SHOWCASE: Yang Seung Woo’s “We’re shit but champions”
This work is currently on exhibition at the Reminder’s Project in Tokyo, Japan.
The following text and interview is by Yumi Goto:
The Best Days / Yang Seungwoo
I came across Yang Seungwoo’s work, Best Days, when he had an
exhibition at Zen photo gallery in Tokyo. I didn’t get a chance to see
the exhibition, but I have seen some of Seungwoo’s work online and saw
Best Days book cover. Luckily I manage to get a friend to buy me the
book. Then I wanted to meet Seungwoo, and my friend arrange a meeting
with him. He came to my place and we had a long chat. Seungwoo has a
few project that he is working on in Tokyo and nearly every project he
made a book dummy. Looking through those book dummies, it strikes me
with the intricacy of Seungwoo’s toughts. One of the project was a
self driven personal project exploring him and his life. Seungwoo was
part of a gangster group when he was young. He did some regrettable
acts back in highschool days. He then left Korea and seek opportunity
in Japan and wanted to change his life and has came across
photography. Since then embark on a photography journey.
In my opinion his work is very powerful using the black and white
aesthetic. He is naked in some of the photos, which I find very
striking. I thought he take on a narcissism ideology, but after I
asked him about why he uses him as a subject matter, I got an insight
into Seongwoo’s work. Seungwoo’s best friend committed suicide a while
ago. His best friend has gradually being forgotten by his social
circle after his death. He couldn’t find any photos of his friend and
having difficulties to recall the memories back in the days. Seungwoo
fear that his existance would vanish after his death. He wanted some
parts of him to be remembered and so he started exploring his own life
through the use of photography. For me part of the truth of
photography is to preserve a personal ‘memory’ and I think there is
some honesty in Seungwoo’s work where he expose his private life. In
my point of view preserving the memory is a key motivation in
photography to find truth.
[the best days]
One of my old mates died
He committed suicide
But his dying changed now
The other lads will just forget him
I’ll forget him too
I looked for a photo so I could see his face
But there weren’t any
I thought he was me special mate
Sooner or later I’ll be gone too
It made me want to take photographs
Then I realised
As long as we live we’ll boast about this
What on earth were we thinking
But those days with the lads
And those days I spent wasthing time
Were the best days of my life
His death showed me how to live
I should have realised sooner
Maybe its too late
My Youth, Act Two begins
A better life
Q1. Why are you so committed to the subject matter of your
photographs? Is there a personal connection to the matter?
This work shows mainly my childhood friend and school mates. When you
look through the image, you can see they are not all mafia, but some
of my old friends has became a Yakuza member. In my case, I use to be
very bad when I was young, but I am not part of mafia group.
Q2. What is the secret to creating intimacy with a subject, intimacy
that translates to images?
There is no secret about this work. When I find interesting subjects
that I would like to photograph, I would wonder around place and being
around people and wait for people to approach me. After talking to
them and building a trusting relationship, I would start photographing
them. After I photograph the subjects, I would return and give as many
print back to them as possible.
Q3. Why should these images be shown to the public?
This work is about documenting my background and a proof of my life.
It is a very personal ongoing project that was not yet meant to be
expose to the public. I have another body of work which I wanted to
present. But after showing few of my work to various curators and
photographers. The Best Days are more in favour, so I decided to
exhibit the work. It is not my initial plan to show this work to the
public. I think there is a desire for people to peep through another
person’s private life. I am actually curious why a genuine person
would be interested in this group of images.