Kim Jung-man: The tortured soul of South Korea’s ace photographer

Kim Jung-man: The tortured soul of South Korea’s ace photographer

South Korea’s elusive photographer discusses his feelings of isolation and lifelong quest to make sense of his surroundings

Kim Jung-ManKim Jung-Man at the helm.
Kim Jung-Man is South Korea's most respected photographer. However, throughout much of his highly successful 30-year career, he also had to come to grips with feelings of isolation, continually fighting with himself and trying to make sense of his surroundings.

But rather than let those emotions weigh him down, Kim Jung-man’s endless curiosity -- always challenging the unknown, the seemingly unreachable -- has made him the extremely successful and highly sought after artist he is today.

Restless upbringing

Born in 1954, Kim was raised for a large part of his youth in the rural outskirts of Burkina Faso, West Africa, where his father worked as a doctor. Kim often found himself battling with his identity, struggling to find a sense of belonging while he was growing up.

He then moved to France to study art and was recognized as the ‘emerging artist of 1977’ at the Arles International Festival of Photography.

Kim Jung-man has traveled the world trying to quiet the restless nagging inside himself, but soon realized that what he was after was right here in South Korea.

“I grew up in Africa,” Kim says. “And I’ve been all around the world, trekking through deserts and places I never dreamed of. But I soon realized that the beauty I was searching for was not outside my homeland but rather in it.”

Seasoned vet

Kim Jung-ManA seasoned veteran behind the camera, Kim has been at the craft for 30 years.

To the public, he is still regarded as the country’s number one celebrity photographer. But such overwhelming recognition proved unfulfilling and led him to an early, self-prescribed retirement from the limelight in 2006.

Kim chose instead to explore his roots a little deeper. All those years outside his homeland had taken its toll and stirred in him a restless need to find inner peace and get to the heart of who he was. 

Part of what makes Kim Jung-man such a remarkable artist is that he doesn’t dabble in the familiar but rather ventures into the unknown. There’s an integrity to his work -- a sense of burning intrigue.

He is continually pushing the boundaries of his art and it seems every personal project he takes on is pursued with overwhelming respect. 

What does the future have in store? Kim Jung-man has several projects he is working on, one of which is a series of still images from an abandoned street he finds very symbolic. This sense of isolation is a subject that is close to Kim. 

He's hoping to hold an exhibition later this year or in early 2011.

CNNGo TV met up with Korea’s most respected photographer Kim Jung-Man at Seoyudo Park, and here's Jung-Man's photos of that park.

Kim Jung-Man CNNGo TVKim Jung-Man CNNGo TVKim Jung-Man CNNGo TV

Originally from Ottawa, I spent five years in Holland before finally moving to South Korea. Having made Seoul my home for the last decade, I've had the opportunity to work for The Korea Tourism Organization (where I came up with the idea for my photoblog, HS Ad (where I wrote the slogan for Seoul City's global campaign) and freelance for Time Out, Conde Nast, Morning Calm (Korean Air's in-flight magazine) and Yonhap News, the country's largest news agency.

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