The 2022 Lenscratch Student Prize Honorable Mention Winner: Seok-Woo Song
It is with pleasure that the jurors announce the 2022 Lenscratch Student Prize Honorable Mention Winner, Seok-Woo Song. Song was selected for his project, Wandering, Wondering, and is currently working towards an M.F.A in Department of Fine Arts, School of Visual Arts, Korea National University of Arts, Seoul, Korea. The Honorable Mention Winner receives: a $250 Cash Award and a Lenscratch T-shirt and Tote.
There is a stillness that pervades Song’s images. That stillness belies the inner strife and uncertainty of the figures in the primarily barren landscapes. Whether an industrial or natural setting, each has its own version of a post-apocalyptic visual aesthetic. A place where the figures relate to each other through gesture and proximity, yet an otherworldly cast is the constant.
Song tells us that the work is about twenty-something men in South Korea and their efforts to conform to an oppressive society. As an older American woman, I see these figures stand in for many of us struggling to make sense of the world and its constructs.
As the fabric and other material items often create a center for the faceless figures, even without those connectors, the enormity of the environment dwarfs and yet centers their humanity. We all long for connections, but some cannot make them easily. Ultimately, we are all connected to each other and the natural world. We exist in energy and relationship. Song’s work reminds us of that and sends us the message to remember who we are as part of nature and each other.
An enormous thank you to our jurors: Aline Smithson, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Lenscratch, Educator and Artist, Daniel George, Submissions Editor of Lenscratch, Educator and Artist, Linda Alterwitz, Art + Science Editor of Lenscratch and Artist, Kellye Eisworth, Managing Editor of Lenscratch, Educator and Artist, Alexa Dilworth, publishing director, senior editor, and awards director at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, Kris Graves, Director of Kris Graves Projects, photographer and publisher based in New York and London, Elizabeth Cheng Krist, Former Senior Photo Editor with National Geographic magazine and founding member of the Visual Thinking Collective, Hamidah Glasgow, Director of the Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO, Allie Tsubota, Artist and winner of the 2021 Lenscratch Student Prize, Raymond Thompson, Jr., Artist and Educator, winner of the 2020 Lenscratch Student Prize, Guanyu Xu, Artist and Educator, winner of the 2019 Lenscratch Student Prize and Shawn Bush, Artist and Educator, winner of the 2017 Lenscratch Student Prize.
Seok-Woo Song(b.1993, Republic of Korea) graduated from B.F.A in Department of Photography and Media, Daegu Arts University, and completed master’s degree M.F.A in Department of Photographic Design, Hongik University graduate School of Industrial Arts. He is currently attending his master’s degree M.F.A in Department of Fine Arts, School of Visual Arts, Korea National University of Arts, Seoul, Korea
He mostly grasps characters and social relations, currently is concerned with relationships people build up with others from individual narratives, works to explore the way people interact with each other, social fundamentals involved in it mostly using gesture language and performance.
Main solo exhibitions includes 《Floating Motions》(SINSAOK, Seoul, 2022), 《Wandering Wondering》(ARTBIT GALLERY, Seoul, 2020), He took part in a number of group exhibitions including 《Different Dimension》(Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirsk, 2021), 《XIV Krasnoyarsk Museum Biennale <Mapping the Multitude>》(Museum Centre Ploshchad Mira, Krasnoyarsk, 2021), Singapore International Photography Festival, Daegu Photo Biennale, Jeonju International Photo Festival, DongGang International Photo Festival, DongGang Museum of Photography, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art + MMCA Art Book, Donuimun Museum, KUMA Art Museum, Suwon Museum of Art, Ulsan Museum, Czong Institute for Contemporary Art Museum, SEOUL ART SPACE MULLAE, WESS, SPACE55 and others.
Main awards includes received Winner, 8th Singapore International Photography Festival Open Call Showcase 2022-Portfolio Artists(Singapore, 2022), Finalists, The 2nd Banshan Photography Award(Japan, 2022), Winner, 18th Photography Criticism Awards(Korea, 2021), has been selected as the best artist in the ‘BELT’ photography category(Korea, 2021), ‘Keep an eye on Asian Artist’ Selected Artist in ART CONTEMPORAIN ASIATIQUE(France, 2020), International Photography Awards ‘Silver’ in Monograph, IPA(USA, 2018) and others. His works are introduced in VOGUE(2021), VDCM(2021, 2018), PHOTOART(2020, 2018), Monthly photography(2022, 2020) and others, works are housed in Krasnoyarsk Museum Centre Ploshchad Mira, Busan Museum of Art, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Czong Institute for Contemporary Art Museum and others.
Follow Seok-Woo Song on Instagram: ©seokwoo_93
Wandering, Wondering (2019~2021)
Wandering, Wondering is a story of all of us, becoming adults, getting more socialized, and living in a systematic social structure.
No one has forced or oppressed our lives.
Without looking back, we live in a life that fits already into the familiar flow following only dreams and ideals we’re aiming for, the naturalness of time that goes by constantly.
Through this work, I have a chance to explore for my 20s already passed by and past time which entered between the gap of familiarity.
These produced images are stories intended for the young who cannot adapt to the social structure which is changing quickly, above all men in 20s.
The eyes coming from between unfamiliar spaces and strangers are begun by wandering around places and environments where you can get someone else’s feeling such as strangers and universally abandoned spaces.
Based on feelings caused by loneliness, emptiness, the gazes that didn’t approach in a good what I experienced in society, I express floating or unadaptable objects in the world by images.
This work leads to subtle psychological change and expansion of consciousness that occur between individual consciousness, different dimensions of time and space, and meetings of objects.
And It also is produced by freely combining images across the boundary line of consciousness and unconsciousness based on social factors and narratives with characters.
I was concerned about relationships that people build up with others and mainly intended to explore the way people interact and the social principles involved in it, using gesture language.
I hope that not only 20s, but everyone who encounters this work will be able to sympathize by watching the gesture language of the process head for society in this work, reminiscing about their past or expecting their future.
How did you get into photography?
Ever since I was a child, I was a child who bruised and kept an eye on something (everything, whether it be a person or an object). Because of this, my mother thought that hitting a bruise was a kind of observation, so she helped me to attend an art academy to raise my imagination and creativity in drawing as part of my strengths. One day, my mother took several pictures with my camera so that I could refer to them as a draft when I was drawing. Seeing her mother helping her with her camera every time she drew, I naturally became interested in her camera. At the young age of 6, ‘SEOK-WOO SONG,’ who was rumored to be a child who took pictures while holding a camera and stirring around the neighborhood, was that person. A few years later, I started taking photographs in earnest at 17.
In your artist statement, you mention you feel your work is geared towards men in their 20s and that this group is having a tough time with society. Can you tell me more about that?
In the Republic of Korea, men in their twenties are socialized and move within the systematized social structure. For example, entering a university, having to go to the military because it is a conflict-fighting country, or going to a company to make money, etc., I wonder if it is difficult to perform oppressively in modern society.
I see loneliness in your images but also see connection. Not a traditional version of connection but one that is shared humanity of the figures in your images. Can you talk about that?
My work is a visualization of young people in their 20s who are living in a modern society (fitted to the system). It is a significant part of my work that these forms appear to place more importance on the external self rather than the self-portrait that reveals the inner self, as these forms appear as ‘playing characters’ with an interest in the relationship they have with others. Because we deliberately shoot from afar, we do not directly reveal the characters’ facial expressions. Whether we use a uniform or any object to perform body language, this external self is important. Visualized objects perform body language or perform performance. In the process, particular objects or fabrics are mainly used. It can also be read as connecting their emotional forms and separating them simultaneously.
The part in your statement where you say that society isn’t oppressive struck me. Many people I know find social norms to be very oppressive. Perhaps, I misunderstood your statement.
Maybe I sent it wrong. Society is a very oppressive form—any country.
What is your focus now in your work?
As I continue to work with the medium of photography, I often think a lot about how to look at photography and how to read and understand the role of the photographic device in the work image. These elements seem to fascinate and focus on photography.
Who are your artistic influences?
Prof. Jeongmee Yoon(Hongik University), Professor Juyong Lee(Korea National University of Arts), Professor Chungsoo Kim(Daegu Arts University), and Professor Wonchul Lee(Hongik University), etc. have influenced me personally or professionall
What do you dream about in your future career in photography?I will continue to work on photography even in the distant future, and I want to make a mark as a famous line in ‘Making photography’ like the texture of my current work. I want to run towards that goal with big aspirations and achieve it. I work while also lecturing students, but I want to put my work first and succeed as a photography educator at the same time. I always want to treat everything that comes into contact with contemporary photography sincerely and be faithful to the near and distant present and future.
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