THE YOUTH CODE! curated by Nathalie Herschdorfer at Christophe Guye Galerie examined the theme of “youth” through the lenses of 11 international photographers- Anoush Abrar (Switzerland/Iran), Jun Ahn (South Korea), Mike Brodie (USA), Denis Darzacq (France), Lucas Foglia (USA), Martine Fougeron (France/USA), Bill Henson (Australia), Ina Jang (South Korea), Margo Ovcharenko (Russia), Guillaume Simoneau (Canada), and Sascha Weidner (Germany). Nathalie Herschdorfer has plans for the exhibition to travel across museums in Europe and North America in 2015 with the help of the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP). Installation featured the work of Ina Jang in our special photography issue 20+20 that hypothesized a distinct relationship is present between an artist and their environment. A selection of Ina Jang’s works from the series there is no there there were featured in the group exhibition. This week we present the perspective of the curator and Ina Jang to speak about youth, culture and identity.
Highly visible in the media, the teenager is one of the most popular subjects in contemporary photography. There is an abundance of work by artists interested in this age – a time when identity and sexuality are in a “transitional” state. After seeing the show, we might question the influence that these images have on our understanding of adolescence. I realized that many emerging photographers deal with the search for identity as they protograph their own generation, a theme which is in close connection with adolescence.
I am working now on a larger version of that show as well as a book. It will feature the work of about 30 photographers. In the exhibition, which will travel to Europe and the United States in 2015, I will bring images made by adolescents (these images floating around on the web.) Each venue will be able to adapt the show and add images by adolescents from the region. I see it as a ‘work in progress’ room, a kind of laboratory where young people will be invited to take pictures, print them and place them on the wall. A website version may accompany the show as well, young people will be able to upload images. I want to create a dialogue between the artists’ works and the teenagers’ works.
THE ARTIST’S POINT OF VIEW
There is no there there is an on-going project where I am intensely exploring the idea of beauty and desire. These images are manipulated portraits of girls I found online who are heavily influenced by ‘Ulzzang’ culture in Korea. “Ulzzang” is a Korean word that came from a combination of the words “Ulgul(face),” and “Zzang (best).” They usually reference people with above average looks. Sometimes with the use of photoshop and webcams, they will post their pictures online and become internet celebrities mostly among their teenage peers. “Ulzzangs” have become more popular and numerous with the growth of internet usage and accessibility of technology. In this culture obsessed with youth and beauty, the younger generation started consuming and producing these images on a daily basis.
People transform their appearance constantly, whether it’s as simple as getting a haircut or more complex as getting plastic surgery. Some will use colored contacts to make their eyes blue, others will use Photoshop to enlarge them, just to post these artificial transformations online. Meanwhile they are experiencing a natural transformation as their bodies develop through puberty. It is interesting to see these preconceived alterations done to their bodies, resulting in projected aspirations of self beauty depicted through an image. I am very much interested in the tendency of teenagers to reflect their standard of beauty for others – either shaped by the community they live in or by an individual desire – directly onto a photo of themselves created with the help of advanced technology. The photographs were shot by me in a studio where I retained control over the portrait process. I then relinquished all influence and had the girls retouch their faces to their ideal satisfaction, and finally the files were returned to me. While delving into the idea of beauty, I am very excited to work closely with the subjects in the collaborative process of making these photographs.
Featured image: Ina Jang, this comment has been deleted, Digital C Print, 16”x 20”, 2013 © of the artist and Christophe Guye Galerie