Already famous for exporting K-pop, K-drama and K-beauty around the world, South Korea has had an undeniably outsized impact on global culture. With recent South Korean television show Squid Game becoming the most popular title on Netflix, and many of the nation’s stars being appointed as international brand ambassadors for the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, the country’s booming music, film, fashion and beauty industries are—beyond being recognised on the global stage—going beyond and leading the conversation.
But there’s a quieter, if no less powerful aspect of Korean visual culture that’s brewing. South Korean photography is transcending commerciality and developing a distinct aesthetic in itself. Whether it’s for a fashion shoot, a movie poster or a beauty campaign, the people behind the camera who are directing and capturing these moments are garnering attention for their unique work and building a steady fanbase of their own. Join us as we discover five of the most promising South Korean photographers to be watching.
Yoon Ji Yong
Having photographed some of the most recognised faces in the Korean entertainment industry, including singer and actress Yoona, Blackpink member Lisa, and boyband NCT 127, Yoon Ji Yong has made a name for himself shooting across a wide range of mediums, from album covers and fashion shoots, t to beauty campaigns and magazine covers.
Yoon’s clean and sharp style is a favourite among fashion publications, and he has become one of the go-to photographers when it comes to big editorial shoots. His works have been featured in Dazed, Vogue, i-D, Elle and GQ, and he has also collaborated with luxury brands like Chanel, Givenchy, Piaget and Louis Vuitton. His recent shoot with emerging girl band Aespa, who earlier this year became the face of Givenchy, shows the photographer’s own reach and star power, displaying his close-knit relationship with one of South Korea’s biggest multinational entertainment companies, SM Entertainment.
Choi Gi Seok
Every one of Choi’s photographs look like they belong on the cover of an art magazine. The photographer captures bold and dynamic images that are truly unique and visually stunning. Focusing on the face and form of the human body, his works typically depict his subjects decorated in everyday items like stickers, flowers and mobile phones.
His previous design concepts have included Matrix-inspired looks, traditional Korean hanboks and human bodies painted and styled to imitate the appearance of flowers. Choi’s imaginative works have been featured in the pages of W, Vogue, Dazed, and Nylon and have landed him jobs with fashion brands like Anderson Bell, Kusikohc and Amore Pacific. He has also worked with the likes of K-pop artist CL, famed South Korean fashion model Yoo Young Bae, and Chinese model and actress Hannah Chan.
Mok Jung Wook
Mok Jung Wook’s resume as a photographer is nothing short of impressive. He has shot for the covers of Elle, Marie Claire, Nylon, Dazed and Esquire to name a few, and among the many South Korean celebrities he has worked with include actress Song Hye Kyo, actor Song Joong Ki, girl band Blackpink and boy band Winner.
Last year, he photographed boy band du jour, BTS, for Time magazine’s Entertainer of the Year accolade, as well as shooting the movie poster for Netflix’s original series, Sweet Home. Besides capturing the stars of his native country, he has also photographed American singer Joe Jonas and French actress Anna Mouglalis.
Heavily inspired by space and technology, Mok’s surreal works play on the viewer’s imagination and fantasies. The young photographer has garnered attention for his use of 3D computer graphics, manipulating his human subjects to create images that appear as if they have out-of-this-world superpowers.
Beyond his cyberpunk style, Mok has also worked on numerous fashion editorials, shooting for publications like Nau Magazine, Dew Magazine and Pap Magazine. Splitting his time between Korea and Taiwan, he has worked with dance company Art Project Bora, and fashion brands Zelotis and Customellow.
Hong Jang Hyun
No stranger to working with top South Korean celebrities, Hong Jang Hyun has photographed rapper and producer G-Dragon, actress Shin Min Ah and actor Gong Yoo. Outside of Korean stardom, he has also worked with the likes of actress Tilda Swinton, actor Adam Brody and model and actress Poppy Delevingne.
Highlights of his works include shooting boyband BTS for the cover of Rolling Stones and capturing a portrait of South Korean president Moon Jae-In for Time. His extensive portfolio includes published works in the Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue, and Variety. Besides his editorial works, Hong has also worked with brands like Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Calvin Klein.
Cover Credit: Brandon Erlinger-Ford/Unsplash
Writer | Kristy Or
A fan of indie films and alternative music, Kristy is a writer and producer from Sydney. Tea and coffee are a vital part of her diet.