People to People

Chambers had the opportunity to collaborate with Choi Ok-soo, a South Korean documentary photographer, by putting together a two-person show, "People to People" for the Kumho Art Center, Gwangju, South Korea. This was the first time in Gwangju for a Korean and American photographer to come together to offer an East/West perspective on the Korean People and Culture. The project resides as part of the center's Permanent Collection.

Chambers' photo sessions are staged in the sense that the subjects are posed in relation to their surroundings. A 20mm lens (extreme wide angle) is used to "condense" the view, and show the backdrop/background. The subjects' posture and expression come across as natural, but their "look" is manipulated through constant encouragement. They're not smiling, and in Chambers' opinion, a documentary portrait should not include this kind of expression. As soon as a subject smiles for the camera, he or she breaks character. This action dilutes the nature of the image, and it becomes nothing more than a standard studio portrait.

Media coverage: "An American Called Tom Has Photo Exhibition In Korea", Kumho Culture Monthly, May, 1997: "Tom R. Chambers' thirty-third exhibition is currently being held at the Kumho Art Center in Gwangju. The title of the show is "People To People", and it takes a look at the Korean people through documentary portraits. His photographs are combined with those of a Korean photographer, Choi Ok-soo, to offer a Western/Eastern perspective of documentation.

Mr. Chambers said that photographs are made from different viewpoints, and these viewpoints represent the respective photographer's feelings about reality. And he continued by saying that his images project these feelings and make others aware of their own reality. Mr. Chambers spoke slowly and articulately during the interview for this story. He wanted to make sure that he was understood. He said that his way of speaking had become a habit since residing in Korea.

This month is very special for him because of his current exhibition and his recent marriage to a Korean woman. At the age of fifty, he decided to say adieu to single life, and got married to Cho Eun-mi at Hyangkyo in Gwangju. He had a Traditional Korean Wedding Ceremony, and Choi Ok-soo documented the event. Three of those photographs are a part of "People To People".

Mr. Chambers continued to talk about his photographic style by saying that he makes photographs only in black-and-white, because color detracts from subject content. His works in this exhibition focus on harmony between a human being and his/her environment. He documents people just as they are, naturally and truthfully." (Yoon Jeong-mi, Reporter; translation by Kim Hye-Kyung)



"People To People" (two-person show), Kumho Art Center, Gwangju, South Korea (accepted as a part of the Kumho Art Foundation Archives), 1997.

Chambers and Choi Ok-soo are seen with a monk at a temple (Jeungsimsa; Mugaksa; Wonhyosa) near Gwangju, South Korea where they made several photographs for the "People to People" project: