Photography and Korea
History and Practice
The introduction of photography in Korea was considered part of an enlightenment effort by the royal court and the intelligentsia as it incorporated advances in scientific knowledge and technological developments. Progressive intellectuals considered the knowledge required for photography, including chemistry and production of glass plates, to be related to other scientific and military endeavors necessary to making the country competitive with modern nation-states such as Japan and the US. From 1910 to 1945, Japanese colonialism structured photographic practices and culture in the Korean peninsula. Visualization of the Korean people was a part of ethnographic and anthropological studies during the colonial period, while the Japanese photographers opened studios in urban centers and Koreans went to Japan to learn the technology. The cold war hegemony played a crucial role in the postcolonial Korean society, impacting photographic practices in various ways.
How did the Japanese photographers visualize Korea and its people during the colonial period? What have women photographers been addressing in their photographic practices? How have Korean photographers been interacting with postcolonial and the Cold War social changes through their works? What colonial legacy has been continued and denounced in Korean photographic scenes? Are there different ways of interpreting prominent photographers, including Youngsoo Han and Myung-duck Joo?
This symposium aims to explore various ways in which photography has been structuring Korean history and culture while addressing diverse photographic practices and movements to the global audience. Panels will be divided into topics, including the history of photography magazines, major photography movements and exhibitions, colonialism, postcolonialism, gender issues, and national identity. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the symposium will be held entirely online to accommodate a broader audience in South Korea, the U.S., and other countries. In addition, due to the time difference between South Korea and Arizona, the symposium is held for three days with only afternoon panels in Tucson, AZ (morning panels in South Korea).
The symposium on Korean photography will be the inaugural one for the series of symposia on Asian photography at the University of Arizona in conjunction with the Center for Creative Photography, the largest photography archive in the United States. It will be followed by symposia on Taiwanese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian photography. I also hope that it will also lead to exhibitions on the topic, with either a nation-based theme or a trans-Asian approach. The University of Arizona will provide technical support for the virtual platform of the event, while the Center for Creative Photography collaborates for marketing and promoting the symposium throughout the world and supporting the coordination of the event.
The symposium will be delivered both in English and Korean with interpreters.
– Jeehey Kim, Assistant Professor, University of Arizona School of Art