Korean Photographer Creates Imaginary Worlds In Her Tiny Studio

JeeYoung Lee
Korean photographer JeeYoung Lee

Korean photographer JeeYoung Lee was born in 1983, and earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Seoul’s Hongik University. Since 2007, Lee has been shooting whimsical images that represent either her experiences, dreams and memories, or represent traditional Korean folk tales and legends.

Seeing Lee’s work for the first time, most viewers will presume her colorful, fantasy world images are the product of a large amount of digital manipulation. Yet each of her photos is created through the meticulous construction of elaborate sets by the artist herself, rather than use of Photoshop. In the middle of each image you can always find the artist herself, as Lee’s work is a type of unconventional self-portraiture.

"Resurrection"
“Resurrection” by Korean photographer JeeYoung Lee

In “Resurrection” Lee appears inside a lotus portraying rebirth. The image references Shim Cheongin, a Korean fable about a girl who throws herself into the sea and comes back to life inside a blooming lotus. Lee created this dreamlike image by painting paper lotus and flooding the room with fog and carbonic ice.

What boggles the mind is that Lee creates all the scenes in her images by hand – in a tiny studio that measures a mere 3.6 x 4.1 x 2.4 meters. Starting with an idea born in her imagination, Lee will labor for weeks, sometimes months, constructing a surreal set for the sake of taking a single photograph. For each of her photographs the artist fills every square inch of space with hand-made props, set pieces, and backdrops

When the set is complete, Lee inserts herself in the scene and then takes multiple test shots. After carefully examining the test shots and making any adjustments she deems necessary, Lee takes the final shot with a 4×5 large format film camera. Lee then disassembles the set once the final photograph is produced.

"Treasure Hunt"
“Treasure Hunt” by Korean photographer JeeYoung Lee

To create “Treasure Hunt”, Lee devoted three months to crafting the wire grassland, which carpets her studio to evoke a child-like wonderland. She spent nearly eight hours a day weaving bits of craft wire to a mesh screen to complete the grass flooring.

Lee’s avoidance of the use of Photoshop is based on her belief that the building and breaking-down of the set is an integral part of her artwork. She only uses Photoshop when she has suspended objects from the ceiling of her studio, in which case she uses the program to erase the fishing lines used for suspension.

My Chemical Romance
“My Chemical Romance” by Korean photographer JeeYoung Lee

“My Chemical Romance” with its maze of pipes and yellow & black danger tape, Lee depicts the anxiety and disappointments felt by herself or those around her, and how they can lead to conflict and clashes of personality.

Lee is unique in that in addition to the role of photographer, she also assumes the roles of set designer, sculptor, installation artist, and performer. The results are magical, as can be seen in this small selection of a few of her work.

"Panic Room"
“Panic Room” by Korean photographer JeeYoung Lee

“Panic Room” shows the artist hiding herself inside a cupboard to protect and shelter herself from the confusion outside – symbolized by the dizzying atmosphere Lee created by bending the perspective in her studio. (For

Recipient of multiple artistic awards, JeeYoung Lee is recognized as one of the most promising up-and-coming artists in Korea. Her work has also received extensive coverage outside her home country by global news outlets such as Huffington Post, NBC news, CNN international, France 3 National news, China Daily, etc. as well as on various art/photo websites.

June Photo Opportunity: Korea’s Most Popular Festival

Lights at Gangneung Danoje Festival
Lights at Gangneung Danoje Festival during night

Korea’s annual Gangneung Danoje (The Gangneung Danoje Festival) is one of the most popular holidays in the nation, and a great time to capture photos of Korean culture.The festival takes place annually the fifth day of the fifth month in the town of Gangneung, Gangwon Province, Korea.

Masked Dancers at Gangneung Danoje Festival
Masked Dancers at Gangneung Danoje Festival

The Gangneung Danoje Festival features traditional games and activities that provides photographers with myriad opportunities for photos.

Women washing hair at Gangneung Danoje Festival
Women washing hair at Gangneung Danoje Festival

The festival include folk games such as the swing and ssireum (Korean wrestling), and other practices such as washing one’s hair in sweet Iris-infused water, eating surichwi tteok (rice cakes made with marsh plant), making Dano fans, and decorating masks.

Male dancer at Gangneung Danoje Festival
Male dancer at Gangneung Danoje Festival

Gangneung Danoje’s roots lie in the worship of the guardian spirit of the mountain that protects the town, and to pray for the peace and prosperity of all families living in the town.

Traditional dancers at the Gangneung Danoje Festival
Traditional dancers performing at the Gangneung Danoje Festival

Keep an Eye on Contemporary Japanese Photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Rinko Kawaguchi is a contemporary Japanese photographer whose work is characterized by a serene, poetic style, depicting the ordinary moments in life. Born in Shiga, Japan in 1972, Kawaguchi became interested in photography while studying at Seian University of Art and Design, where she graduated in 1993.

After graduation, Kawaguchi worked in advertising for several years. Then, in 2001 she launched her career as a fine art photographer by simultaneously releasing a series of three photographic books – Utatane, Hanabi, and Hanako. Overnight, her works created a sensation in Japan’s photography world, and established her reputation.

Kawaguchi’s initial domestic success was quickly followed by major exhibitions overseas. Illuminance, Kawauchi’s first work published outside Japan, quickly gained the photographer international recognition for her nuanced images that portray fragments of everyday life. Kawaguchi’s photographic style has been described as ‘exposing the secrets of the banal’.

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Shooting primarily with a six-by-six format camera, Kawaguchi concentrates on capturing natural phenomena in her images, becoming a master of finding stillness and purity in everyday life. Kawaguchi explains that her photos are supposed to give you the feeling of ‘looking in on a moment about to happen’. Her photographs have been described as a visual form of haiku (a style of Japanese poetry) – portraying simple beauty in an uncluttered manner. Emphasizing this, many of her photos are accompanied by haikus she has composed herself.

Rarely include people, Kawaguchi’s photos range in subject from city streets, flowers and oceans, to sandwiches and even a dead animal lying on the side of a road.

Following her initial success, Kawaguchi won many prestigious photography prizes, and published multiple photo books.

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Commenting on her style, Kawaguchi says, “It’s not enough that the photograph is beautiful. If it doesn’t move my heart, it won’t move anyone else’s heart.”

Although photography remains her main focus, since 2012 Kawaguchi has also forayed into video production, producing several works that compliment her photography. Yet, photography remains her main passion, and she has continued publishing compilations of her still work in book form – the latest being her recent release of “The River Embraced Me” in early 2016.

Kawaguchi is currently actively participating both solo and group exhibitions around the world, while living and working in Tokyo.

Vietnamese Photographer Cuong Do Manh Documents Albino Twins

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Released a year before completing his university studies, Cuong Do Manh’s photo-story ‘Twins’ created a sensation in Vietnam in 2013.

Portrait of Vietnamese Albino twin brothers
Portrait of Vietnamese Albino twin brothers

The project consists of 20 photos that Cuong took of twin albino brothers, Huy and Hung, born into a poor family living in Ha Tinh province.

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In addition to the hardship of poverty, the brothers face added adversities imposed their albinism – such as the need to avoid the harsh sun, and poor vision. Through it all, they act like any little boys – playing and smiling impishly.

Albino twins bathing behind house
Albino twins bathing behind house

Cuong believes the project’s successful reception was based on the uniqueness of the brothers, and honesty portrayed in the photos. This was the result of taking time to gain their trust by spending time with them – eating together, playing together, and even sleeping with them.

Albino twins studying at school
Albino twins studying at school

People who view Twins easily relate to seeing two extraordinary young brothers living an ordinary life.

Albino twins playing with soap bubble
Albino twins playing with soap bubble

According to Cuong, “These photographs are a window to the world of Huy and Hung – and what a special, wonderful and different view it is to my own.”

Brothers forever
Brothers forever

Beijing’s Top Photo Spots

Bird's Nest, Beijing
View of the Bird’s Nest at night in Beijing (Photo by Curt Smith / CC-BY)

If you’re visiting Beijing and find you have some free time to go out and take a few photos, the city offers several wonderful locations to choose from.

Forbidden City, Beijing
The Forbidden City in Beijing during the day (Photo by Sam Greenhakgh / CC-BY)

No first time visitor to Beijing should miss the Forbidden City. The scale of the historic buildings and detail of the architecture are incredible, giving photographers a lot to focus on. (Tip: after exiting the north gate of the Forbidden City, turn right to get a great shot of the moat with the northeast turret tower in the background). You’ll want to make sure you have a wide angle lens with you!

Drum & Bell Towers, Beijing
Drum & Bell Towers, Beijing (Photo by spezz / CC-BY)

The Drum & Bell Towers is another great place to take snapshots. Aside from the two towers, the area is great for street photography of locals playing Mahjong, eating & drinking, or just relaxing.

789 Art Space, Beijing
Statue in 789 Art Space, Beijing (Photo by Khalid Albaih / CC-BY)

For something more modern, a visit to 798 Art Space with your camera can be a lot of fun. This district is full of coffee shops, art galleries and indoor and outdoor exhibitions. The outdoor display areas in particular will allow you myriad opportunities to get some interesting shots.

Summer Palace, Beijing
Summer Palace, Beijing (Photo by Jesœs Corrius / CC-BY)

The Summer Palace, China’s largest royal park, is the place to go is you want to shoot beautiful Chinese landscaping and architecture. Make sure you don’t miss the 17-arch bridge on Kunming Lake. (Tip: This is a great location to take some interesting black & white landscape photos).

Great Wall of china
Great Wall of China at Badaling (Photo by Keith Roper / CC-BY)

The Great Wall of China is a fantastic location to capture an iconic photo of your visit to Beijing. There are more than 20 different sections of the Great Wall around Beijing. The most visited section is the Badaling. However, for photos, most photographers agree the Jiankou section is actually the most scenic stretch of Great Wall near Beijing.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Chinese Photographer’s “Portraits of the Self-Inflicted”

Reflection of woman's face in mirror
Reflection of woman’s face in mirror

Born in Beijing, China, Zhe Chen is a fine art photographer who has investigated and documented the self-inflicted activities of herself and others.

Dirty ashtray on white bedsheets
Dirty ashtray on white bedsheets

While growing up in Beijing, Zhe started scarring her flesh while in high school. She then ran away and took refuge at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California where she studied photography.

Close-up of woman's face
Close-up of woman’s face

Before she even turned 22, Zhe’s work attracted the attention of the Magnum Foundation and she was granted the Inge Morath Award for her second photography project entitled “Bees”.

Woman with bandaged arm holding fruit. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Woman with bandaged arm holding fruit. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

In “Bees”, Zhe’s purpose was to record marginalized people in China, who, faced with chaos, violence, and alienation, feel compelled to leave self-inflicted physical traces and markings on their bodies.

Nude woman with burn marks on legs. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Nude woman with burn marks on legs. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

Zhe found those she calls “Bees” by first showing them her own scars. This connection with their situation encouraged her subjects to be totally unselfconscious in front of her camera.

Woman behind dirty window. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Woman behind dirty window. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

Currently living in Los Angeles, Zhe continues documenting her self-inflicted activities, while creating a series of projects focusing on body modification, human hair, post-traumatic stress disorder, identity confusion and memory.

Woman with long scar on her back. From the 'Bees' project by Zhe Chen.
Woman with long scar on her back. From the ‘Bees’ project by Zhe Chen.

Zhe holds a BFA in Photography & Imaging from Art Center College of Design.

May Photo Opportunity: Japanese Warriors on Parade

Mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Close-up of mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival(© LifeYouTV)

Odawara’s Hojo Godai Festival, held in early May, is an annual festival commemorating the five generations of the Hojo clan of Japan’s ‘Warring States’ period (Sengoku Jidai). This festival is a great place to capture photos of actors dressed as traditional Japanese warriors.

Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle
Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle during the Hojo Godai Festival in Odawara, Japan

The main event of the Odawara Hojo Godai Matsuri (festival) is the samurai warriors’ procession (musha gyoretsu), which proceeds from Odawara castle through the main streets of the city. The parade of nearly 2,000 people dressed as warrior troops (Musha-tai), cavalry (Kiba-tai), and gun troop (Teppo-tai) offers photographers a chance to capture a flavor of Japanese martial history.

Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival

Lending a lighter touch, following the warrior procession are ceremonial floats (mikoshi), and civilians performing the Lantern Dance (Chochin Odori), baton twirlers, and brass bands from the city’s junior high schools.

Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival (© bartman905)

Young Singaporean Fashion Photographer Makes A Splash

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Singapore-based Lenne Chai has built a reputation as an extraordinary fashion photographer in record time.

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First exposed to photography during a module on Photojournalism in her final year as a Mass Communication student, Lenne interned as a photojournalist for the Straits Times before launching her career as a freelance photographer.

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Making a splash in locally with her pastel-powered and unconventional images, Lenne soon caught the attention of Japan’s fashion industry and has since been regularly travelling to Tokyo, where she shoots for many leading Japanese publications.

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Lenne continues to expand her creative horizons by working on projects such as ‘Karaoke Party’ (a series of three fashion films presented as karaoke videos), and a collaboration with embroidery artist Teresa Lim titled ‘Sad Girls Club’.

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Lenne’s work has been featured in local and international publications such as NYLON Japan, Elle Girl (Japan), Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Designaré, and SPUR (Japan).

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April/May Photo Opportunity: The Spectacular Elephants of Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram Festival, India
Large crowd at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

Amongst India’s numerous vibrant festivals, one of the most spectacular is Kerala’s annual Thrissur Pooram festival. A photographer’s dream, the festival takes place on the Pooram day of the Malayalam month of Medom (this usually falls between April and May).

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts on decorated elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The main attraction of the festival is the colorfully costumed elephants parading through town on their way to the Vadakkunnathan temple.

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts and elephants parading through the town

The elephants are all beautifully decorated with golden headdresses, decorative bells and ornaments, palm leaves and peacock feathers. Each elephant is guided by his rider (mahout), whose costume is equally colorful.

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The mahout of each elephant carries an ornate parasol during their parade through town. When the elephants and their riders reach the temple, the mahouts pass their parasols amongst themselves, some while standing on their elephant’s back.

Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The festival’s activities are rounded off with folk dancing, drumming, and a spectacularly huge fireworks display that begins at 3 o’clock in the morning.

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Any photographer visiting India during Thrissur Pooram should definitely include Thrissur in their itinerary. While the crowds are huge and boisterous, you should be able to get some very memorable photos of the incredible elephants.

Malay Photographer’s Work is Defined by Thought and Vision

Thomas Leong is a self-taught photographer who loves black and white minimalist photography. Long exposures, minimalism and simplicity are hallmarks of this artist’s stunning work.

Calm After The Storm

Thomas describes his photographic vision as, ‘creating a connection between viewer and subject; using imagination, understanding and feeling that provoke one’s emotion.”

iSelf

Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, Thomas is currently living in Singapore where he practices photography as a hobby. He makes a living as a Technical Manager in semiconductor equipment.

Left: "Crossroad"Right: "Frozen"
Left: “Crossroad” Right: “Frozen”

Leong actively uses social media to share his images. You’ll find him on 500px, Flickr and Facebook. Judging from his photos, Leong should certainly consider delving into photography as a profession.

black & white long exposure photos
black & white long exposure photos

“Fine art is work defined by the photographer’s thought and vision; it is the truth behind art.” Thomas Leong

Left: "Anarchy" / Right: "Contemplation"
Left: “Anarchy” / Right: “Contemplation”