I give myself over to learn about the work and what it is that I'm trying to do.
Ever since its invention back in the 19th century, photography has been documenting life. At the same time, it focuses on inviting audiences to a rather subjective world, while trying to be taken seriously as an art form. Photography has always been considered a male-dominated profession, but luckily things are changing. Scholars, writers, bloggers, photography students, and enthusiasts have been giving due to the female pioneers of the field. Most of them were always standing and/or hiding in the shadows, oblivious to how much they could acclaim and accomplish. Arguably, the technique, concepts, and thematic female photographers use differ from those of male photographers. At a time when most women were convinced that their place was in the kitchen and certainly not in the dark room, there were those who were struggling to surpass their male counterparts and work towards gaining respect and recognition for their work.
Jin-me Yoon (South Korean-Canadian photographer, 1960-) is a Korea-born, Vancouver-based artist whose work explores the entangled relations of tourism, militarism, and colonialism. Yoon's family relocated from Seoul to Vancouver, where Yoon attended primary school. During that time, she became fascinated by the photographic images of consumerism she came across in National Geographic, Reader's Digest, and luxury magazines that were available in the waiting room of her father's medical practice. When she was twelve, Yoon began using such images to produce collages. In high school, she learned about art history during visits to temples in Korea and the Time-Life Library of Art that her parents collected, which introduced her to the work of Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp. Yoon enrolled at the University of British Columbia in 1978, but found the curriculum and its focus on Eurocentric, white, male narratives and creative production to be alienating.
After graduating with a BA in Psychology, she earned a BFA from Emily Carr College of Art in Vancouver, which was followed by MFA studies at Montreal's Concordia University. Since the early '90s, she has used photography, video, and performance to situate her personal experience of migration in relation to unfolding historical, political, and ecological conditions. Through experimental cinematography and the performative gestures of family, friends, and community members, Yoon reconnects repressed pasts with damaged presents, creating the conditions for different futures. Staging her work in charged landscapes, the artist finds specific points of reference across multiple geopolitical contexts. In so doing, she brings worlds together, affirming the value of difference.
Over the last three decades, Jin-me's work has been presented internationally in hundreds of exhibitions, and she has mentored many students over the years while teaching at Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts. In 2018, she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2018; and in 2022, she won the prestigious Scotiabank Photography Award. Yoon is a vital member of the Vancouver art community, as well as an active participant in international art discourse. Her work is recognized across Canada and internationally for contributing to the ongoing discussions concerning identity and place. Her art is considered to be ahead of its time and reframes viewers' understanding of some of the most pressing issues today.
I'm concerned about how you move forward, and I don't think you can move forward without history. But the artist part of me is associative. I think of it as a more fluid, dynamic process.
We will continue talking about female names that left their mark on photography and about contemporary female photographers who are still to emerge. There are a lot of female photographers out there deserving of praise and we can only hope to cover as many of them as we can. Please, follow this space to find out more.