On one of the last sunny days of autumn, we were leisurely strolling through Seoul Gahoe-dong. In one of the winding alleys, we discovered an exciting photo exhibition in the Seoi Gallery. This was not in one of the cool, modern, concrete galleries. A traditional Korean Hanok house was the setting for this extraordinary exhibition. I was fascinated by the pictures there and wanted to learn more. As soon as I entered the exhibition room, I was greeted by the photographer Yisook Sohn. She told me interesting things about the creation of the photo project “Virginia’s Room” and details about its background. That Sunday afternoon was the last day of the exhibition and it was abundantly clear to me then that I would like to see more photographs.
A few weeks ago, I came across another photo from the artist by chance. Her projects are mostly about people and their stories, so I knew an interview to learn more would be interesting. I reached out to Yisook Sohn and she was gracious enough to meet with me.
Yisook Sohn, how and when did your first photo project come about?
One of my first projects was “Madam C.” It all started in 2005 when we moved to Bundang, which is about 20 kilometers south of Seoul. This planned city was still very much under construction at that time. But I noticed early on that I didn’t feel comfortable in this new environment. New, modern buildings and high-rises were being built in Bundang. The city
simply missed the history – the “old.” Very confusing for me. At that time, I took my daughter to kindergarten every day, where I met other mothers and parents. That was one of the moments when an idea was triggered. I became increasingly involved with the topic of the quality of life of the middle class, observed my surroundings, and wanted to capture this photographically.
Usually, you rarely get a glimpse into the private lives and homes of Koreans. How did you go about it?
It was not easy. But some were willing to share with me. In the beginning, I approached friends and acquaintances from my environment. Surprisingly, this was not a problem. On the contrary, the women wanted to share.
What do you want to express with “Madam C”?
I’m trying to show how middle-class women are beginning to think about their quality of life and pursue, as well as live out their individuality. It is a cross section of the consuming lives of women who strive for expression and individuality. I will showing one aspect of Korean society, that “Madam C” is to reveal the irony that is loosing our own authenticity both in people and interior space.”
Why the name Madam C?
What ‘C’ means in the title of „Madame C” is an abbreviation of the city. As I said before, this work is based on the impression of the new town of Bundang. So ‘C’ stands for city. And the women in this work seemed to me that they were neither subjects nor objects. I thought they wanted to be seen as more than as “I see” themselves. This aspect seemed to me that they considered themselves as third beings(C), not subjects(A) or objects(B).
I don’t know if this idea makes sense. At that time, I thought of ‘something third’ and named it.
Thank you for the interview
Yisook Sohn was born in Korea in 1968. She studied literature at Ewha Womans University Seoul and photography at Sangmyung University Seoul. Her photographs have been regularly exhibited internationally since 2007. Yisook SOHN works and lives in Seoul.
Her next exhibition will take place from 17.03. to 15.05.21 in Seoul.