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Red Fish: Interview with Jong Beom Kim

There's a fish looking over the fish tank. What would the fish be long for? This is the question we are asked by <Red Fish>, an artwork series by Jong-beom Kim, who has been working with TongRo Images for 27 years. He is about to hold his first private exhibition in the United States and we had an interview with him. We could feel the go-for-it spirit of the artist who will take on a new step further from Korea to the United States, and further from the United States to Europe.


2022 Seoul COEX Art Fair Exhibition

2022 New York Gala Art Center Exhibition

2021 - President of Jong Beom Kim Photo Culture Center

2018 - 2021 President of Gallery Fine

1998 - Contributor of TongRo Images Inc.

Q1. We heard that it is your first private exhibition in the United States. How do you feel about it?

I signed a contract with Riverside Gallery located in the U.S. for the exhibition in September 2020, but the Coronavirus outbreak pushed it back. After a long wait, we agreed to hold a traveling exhibition in New York and New Jersey from July 2nd, 2022, and I finally sent my artwork to the U.S. last week.

<Red Fish> took me more than 10 years to finish, and it was not an easy journey, so I was very attached to the work. It was difficult not only to install the sculpture on the water surface, but also to endure the cold water. I had to shoot in the cold water wearing long boots in late fall and winter because the fish dies quickly when the weather is hot.

I sent my portfolio to the Riverside Gallery and Gala Art Center, thinking that I should exhibit this series, which was done after quite an adversity, not in Korea, but in New York, the best city in the world. I got a call from them right away saying that they wanted to accept the exhibition, so I went ahead with it. I feel pressure because it is my first exhibition abroad, but on the other hand, there is also a joy in taking the first step abroad.

Q2. Considering you have been working with TongRo Images for about 20 years, we are curious to know how you would define 'TongRo Images' as a photographer.

I've been maintaining my relationship with TongRo Images for 27 years. In fact, I came into contact with the CEO Choul-jib Lee when having a hard time. I only took fine art photography at that time, but after meeting Mr. Lee, I got interested in stock photography as well and started working on it. I felt moved and delighted to see TongRo Images' solid growth, and I also feel proud that I've contributed to it even though it's a small part. Therefore, in a phrase, TongRo Images is "young and healthy".

Q3. In <Red Fish>, the main objects are goldfish, glass, and water. What motivated you to focus on these objects?

People that are full of energy can't be satisfied with just one object. If you work on multiple themes, that means you have a lot of energy. In that sense, I might consider myself a person with lots of energy. I've been working on several genres, and one of them was ‘Red Fish’.

I have pet fish at home for my late-born daughter, and many thoughts came to my mind when I was looking at the fish. Shortly after, I was walking down the street, and I saw kids behind a glass wall, banging on it, wanting to get outside. Through these two events, I decided to explore 'fish' and their root.

Q4. What do you want the audience to feel through this exhibition?

Fish is considered good in Buddhism. Fish-shaped figures with a bell under the eaves of the temple, and sandfish carved from wood have the meaning to teach meditators to always stay awake like fish because fish always have their eyes open. Also, I want people to realize how precious nature is by seeing live fish as nature is being polluted.

Q5. You have accumulated years of experience working on both stock photography and artwork for a long time. As a senior photographer who has worked in the photography industry that has come through dramatic changes following the time flow, would you give any advice and words of encouragement to junior photographers?

Most of my friends, colleagues and junior colleagues do art photography rather than stock photography. Part of them take pictures as a hobby and part of them do art photography for a living. It seems that most full-time art photographers have financial problems except for only some of them.

However, if you work on art and commercial photography at the same time, it can be complementary and that can help with your financial condition. In my case, I was able to solve the same problems to some extent by doing both art and commercial photography.

Furthermore, the size of the stock photography market is enormous, and it seems to me that there are very few photographers interested in this market. I think it is wise to combine the two rather than focusing on one kind of photography. This is because commercial photography has as much charm as art photography.

Art photography experience is helpful for your commercial photo shoots, and commercial photography experience is helpful for your art photo shoots. I think it would be a good idea to do both for the junior photographers if they're interested in photos.

Did you enjoy the interview with Jong-beom Kim, who has established his own position by consistently working both on stock photography and art photography? The goods such as calendars, glasses, and books designed with his artwork will also be at the exhibition for sale. We hope that the footsteps he has made will inspire our global contributors as well.

<Red Fish> by Jong-beom Kim will be exhibited at the Riverside Gallery in New Jersey from July 2 to 9 and at the Gala Art Center in New York from July 13 to 19. Stay tuned!


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