The Joanne Junga Yang Mixtape
I first met Joanne Junga Yang the day this photograph was taken at the 2013 Lensculture FotoFest Paris review. It was raining and I lugged my portfolio box back and forth across the street from the holding room to the reviewing room and I felt a bit like a wet dog, cold and out of breath. But that all went away when I sat down at the table with Joanne, who was lovely, knowledgeable, and thoughtful. We have stayed in touch and Joanne is now resides in California for a period of time. We recently caught up at PhotoLA.
Joanne brings a global perspective to her reviewing and curating, as she is very much aware of what is happening in both the States and in Asia. That broad knowledge of contemporary photography makes her an important and insightful member of our photography community. Joanne is the director of Y&G Art Global contemporary project, an agency specializing in exchange of fine art photography, finding and introducing contemporary artists around the world to the Asian public. Y&G Art is an international project based on the concept of Korea’s first art photography agency collaborating with galleries, museums, festivals, and magazines.
Joanne was the curator of Seoul Photo Festival which is Korea’s annual leading international contemporary festival of photography in Seoul. She has organized and curated many exhibitions on contemporary art and photography. Joanne is also the editor of ARTVAS/THE PHOTO art and photography magazine and the guest editor and collaborator of many other magazines/newspapers including Korean Monthly Photography, and Photo journal. She worked with POINT:Asian Contemporary Art Magazine as a chief editor (2010, 2011). She has contributed many articles to diverse magazines, interviewed international artists, and introduced their work to the Korean media, based on her professional background, and expertise, in the field of photography.
And now, The Joanne Junga Yang Mixtape!
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography.
I was born and grew up in Seoul, Korea. I was very interested in art from childhood and especially enjoyed drawing. In fact, I wanted to major in art in university. However, I happened to encounter photography through a friend and came to enjoy photos for the fascination of reinterpreting things (representing the real) I wanted to draw and express, and I began to take photos. In the end, I chose to major in photography because I was charmed by the way photos can stop time and capture moments.
I graduated from university as a photography major and got my master’s degrees in Fine Arts (majoring in photography) and Visual Arts from graduate schools in Korea and the UK respectively.
What is your title and job description and tell us about a typical day?
I am the director and curator of Y&G Art, a global project specializing in photography/art, and I plan and participate in various projects. I work as a guest editor and writer for several magazines and introduce the work of international photographers to Korea. I constantly invite and discover photographers from Korea and overseas through organizing and curating various exhibitions. Furthermore, I participate domestically and internationally as a photographic contest judge, workshop lecturer, and reviewer.
As a Curator, Director, and Editor/Writer, I’ve been fortunate to continually discover and introduce both emerging and already established artists.
Normally, I collect and research photography and organize the materials/data and spend some time in meetings. I need to prioritize my work load that I need to catch up on and meet different deadline.
Since I work on several projects, my routine differs a bit at those times depending on my work. When I have time outside of work, I mostly watch movies I want to see or read books.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
I curated the 2011 Seoul Photo Festival. The Seoul festival is organized and supported by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. The budget is insufficient for a large event, but I really wanted to show original prints from overseas artists as-is in their frames. On the day the event opened, mostly ambassadors of overseas artists in Korea came to support the works of each country and offer congratulations on the exhibits. I was awarded a Seoul Mayor’s Award from the Seoul Metropolitan government that year. It is rare to receive that prize as a curator, so I felt all the more proud.
What do you look for when attending a portfolio review?
I normally look for artists whose work coincides with the topic in my mind in order to select works. Sometimes I talk with photographers regardless of topic and discover their efforts and creativity, so I introduce their work to the magazine. I look for their unique colors and pay attention to whether they expressed the story they wanted through their photos, and I always keep an eye on photographers like that. Aside from that, I watch their effort, behavior and continuity, i.e. keep showing their work. A good photo can be very subjective, but I think the opinions of reviewers examining the creativity and perfection of the work and the behavior of the artist toward his/her work tend to be similar.
Any advice for photographers coming to a review event?
Since portfolio review means showing your work in a limited time, it’s best to choose the work and images in which you feel the most confident. It’s also good to divide your time well and communicate effectively with reviewers. In some cases, the artist simply tells the story of their work and then time is up, so it is more effective to appropriately organize important points you want to discuss.
In the past, artists wanted to leave good impressions on their reviewers after review of many books, CDs, etc., but these days it’s more effective to put all information (artist’s profile photo, image of work, CV, website address, pdf book) on a USB drive to give to reviewers to make the artist and work memorable. It’s very important to keep sending emails with website links or work to make the artist’s work memorable even after the review and to show that the artist is still working hard.
What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
People think I don’t like sports, but do it anyway. I’m not sure why that is; perhaps it’s because of my appearance. I, on the other hand, really enjoy exercise. I like very active outdoor sports like tennis, table tennis, swimming, mountain climbing, golf and horse riding etc.. When I was 26 years old I went bungee jumping on a mountain in Cairns, Australia. I was afraid at first, but in the end it was a great experience. I talk about that bungee jumping from that high field, but I don’t think I could ever do it now. That was the first and last bungee jump of my life. Nowadays I don’t have a lot of time for outdoor sports, but I run on a running machine at a fitness center almost every day for 30 minutes instead.
And since this is a Mixtape, what is your favorite song, band, and do you dance?
I listen to all types of music. Sometimes I listen to pop, rock, soul R&B and sometimes immerse myself in jazz, and other times I change to various types of music depending on the situation. These days I listen to a lot of K-pop with Korea’s unique melodies and emotions. When people think of K-pop they remember Psy’s hit “Gangnam Style” which was popular worldwide a few years ago, but in fact there are many great types of Korean music. If you’ve never heard them yet, I suggest you give them a try. I like dance, but I don’t have time to dance these days.
For her part of the Mixtape, Joanne shares self portrait work created in Iceland and never showcased until now!
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