The Korea Herald


Beauty of reality captured by photography master Min Byung-hun

By Park Yuna

Published : Nov. 17, 2020 - 16:44

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"Bird-tb135” by potogarpher Min Byung-hun (Gallery NoW)

The black and white photographs of birds in nature -- some flying over a lake, while others rest amid falling snow -- are quiet and comforting. The longer you look, the more visually complex they become, with small stories and textures scattered throughout each artwork.

Photographer Min Byung-hun -- who has been practicing film photography for decades -- is showing his recent bird series at an exhibition titled “Bird” at Gallery NoW in southern Seoul. His photographs feature faint, blurry textures derived from the artist’s unique working style.

The textures mainly derive from the shooting conditions. Foggy weather, early morning light or dark night skies are often preferred by the artist who believes objects in such sceneries best convey his sentiments.

"Bird-tb073” by photogarpher Min Byung-hun (Gallery NoW)

"Bird-tb073” looks as if the image of birds on a lake have been printed on cotton fabric. In fact, it was the sleety conditions in which he took the photograph that created such an effect.

“Some people say my photographs remind them of ink paintings, especially Western viewers,” the 65-year-old photographer told The Korea Herald on Nov. 11. “But I would say my works are the most photographic pieces. Just because photographs do not have strong contrast -- like my works -- it does not mean they are not reality.”

Asked for his definition of photography, Min said, “Photography is reality.” This characteristic of photography, however, seems to have deteriorated in the contemporary world with its fast developing technology where everybody has a camera embedded in a smartphone in their pocket.

“What attracted me to the field of photography in the late 1970s was the virtue of reality that photography has. But the definition of photography seems to have changed over the recent years. Nowadays, we can easily manipulate the images through technology and apps.

“If photographs have distortion, I think it should be a distortion created by natural light,” Min said.

"Bird-tb069” by potogarpher Min Byung-hun (Gallery NoW)

His works do not struggle to deliver any messages. Staring at his black and white photographs taken in misty or foggy weather, viewers may feel relaxed and at peace.

“We have different feelings about an object. I do not want to attach any name to my works because it feels like forcing audiences to appreciate my works the way I see the objects” he said.

Min continues to use gelatin silver process, an analog process that leads to the black and white colors and requires a labor-intensive process in a darkroom. Min refuses to go digital, sticking to the analog style that he has maintained for decades.

“Working on art is eventually to explore oneself. What is the point of adopting new techniques or trends, giving up your identity? It is like living a life chasing after new things forever without discovering your own thing,” Min said.

Min was awarded the Dong-A International Photography Salon’s silver medal in 1984. Among his works on display, “Bird-tb053” is part of the collection of the Art Bank at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The exhibition “Bird,” which opened Nov. 10, will run through Dec. 2 at Gallery NoW. The gallery is closed on Mondays.

By Park Yuna (