by Jordane Prestrot
Jordane Prestrot is a French artist born in 1982. He is involved in photography, music and literature.
I went to South Korea in April 2006, at the invitation of a friend originally from there. His family and friends from Seoul welcomed me warmly. Yet, my stay proved to be difficult.
The totalitarian regime of North Korea gets very bad press back home, but we talk a lot less about the socio-economic model that governs South Korea: a form of ultra-liberal frenzy that indeed allowed this part of the peninsula to extricate itself from the Third World and quickly match the living standards of Western countries; but where the individual, bending under the pace of work and social pressure, is to be alienated - perhaps to the same extent as their northern brother. Add to this frenzy the weight of the traditions, hierarchies and familial obligations to which one must submit gracefully. From the world of work to the privacy of the family, the individual seems to find no respite, save for drinking copious glasses of soju as an escape - and at the risk of ending the night seriously intoxicated and asleep on a sidewalk... Visually, it often results in overcrowded spaces, saturated colors, patterns and information. Incessant crowds, tireless. The stereotype of an anthill - and quite rightly so.
As a French photographer, under these conditions, I felt somewhat battered by this lifestyle, but also full of affection for the brave and friendly Korean people I had met. I was full of admiration for the vitality of this country, once pressed between the Chinese giant and the Japanese giant, and now squeezed between the ghost of a fratricidal war against the North and the real and domineering presence of US troops. I then looked for perspectives… to breathe.
Often the perspectives seemed to be complex or clogged, the breathing difficult, if not melancholic… Be it the Changdeok Palace with a visitor leaning down into a corner, as in reverence to ancestors ; tourists gathered at the Imjin-gak park near the North Korean border, surrounded by soldiers guarding the Freedom Bridge and the Freedom Bell, among other Orwellian festivities ; a pier on the East China Sea that the South Koreans, irritated, refer to as the Yellow Sea ; overloaded Hankyoreh offices, the only opposition newspaper wishing the reunification of the two Koreas ; or a rainy and early return to Incheon Airport... However, I hope that these images do justice to the finesse and delicacy specific to Korea: with the potential to be a peaceful and refined country - unified, even.
Our aim is to disseminate and bring to light telling work of emergent or young photographers.