Ahn Jun pushes self portraiture to the edge

Korean photographer says vertiginous shots speak to the future of our cities - if you're acrophobic look away now
Share
Self portrait (2011) by Ahn Jun
Self portrait (2011) by Ahn Jun

The South Korean photographer Ahn Jun has got to know a skyscraper or two over the past few years. She has spent some time in New York, studying at Parsons art and design school, and she's now in Seoul at Hongik University, taking a Ph.D in photography. Indeed, she's so comfortable with tower blocks that she's taken to climbing to the tops of them just to photograph herself standing on the buildings' outermost edges. As she is at great pains to point out the photos are not digitally composed which, if you are at all acrophobic, might make you feel a little uneasy.

 

Ahn Jun triptych
Ahn Jun triptych

Ahn has been taking her daring self-portraits on the ledges of some of the tallest buildings in Seoul, New York and Hong Kong for the last five years. Only using a harness in some of the photographs, Ahn says that her photographs are not about being fearless.

"Recently, some media described me as a 'fearless artist,' but I'm really not that and this work is not about that," she tells ArtInfo. "I really have a fear and this is about that fear and how the photography medium subverts the context of the fear."

 

Self portrait (2011) by Ahn Jun
Self portrait (2011) by Ahn Jun

Pushing herself to the limit Ahn sets her camera on a tripod to fire shots every second until her memory card runs out. During that time she steps ever and ever closer to the edge of the building in order to achieve her seemingly vertigo-defying final image.

"It's the very short moment that cannot be perceived by the naked eye," Ahn explains. "I normally get a thousand pictures. It's almost like a video of slow and boring movement. It shows clearly I am in the fear, but one or two photos really subvert the context and show like I am peaceful or aggressive."

 

Self portrait (2012) by Ahn Jun
Self portrait (2012) by Ahn Jun

Ahn, who has shown her work all over Europe, America and East Asia including Tokyo, Taipei, Zurich and St. Petersburg, says that the void she is stepping into represents the present moment and the cities beyond her skyscrapers is the future.

"The edge is a kind of psychological symbol for me," Ahn adds. "When I am looking at the skyline, I can see it, but I cannot capture it. It is like a fantasy for the future. We think it's in front of us, but actually it's not. So I think the present is one very short instant between the future and the past. So basically all of us are living on the edge of something, between life and death and between the ideal and the reality."

 

Self portrait (2008) by Ahn Jun
Self portrait (2008) by Ahn Jun

Find out more about her work here. For greater insight into art at the extremities, take a look at our Wild Art book. For more on the contemporary urban experience, take a look at our book, Living in The Endless City, An in-depth and multidisciplinary examination of our rapidly urbanizing world. Buy them from the people who made them, here.


You May Also Like


Related





ABOUT PHAIDON

Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
Read more