Christine Chung Quezon City, Philippines
Born in 1994, Christine Chung is a Korean-Filipino photographer whose images primarily focus on personal memories and identity. She graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with an AB degree in Humanities with concentrations in Art Management and English Literature. Currently based in Metro Manila, she continues to explore personal narratives through photographs.
She has participated in several photography workshops, namely, the Invisible Photographer Asia Online Mentorship Program in 2014, mentored by Kevin WY Lee, where she was also awarded a scholarship grant and completed the work, ‘A Portrait of Us.’ In 2015, she participated in the Masterclass in Documentary Photography Edition 10, mentored by Alex Baluyut, and the Angkor Photo Festival Workshop, mentored by Antoine d’Agata and Sohrab Hura.
Christine Chung was chosen by photographer Dennese Victoria
Laatikkomo’s interview with Christine Chung July 21st, 2017.
L: Where are you from? Or what cities, and/or countries have you lived in – what places have influenced you?
CC: I’m a half-Korean half-Filipino who was born in Cavite, Philippines and raised in Quezon City. Quezon City has been my home for nearly my entire life. And yes, this chaotic urban jungle has impacted my photography in a rather subconscious way. Living in a populous city as an introverted photographer, I find myself trying to slow down the world by stopping to capture people’s individual, non-collective stories. It is actually quite difficult in this fast-paced city, but by trying to look with the right eye, I can pause the world and string out people’s narratives from the messy, ever-moving mass of Filipino society.
L: What traits from your own background are apparent in the photography you currently make, or do you consciously consider these influences on your work in any way?
CC: I consider my dual ethnicity as a major influence on my work. My bipolar diagnosis (later on in life) further cemented my personal lens to see a lot of things existing within a spectrum. My first project, A Portrait of Us, was primarily about my confrontation with my bipolarity. I photographed myself because it was the only thing I could. This personal documentation sprung from a need to document my struggles with identity as I grew (and continue to grow) into my adult self. I started gaining interest in photographing beyond my personal reality and began documenting about my friend and others, navigating through their transgendered identities. I suppose that I am interested in the many possible spectrums of life itself and the internal struggles that come with them, and by using the camera as my license to observe people’s lives, I wish to make their internal struggles more visible.
L: What is your first memory of photography?
CC: My earliest memory of photography was holding a plastic toy camera as a 6-year old, wondering why such a thing existed. My next involvement in photography was in high school when I volunteered to document school events as a favor to my teachers back then. I consider these early experiences as starting points to my foray in the art of photography.
L: The work you present for this series is taken in black and white, as is another series presented in the ”personal” section of your website. But I also noticed you do use colour for other projects. What factors determine what kind of film you choose to use: black and white or colour?
CC: For my ‘A Portrait of Us’ series, I used black and white simply because I found it less complicated to use than colour. In hindsight, I think my eyes were more sensitive and drawn to lines, textures and shapes within the frame. A more obvious reason perhaps was because I was also inspired by the works of Anders Petersen and Jacob Aue Sobol, in which I wanted to somehow mimic the arresting quality of their photos. At present, I am working on a series about my transgender friend in colour. I consciously decided to do so because I feel that there are more sensations in coloured photography which I want to explore. Colour, for me, is a distinct visual language from black and white. I don’t consider myself having mastered black and white, but I feel drawn enough to want to photograph in colour so I can confront reality in a different way and express its complexity.
L: I also noticed from your website that you have a degree in English Literature in addition to . Do you find your images are directly informed by your studies in Literature?
CC: Through my formal studies in Literature, I became more aware of how both photography and literature can be effective vehicles for storytelling. Being required to read a vast amount of written works taught me how the written word evolved from different needs throughout history to effectively convey stories. I think photography and other forms of art shapes humanity in the same way as literature does. They are constant reminders to our humanity.
L: Photography is often used to talk about memory but the narrative aspect of your series is also, perhaps similarly, important. What are your thoughts on the distortion or preservation of memory through photography?
CC: I don’t believe photographs can be considered as reliable records of history anymore as technology today has made it even easier to manipulate. As a photographer, I think it is wise to surrender to this inevitability and take advantage of how this polarity, of distortion and preservation of memory, can transform the way we perceive memory itself. With photography, the world will only grow bigger because each photograph is a possibility in itself.
L: Could you list 5 words that you were thinking about when you made this work?
Thank you so much Christine!!