In this installment of Leica. My Life, we introduce you to photographer Sunghyun Paek. Paek, from South Korea, finds autonomy in his photography and inspiration from nature.
Q: Please provide some background information on yourself.
A: I live in Seoul, South Korea and was born in 1981. I work as a photographer, musician and stylist.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
A: I dreamed of being a photographer since I was 10. I got a film camera from my parents. It was the best toy for me, it was even better than robots. Since then I started taking pictures of friends, and now I am a photographer 22 years later!
Q: When did you start taking pictures?
A: As I said above, I started photography when I was young. I started studying it professionally in high school with a major in photography. As for commercial photography, in 2006 the editor from Vogue Korea saw my photos on my website and suggested me to work as a photographer. Ever since then, photography has been my job.
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: It’s like an air and rice for me. Because we cannot live without air and Koreans sure cannot live without rice. I suppose photography for photographers is like music for musicians.
Q: What is your favorite subject and which aspects of life do you what to capture or document?
A: Nature is my favorite subject. Actually there is nothing specific that I want to capture, but I take more than one picture a day. I guess that pictures could become a record of my life. I think it would be an awesome project if I placed all my daily pictures in a row someday later. Then, I might be able to see which aspect of my life turned out to be worth capturing.
Q: Which are the most important things to you in life?
A: Abstractly I want to say it’s “Truth” but to be realistic it’s mental and physical health.
Q: Do you have any experience with Leica products?
A: Two years ago, I went to the amusement park with my best friend, the entertainer Rain (Jung Ji Hoon). It was a crowded place, but we enjoyed our time and took memorable moments with my Leica Digilux. However, people started to recognize us and we started running away from the crowd. At that moment I dropped my camera. I hesitated whether to pick it up or not but there were around 200 people chasing us so I had to give up my camera. Frankly, maybe I was scared to go back in that crowd. If there is this kind of event again, I would never give up my camera just like that.
Q: Based on your individual way of taking photos, what special requirements should a “perfect” camera meet?
A: A perfect camera must exceed the range of human eyesight and color. I think there is no such camera yet that overcomes the human eye. I am not sure whether it would be in the future or not, but if there is, it would be too perfect to show a touch of humanity, which is kind of attractive. Already there are so many wonderful cameras in the world.
A: The cities were all new for me. Pisa, Frankfurt, Munich, Milan, Firenze. I had to grab my camera on my right hand and move and move. What I had in my mind is that I have to make a record of my first encounter with these mesmerizing cities. I didn’t have a fixed subject but it came out that I took many of people. If I had to put a subject for it, it would be “shooting by walking in firstly met cities”? I didn’t know what kind of results there would be.
A: I don’t take pictures with waiting. I take pictures dynamically and calmly while I move to different places and see the things around me. So some photos are calm like I’ve been waiting for the moments while others are like took from moving car.
For these images, the excitement is that I took pictures of the things that I saw for the first time, and my camera the X2 was totally new for me too. It was more focused on my first experience than the subject. These pictures didn’t come from a plan; I had no idea what to take. I was just walking full of expectations and tensions, I was very excited even thrilled what would appear in front of my camera.
Q: Are there any other photographers who have had influence on your work?
A: The first exhibition I saw after my high school graduation was Henri Cartier-Bresson. His black and white photos and “Decisive Moments” taught me a lot and that moment was my first encounter with Leica.
Thank you for your time, Sunghyun Paek!
-Leica Internet Team
Click here to see the original interview.