Generally we concentrate our attention on the symbolic conditions of photography. But as Rosalind Krauss understood, “as far as photographs belong to the symbolic system that has physical interrelationship with the indicative object,” they become as a sort of trace and clue (as evidence) substantial and (of subsidiary matter) a theoretical object. That is to say, photographs might say something apart from the symbolic reality that appears on photographs. If it is related to the life of a photographer, we should ruminate over where and what he saw in pursuit of the possibility of implication escaping from the photographs. That crossing over the mangrove forests ‘photographs and the place’, what are over there indeed?
The mangrove forests which Jongsung Paul Choe stood right opposite fight against the invisible change of environment. Sundarban is 4,110 ㎢ in area, and 1,700 ㎢ is marsh on which mangrove forest spreads out with the form of rivers. And the tide is rising from the estuary, and so mangrove that is a salt plant grows well. Mangroves propagate by moving fruits with seawater. On the basis of natural environment Sundarban is the widest mangrove forest. The thriving topical forests and so more freshwater than seawater flows in. The meeting point of freshwater and seawater is Sundarban whose balance breaks down. Recently the UNESCO through a case study warns that until the end of the 21st century about 75% Mangrove will be perished. In this area few islands already sank.
In Jongsung Paul Choe’s photographs the phenomena of environmental changes are not seen. In spite of that his photographs emotionally permeate through the heart of people in details of particular situations. That is to say, grain of black and white pictures and mist are mixed. The camera’s field of view image that was concentrated on mangrove forests arouses our sympathy and exquisiteness separately from symbolic aspects. The emotional stir and tumult intersect the traces of melancholic cultural variation which his past photographs emitted. Those who know his past photographs would be able to recognize the moments of his living culturally as a marginal being in a foreign country.
He attended high school in Connecticut, college in Maine, and graduate school in New York City. He has acclimatized himself to a new environment home and abroad. He has managed to accommodate himself busy social life. His last 20 years in continuative process of adaption and adjustment in which he made efforts to find his own identity as a photographer.
Jongsung Paul Choe looks at himself in the center of the invisible environmental changes. He stands in the continuity of cultural margin. Mangrove that is a depressing object would be a kind of reflective image to him (and at this age). Probably although he took pictures of Bangladesh Sundarban he might engrave a seal of the depressing portrait of his age which is secondary from the symbolic images. That is just the right point that makes me, furthermore us melancholic when we look at his rough and damp black and white pictures. The vague and emotional stir of the photographs becomes to derive our awakening from the devastated and deviated environment of nature.
Hoon Jung, Ph.D
Director of Art Gwangju