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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

Work / Photography

Brendan George Ko’s intoxicating latest scrapbook sees plants as a metaphor for place

Brendan George Ko publishes his work in the form of scrapbooks which document the photographer’s fascinatingly sprawling life currently spread across Toronto and Hawai’i .

“I grew up all over the place since I was a child,” Brendan explains. “I learned to adapt to new places and cultures and through this perspective, my work as visual storyteller came to be. For the past three years I have been splitting my time between Toronto, Canada and Wailuku, Hawai’i . I lead two very different lives in both places and over the years I have been witnessing myself become a stranger in both worlds. The part of me from the city feels like a stranger in the rural setting I have in Maui and vice versa.”

Brendan’s latest scrapbook comes bursting with foliage. Not the identikit manicured plants that climb the pages of Pinterest: Brendan’s flowers are of a different, more lawless strand. “My interest in plants started in 2013 when I was developing my thesis exhibition, Aloha,” Brenda explains. “I was studying ecology of Hawai’i and using plants as a metaphor to human adaptation in the archipelago. Recently I returned to photographing ubiquitous plants in both the places I live in. When I see the image of these plants I see memory, I see life, and I long for the plant that is so far away.”

With a working title A Stranger In Two Worlds, the latest scrapbook is a meditation on rootlessness and attachment. “They are the textures of a reality in which I am removed from because of distance,” Brendan notes. “In Hawai’i there are species of plants that are found nowhere else in the world and in Ontario, the plants return to overrun the landscape in the summer. The study of ecology often is about the relationship humans have on the natural world, how we moved plants, introduced them to a place, and the process of naturalization. I remember going to an alien forest preserve in Kula and there was an illustration of an ancient Hawaiian landscape. It looked like another world with species of plants that were completely foreign to me because they were either extinct or endangered and rare to encounter. When humans started to arrive in Hawai’i, they brought with them new species of life. Over the years, especially after European contact, the ecology of the islands rapidly changed. The landscape is marked by the tale of migration.”

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds

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Brendan George Ko: A Stranger In Two Worlds