Johsel Namkung • A Retrospective has received a wonderful warm reception since it was released on May 26, 2012. Below are a few comments, with links to articles written to date.
“Photographic eyes don’t come much sharper than Johsel Namkung’s. The 93-year-old Seattle artist might technically be a “nature photographer.” But in focusing so closely on the patterns and textures of rocks, sand, wood, water, forests and meadows, he comes surprisingly — and vigorously — close to something more abstract.”
“Korean photographer Johsel Namkung is now 93 years old. That hasn’t stopped the release of a new book punctuating his breathtaking photography career, driven by a life full of bravery and the appreciation of nature’s beauty.”
— Ronald Holden
“He interpreted and transformed the landscape into something much more abstract, much more intimate, and much more truthful,” writes photographer and mountain climber Art Wolfe in the forward to the new book.
“Johsel Namkung chose a different approach to his distilled compositions of the natural world. A musician at heart, Namkung considers each shot with the same intensity he once brought to his vocal performances. “I don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘May I sing three times and you choose one,’ ” Namkung said last week during the installation of his show at Seattle Asian Art Museum. “I take just one because I’m confident it’s going to be OK.”
“The result for Namkung is that a frozen stream looks like a musical chart spilling into the air; rocks in the swirling water lose their permanence
just as smoke vanishes into thin air. The photographer says that he imagines himself seeing and retrieving from nature an inherent message or song that he makes visible with the medium of photography. In his mind he is adding a musical accompaniment as he photographs.”
” ‘Tinkham Road, WA’ (1986) falls somewhere between the two Shi Shi Beach shots in its method. It uses fir trees almost as notes in a minimalist score. Each tree trunk is a matchstick-thin stroke, set on steep Cascades slopes. The ripples, the crags and the snow-white streaks of avalanche paths add up to a visual music, with the trees providing the timbre of the piece while the landscape’s contours provide its symphonic sweep.”