PDN Photo of the Day

Feeling a Way Through Dark Landscapes

Jungjin Lee’s dark, elemental landscapes are as much influenced by her training in ceramics, calligraphy and painting as they are by her brief career as a photojournalist. Prints from two recent series, on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York until December 12, are highly textured, made on traditional papers using a series of digital and analog techniques that include painting with liquid emulsion. The resulting images, shot in Israel and the West Bank and in the Florida Everglades, reflect a somber quality of the nature they depict—soft, grainy, rich and full of deep blacks and dark grays. Spare compositions transform the landscape into experiments in tone and space. Her emphasis on material “helps me to expand the meaning of the image in a deeper way and express my own feeling more closely,” she told an interviewer. “It makes the viewer feel my image rather than see it.” 

Lee specialized in ceramics at art school in Korea, and moved to New York in 1988 to study photography and “to live…as an artist.” An early documentary project, Lonely Cabin in a Far Away Island, followed the solitary life of an elderly wild ginseng collector in his mountain home, and was published as a book. Lee worked as a photojournalist for a few years after receiving a master’s degree, but “by the time the [Lonely Cabin] project was done, I felt strongly that I wanted to be an artist instead of being a photojournalist,” she has said. While living in New York, Lee was introduced to Robert Frank (through Ralph Gibson, who gave her Frank’s phone number), and eventually she became Frank’s assistant, and he became her mentor. “He didn’t really teach me anything directly about photography but I learned very important things about expressing my own voice by watching him and his life at the time.” 

Lee has produced ten books, most recently Unnamed Road, (published by MACK), which contains the Israeli images, made in connection with the traveling group exhibition “This Place,” on view at the Norton Museum of Art until January 17 and traveling to the Brooklyn Museum in the spring. Whether her images depict the American desert or an anonymous ocean, Lee’s true subject is her own emotional landscape, “a fundamental essence of things being captured through my intuition, the inner state of my mind, beyond my thinking.”

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Fine Art


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