Interview #68: Suji Park
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Suji Park: When I was a child, taking photos merely meant documenting events and was something only my parents would do. I participated in student exchange program in high school time and digital compacts were coming out at that time. I got mine ahead of my adventures and I spent hours and hours taking random photos. It did fascinate me but still I did not have a concept of photography. As I became busy with school back in Korea, I did not take photos often. It was after I became a university student that I started taking photos more seriously. By browsing sites like flickr, I could know about photography in artistic aspect and it was a whole new world for me. Ever since, photography has become my biggest passion in life.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
SP: No, I haven't taken any photography courses. I learned by taking photos and looking at photos taken by others.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an affect on your photography?
SP: I live in a medium sized city in South Korea. I like my town is not very crowded. Although I see more and more new buildings are coming up these days, it is still surrounded by nature. I don't think the place where I live has significant influences on my photography but its calmness and surrounding nature allows me to refresh myself and furthermore leave spaces to be inspired.
CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.
SP: When I take photos, it can be both impromptu and planned ones; mostly it is series work that involves planning. Inspirations hit me and I may have specific imagery on my mind. Then I would do rough sketches and shoot based on them. To finish a roll, it usually takes 1-2 months.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
SP: Soup and rice (Korean meal)
CUS: What makes a good image?
SP: I believe a good image comes out when you listen to what your heart speaks out.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
SP: Poetry and Rimbaud.
CUS: Who are the people in your photographs?
SP: Myself, family and friends.
CUS: Nature seems to play a major role in your work. Can you elaborate on this?
SP: Nature is where we are from and where we go back after death. I think nature has the power to console and heal human being from negative aspects of modern life; I feel being refreshed and soothed when surrounded by nature. I love how nature has various looks depending on time and season. They bring specific scents and sensations. For example, I like the scent of soil after spring rain and 4 pm sunset in winter. As these sensations evoke feelings of nostalgia, it becomes one of my inspiration sources. Furthermore, when being in wild nature, it makes me feel like escaping from real life.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?
SP: I would agree only if it referred photographer as someone who merely enjoys activity of taking photos. It is true that digital photography has allowed people to approach photography easier but it doesn't mean everyone can reach certain level of depth in photography.
Digital and film photography—each has pros and cons but I think there is no need to compare them or debate over which is superior. I first started with digital and enjoyed it. Although digital is more time saving, now I do prefer film photography because it appeals stronger to my aesthetics and fulfills my curiosity. Whichever medium you take, if you enjoy and make great shots—I guess that's it.
CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…) How do you differentiate “art” photography and “non-art” photography?
SP: With the advance of social medias, photography has got into daily life deeper than ever. I think it is good to enjoy photography on a daily basis. When it comes to art photography, however, I wouldn't think instagram photo of starbucks cup as art. I believe that art photography should convey photographer's philosophy and involve more profound thinking.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?
SP: I think both the Internet and any off line sites can be good places to showcase photographic works but of course, they can be appreciated better in the latter case. Going to exhibitions already requires more efforts and its main purpose is to appreciate someone's works. A few days ago I went to a photography exhibition held by LIFE. Some of exhibited images were ones I already saw on the Internet but looking at them right in front of me left stronger impressions.
To add more opinions about the Internet—for someone like me who has no art/photography study background, the Internet gives great opportunities to showcase works. Also it allows people to encounter many great photos at their convenience. However, there is a side effect of this. Probably because it is simple and easy to just look at images on screens, it seems that sometimes people underestimate their values and are reckless when sharing and using images. Whether taken by amateur or professional, you can see photos that are not simply "snaps." So many photographs were made with lots of efforts, time and deep thoughts. It is sad to see when photographs taken by fellow photographers are used and blogged without any credits. In the worst case, they even get stolen. If people could respect artists and copyright better, the Internet would be a greater showcase place.
CUS: What are your plans for the summer?
SP: I was thinking about going to France but for some reasons I have decided not to and would travel some cities in Korea with friends.
CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?
SP: To realize my imaginations, I would need help of some materials or accessories. Sometimes they are hard to find or way too expensive to buy.
CUS: What are some of your favorite books and movies?
SP: Book: The little prince
Movies: Der Untergang, Au revoir les enfants, Schindler’s List, Dead Poet’s Society, Toto le hero,Trois couleurs, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Le Corbeau.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?
SP: Serge Gainsbourg.
CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?
SP: Yes, I have become a freelance photographer since last autumn. I often say that through the medium of analog photography, I follow traces of light, nostalgia and dreams. More specifically I wish to portray the world where we could escape from horrible sides of reality. For now I'm trying to be recognized by a wider range of people; in the future, I would love to participate in various projects, do exhibitions and publish my photography book.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
SP: Stay true to yourself.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Hudson Gardner, asks: Please share an experience of beauty that you have had.
SP: That would be when I looked at a 84 year old lady putting on make up.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
SP: If you could turn back time, when would it be?