Poet Park No-hae is best known for his collection of poems “Dawn of Labor”. These days, he is not so much a poet as a photographer. “The present era is the most prosperous,” Park has said, “but you have the most debilitating human nature in the history of mankind.” And with that he hit the road and traveled to the frontier of Asia. Traveling to areas so remote they are not even charted on a map, he captured the lives of people in black-and-white film. Another Way, a collection of his photography and poetry from his travels, was on display February 5 to March 3 at the Sejong Museum of Art.
Park No-hae began his project in 2003 at the time of the invasion of Iraq. “He went the farthest he could go, the highest he could go, walking in remote villages,” explains Sejong Center docent Yoon Ji-young. “He went out in search of steep roads. After losing his way many times, he threw away his map and chose his own path. Then the road came to see him.”
The people in Park’s photos are people who live quiet lives. He had only a 35mm camera, so he had to take his photos near his subjects. This physical closeness was important to forming an intimate relationship with them, producing great photos. “He was particular about black-and-white photographs,” Yoon continues, “because he focused on the message rather than information.” His use of analog printing further creates a sense of human touch, the weight of the sand, a poet’s attention to detail.
The biggest attraction of the exhibition was a poem written on the side of each photograph. The photo “Trees were planted in the waves formed by the forest” tells a touching story. In 2004 hundreds of thousands of people were swept up by the tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia. Ulee Lheue village was one of the hardest hit and left in ruins. In Park’s photo, a young man begins to plant trees in the sea in the hope that it will prevent future waves from destroying his village.
The background music during the exhibit consisted of Park’s own selections of folk music from each of the cultures he visited. One piece of music was a song from India called “Eagle Come Pray For Me”. Its dreamy quality went well with the photos and helped visitors feel immersed in Park’s work.
Park’s exhibit attracted a variety of enthusiastic visitors: a white-haired gentleman, a middle school girl holding her mother’s hand, a young man fiddling with a camera of his own, Buddhist nuns, and foreigners from all over the world. As a middle-aged couple passed through the museum, one told the other, “What a really good exhibition!”