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Book of the Week: Selected by Carlo Brady


Book Of The Week Korea - Part 1 Photographs and Text by Michael Kenna Reviewed by Carlo Brady Korea – Part 1 begins with a brief text from Michael Kenna. “I always enjoy locations that have mystery and atmosphere, perhaps a patina of age, a suggestion rather than a description, a question or two… Korea is still, technically, a country at war which dramatically and visually affects its appearance and atmosphere.”
Korea - Part 1. By Michael Kenna.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZH948
Korea - Part 1
Photographs and Text by Michael Kenna

Gallery K.O.N.G., Seoul, South Korea, 2019.
64 pp., 55 black-and-white illustrations, 7¾x10½".

The publication of this book coincides with an exhibition at Gallery K.O.N.G. in Seoul. The photographs were primarily made between 2005-2018.

Korea – Part 1 begins with a brief text from Michael Kenna. “I always enjoy locations that have mystery and atmosphere, perhaps a patina of age, a suggestion rather than a description, a question or two… Korea is still, technically, a country at war which dramatically and visually affects its appearance and atmosphere.”

The images themselves are delicate, if distant, consolidations of relatively few elements. Kenna’s photographs are pervasively quiet and delightfully formal. Quickly recognizable, though patient in their being received by the eye, the images reward a bit of displacement in the viewer.

Korea - Part 1. By Michael Kenna.

Namyeong Lion Rock, Mongdol Beach, Jeollanam-do,
South Korea. 2018.
By Michael Kenna
Often making long exposures in diffuse light, Kenna accomplishes a brief stun when executing a composition between jagged and calming formal elements. In Namyeong Lion Rock, Mongdol Beach, Jeollanam-do, South Korea. 2018, the rock meets with and melts into the slow moving water. The rich articulation of the stone’s texture juxtaposed with the dispersive movement of its shadow into water is captivating and dispassionately encouraging.

The book is comprised of two sections. The first is largely natural landscapes with images of a temple mixed in. The second half is initiated by the study of several lifeguard watchtowers along the shoreline moving north to the DMZ. These watchtowers are photographed in a somewhat onerous yet sedate way.

Situated on desolate stretches of beach, the towers suggest ad-hoc penal or biding punitive gestures. Their position against the sea is disquieting. Kenna’s images do not attempt a description of the complexity of the Korean Cold War. They do, however, stand in deference to the anxiety and pacing tragedy of the standoff.

Korea - Part 1. By Michael Kenna.

The final sequence moves into a series of industrial landscapes, ending in a short grip of images from DMZ. The final image appears to be shot through a telescope and vignette. It pictures a guard tower, on the Northern side of the border, assumptively. A bike leans against the guard post. In his introduction, Kenna writes, “… I must confess to sometimes imagining a future exhibition simply titled: “Korea”. Mr. Kim Jong-un, if you are reading this, please, invite me to photograph, soon!”

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Carlo Brady works at photo-eye Bookstore as a photobook specialist. He holds a BA in photography and studio arts from Hampshire College. You can reach him at carlo.m.brady@gmail.com

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