The metamorphic alchemy of the camera and mirror – “99 Variations”
By The Dancing Photographer Kang Youngho
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 am both
the director and the actor on stage. Looking into the mirror, dancing, and at the
same time photographing myself, daydreaming started to transform my talent
into magic, which allowed infinite metamorphoses. All that was important
at this point was their ‘relationship’ as well as not losing the link between ‘my
present self’ and the ‘mirror-reflected me,’ or not desiring the position of the
subject but giving up the self in the midst of relationship. Then I started to meet
my third self. ‘I’ became expanded into ‘I’s,’ ever more numerous, and then
I went someplace that I will call the “imaginative realm.”
I found about 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 that there was androgyny (male and female in
one body, mutant) hidden in myself. Heroic, warrior-like, aggressive, subjective,
godly images were classified into ‘male images,’ while human, mythical,
artificial, passive, inclusive, objective images were classified into ‘female images.’
The remaining images were classified into ‘composite images’—neither god
nor human, a mediating entity like a spirit or a fairy. They co-exist and are
Shown so far, fragmented self-images—which also can be numerous Others—
maintain the relationship of looking at one another through the camera
and the mirror even though they might seem scattered. Such a relationship
has a certain order and structure. So, I am calling my work method “imagetelling”—
a new genre. It is separate from and embraces “storytelling” 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, something close to a new musical instrument, instead of already
completed music or a story. Therefore, there can be no fixed story in imagetelling.
It provides an opportunity for daydreaming and opens the door to the
imagination. For that reason, for the title of my work, I decided to use the word
“variation,” which is an important characteristic of the 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.