Archive for May, 2008

In a lot of ways, my very first photography class was my favorite. Everything was new to me. Though it sounds trite, the first time a photograph I made emerged on a sheet of paper in the darkroom, it was magical. The photograph itself was nothing special, just a picture of some tombstones in the Grove Street Cemetery. But I was hooked. Instantaneously.

After floundering for a few weeks in search of subject matter, I started taking photographs of my roommates and friends.  Needless to say, I had no problem finding willing collaborators, especially when I started focusing on nudes.  We hadn’t gotten to contemporary color photography in class yet, sticking mainly to more traditional artists. So I was making pictures in the style of Bill Brandt and Harry Callahan.

One of my roommates was always happy to model for me. I think I photographed her the most that year. At the end of term, as I was going through my contacts, she asked me if I could give her all the negatives I took of her. I was surprised. Why would you want those? I asked. Because, when I’m famous I don’t want naked pictures of me floating around, she replied. Seemed like a reasonable request, so I gave her the negatives.

And now she IS famous. So there. At the time, my sophomore-year self thought she sounded arrogant (when I’m famous? not if?) but I guess she clearly knew where she was headed. Of course I would never publish photographs of anyone naked if they didn’t want me to, so she needn’t have worried. But I’m amazed that an 18-year-old could have that kind of assuredness, especially when the rest of us were so green. I wonder if she still has my negatives?

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left © Hee Jin Kang, right © Gary Hume courtesy White Cube

A few years back I worked on a series called Hair (see the photo on the left).  I exhibited this series in my degree show and at Shine Gallery in London.  Then several months later I received a postcard for a show opening at White Cube Gallery. Gary Hume paintings (see the image on the right).

I always thought these two images looked uncannily similar.  Hmm…

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The first time I ever flew internationally, I took the flight alone. I was 15. I wasn’t sure how one was supposed to behave when travelling solo so I briefly chatted with my seat mate and then proceeded to practice the piano on the tray table. Maybe my neighbor would think I was a musical prodigy.

I was flying to Paris with Air France. I thought transcontinental travel was such a luxury – the seats felt plush, the flight attendants seemed glamorous, and they handed out menus printed on thick paper. And this was in coach!

My parents sent me to Paris because they wanted me to learn French and become worldly. I was going to visit the niece of a family friend. This family friend, Mr. P., had been my tutor and mentor for many years. Through his planning, I was going to “see the world.”

Before my trip, my dad and I visited a Korean-owned camera shop somewhere in Queens. My dad was a photo enthusiast and was constantly taking pictures. He thought I should have a grown-up camera of my own for my travels. After much deliberation, I chose a Minolta x-700. A long-time Canon devotee, my dad sniffed at my choice but paid for the camera. It seemed like a lot of money (being a Korean store owner, he paid in cash, of course).

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© Anderson Center

At the end of August, I’ll be participating in the Artist-in-Residency program at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minnesota.

In the early 70’s, my dad was cycling up a hill in Red Wing. He was 28-years-old and had just left his village in Korea. He was living and working on a farm, learning modern farming techniques under a 4H Federation program.

At the same time, my mother was cycling down that very hill. She was training at the Red Wing Nursing Home, sponsored by a Korean nursing school in Seoul.

They met on the hill, and within months, they were married. They moved back to Korea, started a family, and immigrated back to America, this time to New York City. To support my brother and me, they worked in various convenience stores until eventually they were able to buy their own shop.

As it happens, there is this excellent residency program for artists in Red Wing.  So I’m going there to retrace my parents’ steps when they first came to America.  I’m hoping to discover the prequel to Sandy’s Deli there.


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professional membership

Before “photographer” there was “astronaut”…

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© NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

This is a photograph of the Phoenix Lander with its solar panels deployed on the Mars surface this Sunday. Many more interesting photographs of the Phoenix Mars Lander can be found on the NASA website here.

I was so busy trying to enjoy the sun over the weekend that I forgot all about this mission to our planetary neighbor. Doesn’t the Lander look like a fuzzy little blue fly?

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Me: Hey guess what? I just started a blog!
She: Oh really, what’s it about?

Me: Umm… me and my photo stuff.

She: Yeah? So what’s it called?
Me: Oh I don’t want to say…
She: Why not?
Me: Well if I tell you, you might read it…

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happy memorial day

© Hee Jin Kang

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a new lens

So after years of shooting with only one lens – a super-sharp Xenotar 135mm – I decided I needed another lens for my Wista. I had been procrastinating because, in all honesty, I was overwhelmed by the vast array of choices and felt like I didn’t know enough to sink any considerable money into new gear. Plus I’m a maximizer and have to turn over every little stone to make sure I’m deciding “correctly.” So how did my personality play this out?

I spent ages reading lens comparisons online (like this one), pored over online discussions, fondled many lenses, re-read lens reviews I had already read, re-scanned forums, searched ebay, photogon, APUG, and basically forced myself into an indecision hole.

It took me almost three weeks (!) to choose, and in the end, I bought the Schneider 210mm Xenar from KEH because it looked cute. Well not exactly, but almost.

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This is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages – copyright my photographs register my copyrights.  Luckily, I found The Photo Attorney and her site is chock full of useful information. And apparently the whole copyrighting registration process has gone online. So now I have no more excuses.

Here’s the link to the US Copyright Office.

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