You’ll Want To Know These 5 Korean Photographers!
Being one of the leading countries in faster and better technology, it makes sense that South Korea has some greats within technology-based industries. This includes art industries. Photography is one of the more modern art forms—seeing as photographic cameras weren’t invented until the 1800s. Whereas painting, drawing, sculpting, and many other art forms have been around for centuries at that point. Being such a powerhouse in technology, South Korea has brought a ton of amazing photographers throughout the years. Take a look through these five Korean photographers that have been the most impactful in recent years.
Table of Contents
Korean Photographers: Ji Yeo
As one of the most impactful Korean photographers from this list, Ji Yeo has taken the photography scene and made it her medium to show the in-between parts of life. By this, I mean that Ji Yeo has shown things such as the pain before the beauty or the pain that comes after. The in-between: a time that is not quite the beginning, the middle, or the end. A time that is simply between it all.
Typically, the in-between moments are ones of silence or ones of impactful emotions. There’s no telling which one Ji Yeo will capture throughout her photography. Whether that’s the suspenseful emotions that come from her work in the “It Will Hurt A Little” Collection or the muted emotions in her “Casting Call” Collection.
Ji Yeo is a New York-based photographer, though she’s originally from South Korea. She’s often talking about capturing the beauty that is ingrained in human nature—even the beauty that’s hidden in the hardest moments. Because of this, Ji Yeo is one of the Korean photographers to keep an eye out for. You can read more about her on her website here.
Most Impactful Collection: Beauty Recovery Room
Out of the various collections Ji Yeo has, she gained the most attention from her “Beauty Recovery Room” Collection.
As Ji Yeo grew up wanting to get plastic surgery, beauty became the main subject of her photography. However, she focuses more on our natural beauty. As a sort of call out to the beauty industry and beauty expectations of the world, Ji Yeo created a collection that exposes the in-between stage of girls after their plastic surgery but before they’ve fully recovered from it. This collection, known as the “Beauty Recovery Room” Collection, came out around 2013. There are fifteen photos of various girls sitting in their recovery rooms after their plastic surgery.
This collection brought a lot of attention to Ji Yeo because it exposed some of the most vulnerable aspects of the price for beauty. This collection is was made Ji Yeo one of the most impactful Korean photographers.
If you want to view the full collection, you can see it here on her website.
Korean Photographers: Jungjin Lee
Contrasting to Ji Yeo’s realistic photography of people, Jungjin Lee focuses most on photographing landscapes. Since her first collection release—“Simmani”—in 1987, Lee has stood out with her photography.
Her style is a bit unique in comparison to what you’d normally expect of photography. Firstly, Lee has a very specific style in black and white photography. As mentioned with her works at art museums, her photographs are printed on Korean Mulberry Paper. This, paired with her editing style, has given her work this fascinating texture and appearance.
Like a few other Korean photographers on this list, Lee is not actually based in South Korea anymore, She is actually New York-based. However, she tends to take road trips and visit various locations for her photography.
Most Impactful Collection: Unnamed Road
Out of the multitude of Jungjin Lee’s work, she’s had quite a few collections that truly bring her a lot of positive attention. Her “American Desert” series has gathered all sorts of interest as it’s not exactly what you’d expect to see photographed from a desert.
However, it’s her more recent collections that have been talked about most, bringing her to the top of the greatest Korean photographers list. Her collection “Unnamed Road” has a total of fifty-two photos. This collection, from 2010 to 2012, were photos that Lee had taken in Israel.
This collection shows the drastic changes in the environment across Israel and the West Bank. You can see the entire collection on her website here.
Korean Photographers: Jeeyoung Lee
If you prefer a more fantastical style of art, then Jeeyoung Lee is right up your alley. As one of the more mythical-style artists on this list of Korean photographers, Jeeyoung Lee has taken photography to a whole other level.
In the day and age we’re in now, with the thousands of tools to help us manipulate what we think we see in photographs, Jeeyoung Lee stands out with her surreal images that were not digitally manipulated. No, instead Lee takes on the task of creating these elaborate scenes. By doing this, she eliminates the need for digital manipulation at the end. But the results can be quite cool at times, if not a little confusing. Her talents have brought her exceptional attention as one of the top Korean photographers, making her one you don’t want to miss.
In the confines of her small studio, Lee has created and photographed works of art that have expressed her emotions during that period of her life. Some pieces are chaotic and loud, while some pieces are one color and simply… existing.
With Lee’s incredible work at creating such masterpieces, it’s truly mesmerizing to look at. Each photo seems to be better than the last. To look through her work, you can check out her website here!
Most Impactful Collection: Stage of Mind
Starting in 20017 until 2017, Jeeyoung Lee broke into the limelight with her “Stage of Mind” Collection. This collection, featuring thirty-five photographs, brings about so many emotions. Loneliness, growth, pain, confusion, and so many more. There are some truly beautiful pieces within this collection, some of my personal favorites out of this list of Korean photographers.
By far, though, Lee’s most popular work from this collection is “Resurrection.” This photo, from 2011, is a fantastical kind of image. In it, Lee sits within a large lotus flower and lily pads, referencing the traditional Korean folktale Shimcheongga.
You can see the rest of the works from this collection on her website here.
Korean Photographers: Kanghee Kim
As another Korean photographer based in New York, Kanghee Kim has made a name for herself in the photography world with clouds. Yes, clouds. Because of her recent work, Kim is known as the photographer who’s editing beautiful photographs—complete by combining anything you’re looking at and a beautiful scene of clouds in the sky.
This idea alone has brought Kim to the surreal side of photography.
Some of her other works include similar vibrant colors and out-of-the-box thinking. Including her collection “Melt,” where people are captured with various stages of a lit candle. Each of her photographs has brought about that surreal feeling.
To glance through some of her work, you can check out her website here.
Most Impactful Collection: Street Errands
By far, one of Kanghee Kim’s most well-known collection is “Street Errands”. This collection, which started in 2016, was her little escape from reality. She stitches together the simplest of reality and this dream-like imagery that creates something unique to each of her pictures. This beautiful imagery alone has brought her onto our Korean photographers list.
In this aperture article, Kim says that “…instead of waiting for miracles, I could instead create the magical moments in my imagination.” That’s how this collection came about. With the inability to escape—due to the complications of her green card and DACA protection in the U.S.—Kim has created her own escape via the photographs she takes.
You can see all of the photos from this collection on Kim’s website here.
Korean Photographers: Nina Ahn
This last photographer on the list is not one you should overlook. Nina Ahn, one of the most emotive capturing Korean photographers on this list, has a way of bringing out various emotions through the lens of her camera.
Primarily shooting portraits—of other people and herself—Nina Ahn explores the different sentiments that can be expressed. She finds ways to express loneliness, passion, joy, and so many more. One of my personal favorites of hers is this one:
Though Ahn does this primarily as a hobby, you can still find tons of her work. She posts them mostly on Flickr. You can find her profile here.
Most Impactful Collection: Unnamed, but captures the subculture Honjok
Honjok, or “loner culture,” is a subculture in South Korea’s youth that encompasses the separation the newer generations have. Nina Ahn has a selection of photos where she explores the loneliness of South Korea’s youth. This uniqueness and representation brought Ahn to the Korean photographers list. It’s not something many others have explored.
These images, all ranging in various scenes of one being alone, express so much. They show how comfortable it can be to be alone, how lonely it can be, and even how chaotic it can be. This subculture, having grown so large in Korea, is something that came from the growing pressures of everyday life. And because it’s such a widespread thing in South Korea now, Ahn’s photographs really took off.
Some photos from this series are also known in her “Intimate Portraits” Collection—which is also not necessarily its name, just one everyone calls it.
Did any of these Korean photographers catch your eye?
With the increase of digital media as our tools for expression, there should be no surprise that these Korean photographers have begun expressing their emotions through their work. Though they’re all different styles, each photographer on this list has brought impact to the photography scene in one way or another. I hope you found one or two pieces that spoke to you!
If you’d like to learn more about the art scene in South Korea, more than these few Korean photographers, feel free to read through our Art Category! We’ve written about a few things art-related, but will definitely be writing more. So keep an eye out on our Blog Page for more.