‘Dokdo has a masculine charm’

By Lee Woo-young

Kim Jung-man presents 55 photographs of Korea’s easternmost islets taken over two years

  • Published : Jul 29, 2014 - 20:33
  • Updated : Jul 30, 2014 - 09:13
Acclaimed photographer Kim Jung-man has returned with an exhibition portraying the beauty of Dokdo, the easternmost islets of the Korean Peninsula.

He is presenting 55 Dokdo photographs he took from 2012 to 2013 with cooperation and support from the Northeast Asian History Foundation and the Korea Coast Guard. Kim has donated the copyrights of the photographs to the foundation, which will use his works to promote Dokdo as a Korean territory. Kim is well-known for his fashion photography, photos of celebrities and fine-art photography.

As for many other Korean artists, Dokdo has been an inspirational place for him. Dokdo has frequently appeared in Korean art and literature as a patriotic representation of Korea. Many photographers have documented the islets for the purpose of making historical or ecological records. Kim tried to portray the emotions and sentiments that Dokdo inspired in him. 
Photographer Kim Jung-man speaks at the press preview of the Dokdo exhibition at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on Monday. (Yonhap)

“Dokdo has a masculine appeal. Its energy is so powerful,” said Kim at the press preview of the exhibition at Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on Monday.

“Photographing Dokdo was like asking for a date with a blunt man. It was hard to approach. And it’s a rock islet and the weather is not friendly most of the time.”

He succeeded in landing on the islets five times out of seven or eight attempts over two years.

His photographs span all four seasons and capture little-known sides of the islets. A photo titled “Eclipse on a Cold Winter Night” is a mysterious nocturne featuring a white crescent moon that contrasts starkly with the dark blue sky, sea and a rough rock formation. 
“Eclipse on a Cold Winter Night” by Kim Jung-man. (Northeast Asian History Foundation)

“The Emerald Heart” unveils an emerald green pool hidden in a rugged rock cave.

Some photos are paired with his poetic calligraphy to deliver the emotion he felt at the time of the shoot.

“Philosophic Destination to Empty” defies the usual Dokdo photo composition. It captures the masculine ridge of rocks without a view of the sea.

All photographs have English titles, not Korean. Kim said he did so because he is hoping to detach Koreans from the excess of patriotic protests against Japan’s claim to the islets.

“I don’t think the protests in which people wear red headbands are a true representation of Koreans. There must be a wiser and more global approach to the territorial issue,” he said.

Although each photograph is abstract and poetic, he titled the exhibition straightforwardly: “Dokdo-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do Korea,” which is the address of the islet.

“I wanted to let the audience know Dokdo as it is,” he said.

The exhibition runs through Aug. 11 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free. For more information, call (02) 2012-6136.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)