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Three days after the 2011 earthquake, Area Park entered Miyagi Prefecture in Japan, on the edge of the Fukushima zone. In this devastated landscape, the Korean artist found a photograph album rendered anonymous by the disaster – the starting point for a fictitious dialogue with the past, and the future of contemporary photography.
In the rubble of a devastated town, scattered photographs blow around the figures of people trying to catch them, clean them and preserve their memory. Against this backdrop, Korean photographer Area Park made the astonishing discovery of a complete photograph album. Now, his visits to the tsunami zone are guided not only by his mission to photograph the scene, but by the hunt for clues to the album’s creator. Its private images are the last line of defence against death and oblivion.
The album is the starting point for Park’s investigation of the state of photography today, in an exhibition entitled Way of Photography. Mixing photoreportage and ‘domestic photography,’ the pictures taken in Miyagi also explore the complex history of Japan’s links with Korea, and the arrival of colour photography in each country.
In a landscape altered forever, the artist captures the passage of the tsunami – a ruined cemetery, the carcass of an apartment block, a motorbike tangled in barbed wire. One photograph, Boys Who Became a Trophy, incorporates wider fears of contamination. In Tokyo, 200 km from Fukushima, Area park photographs children out of doors, with their parents’ permission: innocuous-seeming images of courage and resistance when outdoor exercise for schoolchildren has been forbidden.
Born in Korea in 1972, Area Park studied photojournalism and photo-documentary. A practising photojournalist, he lives and works in Tokyo.
Curator: Jee-Sook Beck