, it tends to lead to similar actions being staged. Within that framework, infusing the individual's story uniquely and expressing it slightly differently becomes challenging. Finding image references often results in similar outcomes. Striking a balance between not being too generic and not being overly personal is difficult, and it requires continuous adjustment. If the model I'm working with doesn't have a diverse range of stories, guiding and capturing their distinctive characteristics takes time. It's challenging to maintain artistic integrity while respecting the individual's privacy, but this boundary is also what adds charm to this particular work. I work with a diverse range of individuals, regardless of race or gender. However, there seems to be a common expression in capturing the unique features that arise from subtle aspects of race or gender in lines and movements."
Recently, Min conducted a solo exhibition featuring the 'Situation in Motion' project. She set different scenarios based on the subject's occupation to reveal their characteristics through various performances. For instance, she assigned a mission to a painter who uses fabric for painting, asking them to draw their own body and tailoring the drawing to the artist's characteristics. In another example, she utilised fabric frequently used by a friend in fashion to create a different task. Min endeavoured to capture the unique characteristics of each subject, focusing on their documentary aspects while maintaining consistency in the overall theme, rather than randomly assigning tasks.
HJ: "What future projects or directions do you envision for your project, and are there any specific goals or aspirations you hope to achieve in your artistic journey? Please introduce your recent solo exhibition."
MK: “It seems like my focus has shifted more towards the medium than specific themes lately. I've been contemplating showcasing photographs in different ways. Instead of traditional photo printing, I'm considering printing on fabric or using various materials such as canvas, aluminium, wood, etc. The feeling that emerges when printing on these diverse materials is unique. Through the inherent textures, I aim to present the work in various ways. My goal for the future is to collaborate with artists working in mediums other than photography. I hope to gain different perspectives and use other mediums to enrich aspects not covered in photography. This is my objective for the future.”
Starting on February 2nd, Min Kim hosted a solo exhibition titled <In Between> at The Behavan Gallery for three days. <In Between> is a carefully curated collection that captures the essence of the ongoing passage of time. It is a dynamic kaleidoscope that intricately weaves together emotions, stories, and expressions, forming a rich tapestry of life.
Written by Hyeryoung Jun
4482 SASAPARI Assistant Curator
Projects Administrator (Barbican Immersive), Barbican Centre
City, Universtiy of London, MA Culture, Policy and Management, UK
Photo © Min Kim