The State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSPHOTO and The Museum of Photography, Seoul are pleased to present the “The Centennial of Korean Art Photography, 1920–2020” exhibition.

This is the first retrospective exhibition of Korean photographic art in Russia. The project explores the change of themes and techniques in Korean photography over time. The photographs are exhibited in chronological order and divided into three sections; each corresponding with an important stage of the history of Korean photography. The exhibition brings together works by ten photographers of different time periods.

The first section, “Birth of Korean Photographic Art, 1920–1950s”, introduces the beginnings of Korean photography. This part of the exhibition displays works by the artists who regarded photography as “pure art”. This approach was widespread in Korean art during the period of Japanese occupation as well as after liberation and the Korean war, when photographers like JUNG Haechang (1907–1968), LIMB Eungsik (1903–2001) and HYUN Ilyoung (1903–1975) were at the peak of their productivity.

The second section is titled “Korean Photomodernism, 1960–1980” and is dedicated to Korean modernist photography, which was formed post-1960s, when realism established itself as a mainstream movement, and photographic works began appearing on the covers of magazines and newspapers. A group of photographers dedicated to documentalism arose during this time, most prominent of whom include JOO Myung Duck (b. 1940) and KANG Woongu (b. 1941).

The third section, entitled “Photography as Contemporary Art, 1990–2020s”, encompasses the period when photography began expanding its borders and became recognised as a genre of contemporary art. The mid-1980s saw the emergence of artists educated in Europe and the USA.

Chan-Hyo BAE, Existing in Costume 1, 2006

Having absorbed international trends in photography, these artists changed the perception of the essence and meaning of photography in South Korea, which used to be defined by the adepts of Realism. In an attempt to overcome Modernism and establish their new vision, they turned to experimentation and collaboration with other media. The leader of this movement was Bohnchang KOO (b. 1953) . LEE Sanghyun (b. 1955) opened new horizons in photography, combining the latter with sculpture, installation, performance art and video. Kyungwoo CHUN (b. 1969) questions the moment-capturing nature of photography, striving to discover new opportunities of this artform through his use of long exposure. Chan-Hyo BAE (b. 1975) is mastering new techniques of portrait photography through the exploration of his own identity by producing self-portraits in costumes from Medieval English plays and fairy tales. The exhibition shows how ideas of avant-garde 20th century art have been adapted, through the prism of a national environment. The “long exposure” capturing the growth of Korea’s art scene over a hundred years, reveals an unusual story of the development of photographic culture in South Korea.