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I traveled a lot while growing up, spanning different cultures and languages in Korea and Japan. I got my first camera while living in Japan with my sister, and I began photographing daily. That was a starting point for my career. I had a small Lomo camera that I could carry around with me, and I was photographing anything colorful or shapes that I found interesting. With time, I became more interested in storytelling, so I began constructing scenes and using my sister as a model.

I started photographing people when I came to New York to study at SVA. I would ask friends and strangers I met on the street to model for me, preparing locations, poses, props, and storylines for my shoots. The locations I chose were often minimal, from an empty street corner in Williamsburg to a sun-drenched classroom with white walls. I was always looking for a minimalist space where I could focus on the playful interaction between the subject and the remote environment.

As I worked on these shoots, my visual language shifted toward the collapse of dimensions. As I was ideating and sketching out concepts in my journal, the graphic quality of those drawings became more apparent to me. I started to experiment more with paper and other materials that could echo my drawings and provide the illusion of flatness. The paper became a surface to shoot through or explore new dimensions in photography.

When I reference my journals, sometimes there are notes that I made a decade ago that draw similarities to how I am thinking today, even if the subject matter of my work was different. If you look at my work more broadly, I have always been interested in 2 dimensionality, surface, the body, language, and identity. Before, I was working and interacting with people as my subjects, but now, I use objects, sets, and paintings. 

lines Even early on, I enjoyed journaling. My journals include many doodles of ideas. I will draw and sketch ideas or make notes of colors I want to experiment with. Sometimes the sketches will be realized into works, but other times, the ideas are not very refined. I always revisit my journals to try to find ideas I have missed or consider what I can continue experimenting with. Some ideas don’t work photographically, in which case, I will paint or experiment, and in the process, I might discover something new.

Looking broadly at my work, I am focused on surrealistic ways of seeing the world. Some of the first artworks that I was interested in were Surrealist, from Rene Magritte to Salvador Dalí. In my journals, I will jot down words that inspire me and mix all of the different languages that I know. Sometimes the words don’t make sense if you glance at them and become somewhat surreal.

My choices in colors are inspired by light. Colors are a very emotional subject, and they are the starting point for my imagination. I will go through phases of colors; right now, I’m going through a phase of lemon colors, but other times, I might be more interested in neutral colors. Colors are just natural choices for me, but I’m aware that I tend to go for nuanced colors, such as ones that you cannot define in one way. 

Radiator Theater came out of an idea to create a stage where the shapes could act out a whimsical scene. For me, working on this series repetitively has turned it into a ritual-like practice. Daylight is an essential element in my work. Whenever there’s a sunny day, I will paint, plan out the shapes, set up the scene, and shoot. When I paint, I explore different processes and mediums, like gouache or acrylic. 

The cutouts and scenes I work with are ephemeral. These photographs come from moments that exist for only a couple of seconds. The sun will move, and the pieces of paper are only held together with putty or wire, so they fall over easily. When I think about my shoots, they are very chaotic, and these still lifes are impermanent and disposable. Photography can capture these spontaneous moments.

For me, these arrangements are very much like living things. I have never considered them to be inanimate objects. The arrangement is constantly moving around and my process involves revising and cutting out shapes on the spot. While I’m shooting, I will be struggling and sweating, since these scenes are fleeting, tiny, and collapse easily. The whole process is very physical. I can see how some viewers may view these as inanimate objects, but I feel that these shapes are alive.