Artist's Statement

Soomin Ham

“Portraits and Windows”, a visual narrative, is a reconstructed work in which past and present coexist, woven together from imagination and forgotten memories.

I was astonished by the tiny B&W photographs that my grandfather made in the 1930s. He was not a professional photographer but he had an artist’s sensibility, and this would have been lost to me if not for the box of photos I found after he was gone.

The images, faded and worn, were alive with a fragile beauty of expression and gesture. Except for a few photos of my grandmother, the portraits were of people I didn’t recognize. But the candid images were haunting and I started to wonder.

I began to alter the images to create the “Portraits” series as visual poems, woven fabric of memory and dreams, to give life again to these lost images. The series was created as reconstructed compositions where past and present coexist and resonate. Final images were printed on Hanji in nine separated prints and glued together on the layered Hanji as a canvas.

The "Windows" series continues this exploration by merging my grandfather’s vision and my own. The original faded photographs are recontextualized with fragments from the “Portraits” series suggesting a new narrative transcending the people, place and time originally portrayed.

While exploring the old photographs, I discovered that Gyeongbok Palace, one of the royal palaces in Korea, was the only place where my grandfather and I took pictures in the different time periods. “Once upon a time” series is a collage with multilevel pictures of a palace that I captured in Korea, grounded by my grandfather's photos.

Photography, as a window to place, time and memory, has enabled me to reconnect to my grandfather and to collaborate with him in creating a new poetic narrative.