Jongsung Paul Choe mentioned in his artistic statement that his recent work, “Beautiful Forest” through which he intends to express aesthetic discourse on the images of natural reality and beyond over it. We should understand two axes consisted of the reality of forest and the essence of nature. Because recent photographic images from the environmental aspects are not able to be discussed fully in the light of a factual record, at present various elements of political, social, cultural and other interesting issues are involved with many countries in the global changes. Here factuality is a topographical aspect that means by the documentary record of the environment of Sundarban (beautiful forest) of Bangladesh. That forest was registered as the World Heritage of Culture in 1987. It is very meaningful and important to observe the untrodden world using camera. It is similar to a scientific discovery. Another is to say the essence of Sundarban. The camera focuses on the substance of the change of earth environment caused by warming. Whether the meaning is artificial or physical the change of nature is inevitable against time. The priority of human being over that of nature excited much controversy among many countries in the 21st century.
As we know through the past long history of photography many photographers have taken pictures of natural beauty that God gave us. From the beginning of photography until the early 1970’s photographers persisted in the aesthetic aspect of natural piety and beauty. But the exhibition of “New Topographic: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” arranged by William Jenkins in 1975 provided us with the landscape of a new viewpoint. Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore, and Bernard and Hilla Becher participated in the exhibition. It developed an art movement of a new concept, and formed the genre of landscape in the history of photography. The exhibition connoted a new landscape placing special emphasis on the transformed environment by human.
In the late of 1990’s a different landscape was developed photographers was interested in the natural environment and substance because of the changes of environment in the global village. Photographs of German typology represented architectural beauty that was transformed and created by human in terms of structure. Documentary photographer Sebastian Salgado produced ‘Work’ that has recorded industrial developments in various places of the earth, and the living sited of laborers in the post-industrial age. A famous Korean photographer Youngkyun Lim has composedly recorded the warmed Antarctic and its damaged sites that might be disappeared soon. He put those scenes in his work ‘Antarctica’ in which an axis of landscape genre was preceded in the light of record and aesthetics.
In this context Jongsung Paul Choe’s new work ‘Beautiful Forest’ belongs to the same category of those photographers. The Sundarban is located across India and Bangladesh, and the area is 140,000ha. It is a worldwide mangrove in the delta that big three rivers made. Also it is famous for the habitat of Indian silk snake(python), royal Bengal tiger, birds of over 260 species, and took photographs that did not only record the forest. Civilization accompanied with industrial developments changes and destroys nature. The photographer is now on-the-scene site and makes observations of the nature. He awakes us from the relationship between nature and human through his work ‘Forest’ of Sundarban. But his photographs are more than a complaint or formal accusation in their roles. Although the works stand for irreversible deformation of nature, ironically some images are extraordinarily beautiful. We feel that way because we see the scenes through media of photographs. Speaking concretely criticism coexists with irony.
I am wondering how Jongsung Paul Choe solves his planned environmental travels of Shirakami-Sanchi of Japan, Prince William Sound of Alaska, and Shilin of China. What would be the features of the global village in the lenses of Jongsung Paul Choe’s camera? The question whether he will succeed or not in terms of responses in people’s hearts depends upon his inward eyes. When the records of the scenes should accompany with a view of criticism his environmental travel will bring us a significant photographic value. I hope that the photographer reaffirms the solemnity and homage to natural piety.
Director of Jeonju Photo Festival