99 Variations

“I brought a key (the camera), opened the door to the secret passage (the mirror), woke up my mythical archetypes, and lured them out into the world.”

I looked into the mirror, photographed myself, and created new images through my imagination. In other words, the mirror became the space where I transformed into both the director and the actor on stage. Dancing, and at the same time photographing myself. My daydreaming started to transform my talent into magic, which allowed infinite metamorphoses. “I” became expanded into “I”s ever more numerous, and then I went someplace that I will call the “imaginative realm.”

I found 99 other “me”s. 99 is a theoretical number that denotes myself as a whole to be 100 minus one — my present self.

During the process, I discovered androgyny (male and female in one body) hidden in myself. Heroic, warrior-like, aggressive, subjective, godly images were classified into “male images”. Human, mythical, artificial, passive, inclusive, objective images were classified into “female images”. The remaining images were classified as “composite images” — neither god nor human, a mediating entity like a spirit or a fairy. All co-exist and are interrelated.

I am calling my work method “image-telling” — a new genre. It embraces “storytelling” but it is separate at the same time. I believe that “image-telling” can go beyond storytelling, which is based upon linguistic imagination. Image-telling is the same as presenting spectators with the tools for imagination — a new musical instrument — instead of giving them an already completed narrative.

Therefore, there cannot be a fixed story in image-telling. It provides an opportunity for daydreaming and it opens the door to the imagination. For that reason, I decided to use the word “variation” in the title of my work. Variety and subjectivity are central to my conception of image-telling.

After about 99 images, I will walk back along the road that I have traveled up to this point and rethink the power of the imagination, the meaning of the images, and their relationship to myself.

— Youngho Kang


Editor's Note: We discovered  Youngho Kang's work at LensCulture Fotofest 2013. Along with the still images above, you can enjoy (and learn a lot from) the behind-the-scenes video of this project: