Symposium – Defining Identity through Photographs: Works of Japanese and Korean Photographers, 1945–1980s

Online Workshop - Sainsbury Institute

Monday 25 March, 2024 - Tuesday 26 March, 2024
1:00pm GMT - 3:30pm GMT

About the symposium

The end of WWII posed various questions concerning the identity to Japan and Korea. The former, which went through events such as devastating destruction from World War II, the Occupation (1945–1952), and high economic growth throughout the 1960s and 80s, found itself in a highly disquieting socio-political context. Korea similarly struggled to reevaluate itself. Since its liberation from Japanese colonization in 1945, Korea went through the US Occupation (1945–1948), the Korean War (1950–1953), Military Dictatorships (1961–1988), and rapid urbanization and economic development between the 1960s and 80s. In these socio-political and economic contexts, in which existing value systems were challenged and reevaluated, the two countries shared the question of identity.

This symposium seeks to explore how some of the most renowned photographers of the two countries, including but not limited to Tōmatsu Shōmei (1930–2012), Han Young-soo (1933–99), Joo Myung-duck (1940–), and Ishiuchi Miyako (1947–) address layered aspects of national, cultural, and personal identities in their works. Tōmatsu explores the complicated US-Japan relationship in his representative Occupation series and later produced photographs of Okinawa in which he looked for the cultural identity of Japan in Okinawa. Han delineates fast changing contour of the Korean landscape after the Korean War. In his early works, Joo explores the question of race and ethnicity in Korean society while highlighting traditional Korean spaces in his later works. In her first major project, Ishiuchi examines her place as a woman photographer from Yokosuka, one of the major US base host cities in Japan.

How did these photographers employ, photography, a medium of an indexical nature which has been an influential medium in constructing and examining identity, in addressing the shared question of identity? What visual expressions did these photographers create in their examination of the identity question? While exploring questions of such, the symposium aims to propose an alternative critical and historical analysis of the photographic practices that transcend national boundaries.

This symposium is open to public but registration is required. Please sign up from the red button below.

Organised by Dr Ji Hye Han (Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow 2023-24)


** All listed time is GMT.

Monday, 25 March 2024

13:00 – 13:10: Opening Remarks
Ji Hye Han (chair)

13:10 – 14:10 Panel I: Pictures of the postwar: Women who raised their cameras in critique of the everyday

Kelly McCormick (Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia)
“A woman’s hopes are woven of sunbeams; a shadow annihilates them”: Picturing the Ambitions
of Postwar Japanese Women

Ji Hye Han (Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Sainsbury Institute)
Zesshō, Yokosuka Story: Ishiuchi Miyako’s Distinctive Critique on the Postwar Condition of Japan

Discussant: Lena Fritsch (Curator, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford)

14:15 – 15:15 Panel II: Delineating 1950s–1960s Korea through Photography

Sohee Kim (Senior Curator, Museum Hanmi)
“Modern Photo Society” and 1960’s Modern Photography in Korea.

Sunjung Han (Director, Han Youngsoo Foundation)
What others did not see but only Han Youngsoo saw

Discussant: Jeehey Kim (Assistant Professor, University of Arizona)

15:15 – 15:25 Closing Remarks:
Ji Hye Han

Tuesday, 26 March 2024

13:00 – 13:05: Opening Remarks

13:05 – 14:05 Panel I: Okinawa as a Site of Projection and Identification

Daniel Abbe (Lecturer, Shiga University)
Photographic Orientations and Colonial Space

Shih Cheng Huang (PhD Candidate, SOAS University of London)
Okinawa Reimagined: Tōmatsu Shōmei’s Lens on a Transforming Landscape

Discussant: Ayelet Zohar (Senior Lecturer, Tel Aviv University)

14:10 – 15:10 Panel II: The Other Korea: Identities in flux, from the late 1960s through 1980s Korea

Sunyoung Kim (Senior Curator, Museum Hanmi)
Exploring paths and identities through magazine pages: Photo Essays by JOO Myung Duck and KANG Woongu

Young Min Moon (Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst)
The Souvenir Photographs from the Military Camptown in South Korea, circa 1980

Discussant: Phil LEE (Associate Professor, Hongik University)

15:10–15:35 General Discussion

15:35 –15:40 Closing Remarks

Simon Kaner (Executive Director and Head of Centre for Archaeology and Heritage, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures)


Left: Han Youngsoo_서울 Seoul, Korea 1956-1963 ©Han Youngsoo Foundation
Right: Ishiuchi Miyako, Yokosuka Story #58 (Kurihama Station), 1976-1977, Yokosuka Story (Tokyo: Shashin Tsūshisha, 1979), ©Ishiuchi Miyako, Courtesy of The Third Gallery Aya

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