The Ilwoo Photography Award, which supports the activities of Korean contemporary photographers, has selected Seunggu Kim in the publishing category, Seulki Ki in the exhibition category, and Moon Seonhee in the documentary category this year.
Because of its accessibility due to millions of people owning cameras, photography is probably the most popular hobby in the world. This, on the other hand, makes photography an extremely competitive field that requires more than skills and talent. The original purpose of photography was recording images, but its role as art is to embody the thoughts and philosophy of the artist. The difference between photography as a hobby and as a contemporary art is often confusing, but, nevertheless, many artists who bring photography into the realm of contemporary art are continuing to incorporate new ways of expression.
Established in 2009 by the Ilwoo Foundation of the Hanjin Group, the Ilwoo Photography Award sheds light on the activities of contemporary photographers.
The three winners of its 13th edition are Seunggu Kim in the publishing category, Seulki Ki in the exhibition category, and Moon Seonhee in the documentary category.
Among the panel of judges for the 13th Ilwoo Photography Award were the two international judges Michel Frizot, a French photography historian and theorist, and Urs Stahel, curator of the MAST Foundation in Italy. Korean judges included photo critic Pyung-Jong Park, Seoul National University Aesthetics Associate Professor Park Sang-Woo, and Art Basel Korea VIP representative Jeesun Park.
Artist Kim Seunggu was selected for presenting works that capture the unique leisure culture of Korean society through his works Better Days. The panel praised his consistent work and highly questioning spirit. Since the 2010s, Kim has been capturing the leisure culture that can be found at various local festival sites, including the Han Riverside swimming pool and sledding slopes.
Artist Seunggu Kim implicitly captures various aspects of Korean society while only using the basic function of a camera. Kim records Korean culture that has changed in a short period alongside the country’s rapidly developing economy. With a particular focus on the country’s leisure culture, the artist captures the contradictions and contrivance of the society.
Kim’s Better Days series captures the sanguine Korean people enjoying their short days off despite facing unreasonably long working hours. The works in the Riverside series depict people enjoying leisure time in a flooded Hangang Park during the monsoon season. The Bam Islet series captures the coexistence of humans and nature through Seoul’s Bam Islet, which was restored by nature after being blown up by humans for urban development.
Seunggu Kim (b. 1977) has held solo exhibitions at KT&G Sangsangmadang Gallery (Seoul, 2019), the Korea Society (New York, 2019), BMW Photo Space (Busan, 2017), Post Territory Ujeongguk (Seoul, 2016), and SongEun ArtCube (Seoul, 2015), and has participated in numerous group exhibitions internationally. Kim’s works are in the collection of many art institutions, including the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow, 2022), the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, 2020), the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Art Bank (Gwacheon, 2022, 2018), the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art (Ansan, 2017), and the GoEun Photo Museum (Busan, 2017).
The jury panel gave a good review of Seulki Ki’s works for having solid professional skills and excellent concentration on the subject. Based on her former exhibitions, they added that Ki had outstanding use of spatial composition and directing skills. Her works also received good reviews for raising questions on issues such as the reproducibility of photography, the possibilities and limitations of vision, and the boundary between the real and the virtual through her work Photography, Illusion, Space.
Artist Seulgi Ki works on photography but also employs other genres, such as installation and performance. Ki focuses on errors caused by sensing the outside world from habit and metaphorically expresses the unexpected sensations that arise through this process.
The artist, who participated in the exhibition New Moon at the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, presented works that reveal the overlapping layers created by colliding lights. Ki took photos of her photography works on display and stacked the reflections of the visitors viewing the works on top of the image to explore the mechanism of error in viewing.
The artist also alters the space within the photographed image by transforming the original image or cutting and collaging the artwork. In this way, the artist presents the act of seeing as a new experience and further highlights overlooked points when appreciating photos by illuminating the process of photography, such as framing, capturing, and printing.
Seulgi Ki (b. 1983) has held solo exhibitions at Doosan Gallery New York (New York, 2018), Doosan Gallery Seoul (Seoul, 2017), Space K (Seoul, 2015), and Gallery Chosun (Seoul, 2013). She has also participated in group exhibitions at various institutions, including the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art (Ansan, 2022), the Ilmin Museum of Art (Seoul, 2021), the Gyeongnam Museum of Art (Changwon, 2021), the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Gwacheon, 2015), the National Museum of Art (Tokyo, 2015), the Jeju Island Art Museum (Jeju, 2015), the Buk Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul, 2018), and many others. Ki was a selected artist for the Doosan Art Lab exhibition in 2015 and was selected as an emerging artist at SeMA, Seoul Museum of Art, in 2013.
With a focus on the relationship between humans, animals, and the fundamental issues of life, Moon Seonhee takes photographs of burial grounds created by foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza, as well as elks, which is an endangered animal in most of the world except for Korea. Moon was selected as one of the award winners for her elegant and detailed sensibility in capturing important social issues.
Moon’s works unravel the damaged dignity of life through anthropocentric worldviews, the story of the socially underprivileged, and the cross-section of memories that have disappeared in society through photographs.
Her most representative works include 묻다 (ask), which captured burial grounds for the mass culling of livestock; 묻고, 묻지 못한 이야기 (Asked and Unasked Stories), which visualizes the memories of those who were schoolchildren during the 5·18 Democratization Movement; and 거기서 뭐 하세요 (What are you doing there), which documents the place of the high-altitude sit-down strikes.
Artist Moon Seonhee (b. 1978) has held numerous solo exhibitions at the Art Space House (Gwangju, 2019), Seoul Citizens’ Hall Gallery & Space 291 (Seoul, 2017), and the Eunam Museum of Art (Gwangju, 2016). Moon has participated in numerous group exhibitions as well, such as at the DeYoung Art Museum (Gwangju, 2021), the Asia Culture Center (Gwangju, 2018), and the Gwangju Museum of Art, Ha Jung-Woong Museum of Art (Gwangju, 2018). Her works were also on view at the 13th Gwangju Biennale special exhibition MaytoDay (Gwangju, 2021) held at the former Armed Forces Gwangju Hospital in Gwangju.
Artist Seungu Kim, in the publishing sector, will be supported with an art catalog, an opportunity to hold a solo exhibition at Ilwoo Space, and will receive a fund of approximately 44 million KRW. Seulgi Ki, the winner in the exhibition section, will get an opportunity to exhibit at Ilwoo Space in the second half of this year and will receive a fund of about 20 million KRW. Moon Seonhee, who won the award in the documentary section, will be supported for exhibition or publication with a total amount of 20 million KRW.