Picking up the camera just four years ago, the Seoul-based photographer Pakbae, has crafted a cinematic style rich with texture within this short time frame. Garnering clients such as Elle Korea, Vogue Korea as well as several other fashion editorial platforms, Pakbae’s work feels more like documentary photography despite his commercial clients. In a recent commission for the April issue of the mens magazine Arena Homme Puls Korea, the photographer draws on his strengths, delivering a shoot that could easily pass as a series of beautiful stills from an arthouse film, rather than a fashion editorial campaign.
Pakbae’s introduction to photography came with his move to London to study the history of art. He tells It’s Nice That, “I had a dream to become a gallery curator but living abroad made me lonely and full of fear without any friends and family around.” Consequently, Pakbae found solace in photography, using it as a away to “beat the loneliness and fear” that came with living abroad in a wholly different culture.
Since then, photography has become “like painting” to Pakbae. “I put what I like in my viewfinder, similarly to how painters put their ideas on canvas”, he adds on the matter. For his most recent shoot for Arena Homme Puls Korea, Pakbae took inspiration from the storyline of the 1997 German film Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. The film follows two terminally ill patients who travel to see the sea, and appreciate its beauty, before finally succumbing to their illnesses.
Thoughtfully translating the story into a piece of editorial photography, Pakbae first simplified the story to come across more emphatically through image. Drawing out significant moments of the story that are archetypal of the classic travel tale, Pakbae’s series is evocative of friendship and discovery. In one image, the pair of travellers peruse maps on a motel bed as the warm golden light streams in through the window. In another, one of the models dances towards the sea through a field of golden reeds that move as elegantly as the outstretched figure.
In order to create such a successful shoot, Pakbae attributes the scenic focus to good communication with the magazine’s editor. “The editor (Kwanghoon Lee) and I, talked a lot about the shoot at first. We visited all the locations in person before shooting and this kind of cooperation helped me to draw out the compositions. For me, I think a good conversation about work is the most important thing to make a creative piece”, adds the photographer.
With future hopes of expanding his portfolio in documentary photography, Pakbae has recently made a book about the lives of hawkers in Marrakech. Primarily interested in telling stories of different peoples’ real lives through photography, the photographer will also continue to add these details into his fashion editorial work with panache.
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