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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shooting Israel: South Korean Photographer Jungjin Lee’s Israel

“In this picture I show Israel’s sad beauty,” the Korean photographer Jungjin Lee says, as she looks at one of her recent works. Lee, who turned 50 this year, is one of three women who took part in the “Shooting Israel” photography project, in which 12 leading photographers from around the world spent a lengthy period documenting Israel through their lenses.

Lee took this picture about a year ago at Midreshet Ben-Gurion in the Negev. As elsewhere, here too she tries to describe through photography thoughts that she cannot express in words. The viewer must adopt an introspective, meditative sort of gaze, the kind Lee has personally used in recent years.

“I think this photograph shows how I interpret the Land of Israel as a metaphor. Not as a representative of the real world, but rather as something that can be anywhere,” she says. “My work is not just about the photograph; it is also close to poetry. Not a preoccupation with a topic, but rather [a means of] exposure of internal emotions.”

Lee visited Israel three times over the past year, for several weeks each time. This was her first time here. At first she toured the country, including the West Bank, in search of subjects to photograph. Jerusalem, the coastal road, the Golan Heights, Nazareth, Masada and Mitzpeh Ramon were some of the sites on her list.

In January she set up shop in the desert, and the result is before you.

Lee does not want to be treated as a photographer who documents a particular place and time, as photojournalists or portrait photographers do. Her thoughts and feelings while working on a picture are no less important to her than the photograph itself, she explains.

She prints her photographs in large format on handmade rice paper. This paper is thin but highly durable, and has been used in artwork in Korea and other Asian countries for centuries. In printing the photo – a manual process that takes place in a darkroom, with a special brush – she creates uniquely textured prints that have the qualities of a painting.

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