If the thumb is brought up to the eye, it becomes even bigger than the sun itself.
Such contrasts are what determine our perspective. Hence the necessity for juxtaposition and comparison. Only by releasing ourselves from the confines of our own perspective, can we see the reality of relations in the world.
It is this background of similarities and differences that is explored by Kip Kania in his photographic exhibition at Art Space C, Jeju City. The show features photographs of kids and teenagers from the US and Jeju Island.
Growing up in Chicago, Kip was interested in the arts, but not so much so in photography, even after receiving a camera as a gift from a relative.
His interest grew, however, as he began exploring the Chicago streets as a self-taught street photographer.
He then realized he wanted to make photography his vocation after winning a contest to live among and photograph an Australian Aboriginal Community.
▲ Photo by Olivier Duong
He has also spent some time in Jeju, where he was an English teacher between 1998 and 2002. While he was not in the classroom he was out on the streets taking images of people going about their daily life.
The exhibition at Art Space C explores the Chicago and Jeju chapters in Kip’s life, juxtaposing images from each.
Like many artists before him, he found something special in Jeju, and, more precisely, its people.
“What interested me is the working aspect of people. There are farmers, fishermen, etc.”
Whether in Jeju or in the US, Kip scans the surroundings for interesting things to photograph. In the current exhibition, children and teens are the subject matter, which Kip says gives the shots extra candidness even when he sets up the scene.
"I find them uninhibited as adults, less self conscious... You never know what you are gonna get,” he says.
“Sometimes I see the background first and tell myself, that could be good, and then I see someone that would be great there and simply make shots there."
His images are thus semi-posed, as although he directed them somewhat in the composition, he says the images often took on a life of their own.
The images are priceless, showing children with toy guns, teens with Halloween knives, and all in characteristic, documentary-style monochrome.
▲ Photo by Olivier Duong
"I wanted to show more similarities than differences, as the differences are usually a result of judgment," he says.
True enough, most of the subjects could easily be interchanged in his images. All except, perhaps the image of a child with a traditional Korean funeral hat, juxtaposed with an American woman with a jester’s hat.
Ahn Hye-Kyoung, Artspace.C curator, says that the contrast is not as sharp as it might seem.
"While this is a somber hat, it can also be a happy hat, as when I was younger going to my family's funeral, it used to be fun with my cousins and all my family. It's also in a sense a party hat," she said.
In this juxtaposition of two faraway places, and humanistic focus on everyday lives, Ahn adds that Kip’s work stands out from more conventional, nature-focused photographic styles common locally.
She hopes people can compare and contrast the two, just like the content of the show itself.
For more work by photographer Olivier Duong visit his Facebook page here.
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