Who am I?

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Self-portrait, Ahn Jun

The theme of this year’s PhotoBrussels Festival is Self-Portraiture. This is the 7th time the Korean Cultural Center has participated in this event and, as in other years, it has presented one of the most striking and memorable contributions to the festival. 

The exhibition, curated by Seok Jae-hyun, brings together five very distinctive and unique photographers. Their different styles and their different inner reflections offer a wide-ranging panorama on human experience.

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Choi Young-kwi’s photographs are a beautiful and touching depiction of personal loss and grief. Young-kwi’s husband died suddenly in 2018, her photographs are a deeply moving reflection on living with loss. “It is said that only those who have experienced loss can understand this feeling,” writes Choi. “Because of my husband’s sudden death, the meaning of family and the fence of the home were destroyed. During that time which left me unprepared, the only way to lead my life alone was to live with my cameras.”

”It is said that only those who have experienced loss can understand this feeling”

In the photographs of Bae Chan-hyo he re-imagines himself as a central figure in different western fairy tales, from Cinderella standing next to her golden carriage to Snow White holding the poisoned apple. These works are influenced by Bae’s feelings of cultural and emotional estrangement when living in the UK. His photo’s mock 18 and 19-century ‘Orientalism’ in art, which consisted of opulent and luxuriant depictions of an exotic east the painters knew little about. Bae’s ‘Occidentalism’ vies with these notions creating his own defiant perspective.

“There is certainly a surreal, almost out-of-body experience, reflected in the self-portraits of Jeong Yun-soon”

There is certainly a surreal, almost out-of-body experience, reflected in the self-portraits of Jeong Yun-soon. The photos make a great deal of sense when you read that Jeong started photography after the trauma of a near-fatal car accident and the long road to recovery which followed. Jeong describes his work as a metaphor for the will toward life. In many of the photos he is depicted standing in a canoe, navigating different unlikely settings such as a motorway, it’s almost like a lifeboat that allows him to transcend and defy his surroundings. 

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Lee Jee-young has studied stage design and direction, she describes her photos as a theatrical description of her life story. Her series of self-portraits that she has been working on since 2007 are inspired by her memories, dreams, emotions and personal experiences transposing her state of mind to a stage of mind. Lee destroys the scene that she has created once it has been captured, she says that this act of creation followed by destruction helps her to transcend her emotions. 

The work of Ahn Jun is described by the curator as an attempt to reveal the hidden structure of the world that cannot be seen since it moves too fast. Ahn Jun looks out at the cityscape from rooftops as if the untouchable view represents “the future”, her rooftop position feels like “the past” and she in a sense represents the present.

“It reflects that mixture of possibility and vulnerability that the future presents to us all”

These probably aren’t suitable pictures for people who suffer from vertigo as we see Ahn Jun seemingly launching herself off the edge of a building, dangling her legs over the edge of a rooftop, or sitting astride a wall with one leg hanging  over the edge ‘in the future’ and one leg on the inside of the wall ‘in the past’. In a sense, it reflects that mixture of possibility and vulnerability that the future presents to us all. 

The Korean Cultural Center is located at the top of the Sablon (Rue de la Régence 4), it will be open until the end of March.