Snap! A middle-aged man clicked the shutter of his old camera. He just recorded the world he was seeing through the view finder. Looking at Park No Hae’s photographs, you will not only see what he saw, but also how he saw it. To him, a photograph is the counterpart of a poem and a camera is that of pen and paper.
▲ Curator Lee Ji Hoon giving a tour around the gallery. Photographed by Bae Mi Seon
In the midst of globalization, the spotlight is turning its direction to Asia. However, there still exists a land under military dictatorship. Park’s feet led him to a place called Burma in order to embrace the pain and sorrow of the people in the region. Burma is Myanmar on the map, a peaceful but lively country, located just below China and bordering Eastern India. Taking a look at the lives of people of Burma, you will find a wave of serenity undulating in your mind.
Park No Hae, the photographer of the exhibition, is a famous Korean poet, who was born in Hampyeong, Jeonra South Province in 1957. He did labor of all kinds when he was young and was sentenced to life imprisonment for being involved in the South Korean Socialism Laborers’ Association. He has written poems starting when he was imprisoned and published his first poetry book, Dawn of Labor, in 1984. Since getting out of jail in 2008, he has jumped into war zones to be with suffering children.
It is hard to believe that Park never studied poetry or photography. Just as his poems allow the audience to gain some insightful thoughts on all kinds of issues related to life, the photographs reflect his emotion and perspective. From his own working experience and going through life’s hardships, he seems to have earned the potential to sympathize with his subjects better than anyone else.
Lee Ji Hoon (30, Seoul), curator of the exhibition, told the audience about an incident Park experienced. “Park was taking photos of a man working on a mud flat. Park was sweating and his feet kept sinking into the mud while he was taking pictures next to him. The worker approached Park first and offered tea, apologizing that he did not have much to give Park who is working so hard to take photos of him.” This very anecdote shows Park is a professional in facing his subjects; trying to understand them and be with them. Consequently, it seems the people he meets also open their minds and become friends with him.
Park heavily depends on black-and-white film cameras, which are very effective in conveying the messages from what he saw to his audience. The audience will pay attention to the facial expressions of the people in the photos or their actions. One can even fill their own colors in the photographs and guess how the colors would make the mood different. For example, in “A Girl with a Wild Flower Earring,” the flower earring can be easily noticed just by the light and shading in the photograph. If it were a color photo, one would not see it nor look closely at the facial expression the girl is making.
One of the representative photographs of the exhibition is “Singing Bridge.” The structures of the bridge look like the lines of a music sheet. Those walking across the bridge seem like musical notes. Despite their faces being hidden, the different heights and genders, for example a boy, a woman with a baby on her back, and a man holding a bunch of flowers, shown as shadows, reflect the different lives people are living in Burma.
▲ “Singing Bridge” Lake Inle, Nyaung Shwe, Burma, 2011. Photographed by Park No Hae.
Ra Café, where the exhibition is being held, holds a regular meeting, called Nanummunhwa (Sharing Culture), with university students every Saturday to share ideas and thoughts after reading classics, listening to world music, and viewing photographs. Visitors may ask for a personal guided tour in Korean through reservation. The Granite Tower (GT) attended a docent tour held by the exhibition. GT also participated in one of the idea sharing sessions and talked about its impressions of the exhibition.
Interestingly, every one of the captions for the photographs is written by Park. He seems to have written a short story or a diary on each event that is pictured. Lee Bo-kyung (20, Seoul), a participant in the docent commented, “I feel tranquility and confidence at the same time by looking at ‘A Girl Harvesting Sugar Cane.’” Curator Lee pointed out that Park wanted to convey that to the audience, which Bo-kyung had picked out just right.
Another participant Kim Yeon Eun (23, Seoul) said, “I bought a DSLR camera to take photos for gathering resources because I am an art major student. But I seem to have depended on the camera’s skill rather than my photo-taking skills.” Curator Lee answered, “The passion and want to take photos can fill in the photo.”
Most of the visitors are university students who are interested in the poems written by Park or his photography. Yet, there is no restriction on the age of audience. After seeing the photo exhibition, you can enjoy a drink at the café attached to the gallery and read a poem written by Park or look at photographs taken by him, including those which had been in the previous exhibition, “Village Where The Clouds Stay.” You will find yourself charged with full of energy by the time you step out of the gallery.