What do you think is the difference between photography and painting? Is there any? There is a photographer who captures a remotely special photo. You could feel strange when you imagine a combination of a painting drawn on a canvas and a picture of real scenery. Perhaps, you will ask yourself, ‘Why take a photo featuring both painting and real scenery?’ Well, if you look at his pieces of art, you will be amazed how the two fields could blend in harmoniously and create an impressive synergistic effect. The photographer, as well as being a lecturer, is CAU’s alumni Mr. Lee Myoung-ho, who graduated from the Department of Photography. CAH met him and listened to the story of his colorful life journey and his distinctive photography.
CAH: Why did you get interested in photography?
Lee: Actually, when I was young, I ignored the field of art because I believed that it was irrational and illogical. I did not accept something that I could not prove logically or with evidence. At the same time, I was the type of student who was always in an introspective mood. One day, I realized that logic couldn’t explain every question that I have. For instance, when scientists explain love they analyze it and make an interpretation based on scientific proof and facts. They talk about chemical reactions happening in our body. But I thought that love is not something that could be verbally explained, but rather it is something we could experience and feel. That is, I took a different approach to my surrounding environment and the field of art came to fascinate me. Then I was awed by how a single photo could connote numerous messages. Through photography, I could express the inquiries that I couldn’t with logical explanations.
CAH: What was your reason for applying to Chung-Ang University's Department of Photography?
Lee: Well… I want to be honest with this question. CAU’s Department of Photography has the longest history in Korea and it is the most prestigious university that earns high marks for churning out great photographers. Furthermore, I received a 4-year scholarship, so I was able to study free if I maintained a GPA higher than 3.0.
CAH: What were some lectures or incidents that fascinated you during your university life?
Lee: I was very positive toward my life when I was in college. Unlike the students of today, I did not have any worries about my future or my job. I just seized the moment and enjoyed my youth at the campus. I continually met students from other majors such as theater and film, dance, and creative writing. I suppose everyone on our campus, from freshmen to seniors, knew who I was because I actively communicated with other students. I was very curious about students from various majors, so I just visited their practice rooms and talked to them. At first, they looked at me strangely, but on my second visit, they all welcomed me.
CAH: You have received master’s and Ph.D. degrees from CAU. What does CAU mean to you?
Lee: At the same time as I was acquiring my master’s and Ph.D. degrees, I was also an assistant instructor. Instructors were generally very strict and scary, but when I took the position, I was known as a ”flower assistant instructor” because I was very open and friendly to the students. Chung-Ang University, without any exaggeration or contrivance, means a place where I can stay forever young. It is a place where I can feel golden youth.
CAH: What put the idea in your head of taking photographs of both painting and scenery together?
Lee: After I finished grad school, I had obtained a vast knowledge of art. Then, I began to think that I should collect my thoughts on art. The question of ‘What is a photography?’ led me to the fundamental question; ‘What is art?’ Then I realized that photography and painting couldn’t be understood separately because those two are interconnected. The canvas in my photos symbolizes sculptural elements. I wanted to blend in every type of art into one piece – and photography could make that happen.
CAH: What is your own philosophy on photography?
Lee: Photography should awaken the audience’s emotions and offer much food for thought. In order to do so, the photographers should put their sincerity into their work. But unfortunately, photographers nowadays tend to prioritize producing pieces that reflect the modern trends. Lastly, photographers should always think deeply about humanism.
CAH: You have practiced performances at Sungnyemun Gate and Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. Now, you are planning to conduct your project at the Triumphal Arch in Paris. Is there any reason why you are trying to signify cultural values in your performances?
Lee: The reason why I intended to practice the performance at Sungnyemun Gate is because I wanted the Gate to be the actual main character of the celebration. The performance was to celebrate the restoration of Korea’s National Treasure Number 1: Sungnyemun Gate. I did not want to see K-Pop stars dancing in front of the gate and obscure the original intent of the event. Therefore, I decided that I should conduct a performance that could signify and shed a new light on our cultural asset by setting up a white canvas behind the gate. Unfortunately, the structure that was supporting the canvas collapsed and the whole project was suspended due to the fear that it could damage the restored gate somehow. Although I could not accomplish this project, I do not perceive it as a failure, but rather it is a process. I am definitely certain that I will successfully complete the project in the future.
CAH: What is the piece that you are mostly satisfied with?
Lee: I believe that even failure is as valuable as success. But failure must be the result of the utmost effort and devotion. It is because result is a mere part of a process. Therefore, it does not make sense to separate the process and the result. I am still within my process. My pieces of art have not been finished. That is, I am still incomplete. So I guess I cannot pick specifically which one is the outcome that I am mostly satisfied with because I do not believe there is an outcome yet.
CAH: What would you like to teach to the students who are majoring in photography?
Lee: A photographer is similar to a monk. You can only achieve enlightenment through constant contemplation about a topic. The enlightenment comes as slick as nothing at all. Based on my vast experience, I realized that the amount of time one puts for consideration is meant to be reflected on its outcome.
CAH: What are your life goals as a photographer?
Lee: As an artist, I aim to produce more pieces that could impress the audience. Certainly, I won’t constrain myself in the field of fine arts. Instead, I will approach different fields such as environment or design so that I could blend these movements with fine arts to beget a greater synergistic effect. For instance, I am currently planning an island project, which is setting up a canvas on an island that is facing the danger of climate change. Since global warming is real and it is increasing the ocean water levels and endangering the islands, I intend to make a canvas that shows the changes in the water level so that it could alert people about the seriousness of global warming. One of the environmental projects that I had previously completed was the ”Street” project on Garosugil in Gangnam. It was to make people aware of the importance of trees in our daily lives. Additionally, I am also planning another project in Israel and the goal of this is to promote peace and alleviate social turmoil in the Middle East.
Chung-Ang Herald could learn about the unique realm of photography through the interview with photographer Mr. Lee Myoung-ho. He takes a long time to create a piece of work because he devises of something bigger. He searches places for the background, defines a subject to capture, and sets up a canvas. As you could see from his process of creating an outcome, he values the process the most. The audience will soon respect Mr. Lee – a photographer who brings a distinctive paradigm into the field of photography. His passion and devotion towards his career and the community will certainly contribute to the betterment of society and shape the world into a more harmonious place to be.
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