March 2020 In Dance

IN PRACTICE: Photographer Pak Han

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Photos by Pak Han

MY FATHER IS A PHOTOGRAPHER, and growing up, whenever I was minding my own busi- ness, doing my homework or vaccinating my stuffed animals, my father would sneak up to me and say, “Si-i-maaaa…” I’d look up to face a cyclopean cyborg, a phantom of the opera, half human, half Leica. And before I could turn away, click! I fell for it every time. Annoying as this quickly became, I loved growing up surrounded by photographs—of family in Brooklyn and Moldova, of trav- els to Europe and Asia, and, above all, of an ever-changing New York City. My father’s street photographs of New York, spanning the period between the 1960s and today, chronicle a rapidly shifting landscape, from the visually stunning, filthy chaos of Times Square to its current state of Disneyfica- tion, from seated subway passengers hidden behind crumpled broadsheet newspapers to straphangers staring into cell phones, necks bent at unnatural angles. But what most draws me to my father’s street photographs is the way they reflect the movement composition of everyday life. The photographs are candid but rather than seeming to freeze a moment in time, they reveal the viscosity of time itself. Our real- ity is a shared stretchiness, so even if the woman smoking a cigarette in black pumps is unaware of the woman approaching from around the corner, also in black pumps, they nevertheless existed together in a choreogra- phy developing in real time. My dad’s street photographs capture the intercorporeality at the core of our daily lives. This is probably why I’m so attracted to Pak Han’s dance photography—it looks like street photography, which makes sense considering that Han sees himself as funda- mentally a street photographer. Unlike the studio photographs of someone like Lois Greenfield, frozen moments of virtuosity pulled from the context of actual dancing, Han joins the dancer “on the street” to find real-time bodily transactions that tell a story that runs parallel to the dances themselves. Han’s dance photographs have the feeling of being with the world in motion, a process of unconcealment rather than capture. (Yes, I’m being footloose and fancy free with Hei- degger here, but since I’m more of an expert on Footloose than Unverborgenheit , that will be my last reference to the philosopher of being and time.)

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Photo by Robert Belmar Occupancy Spring 1961

Han was born in Korea and spent his early childhood in Osan, a small town on the outskirts of Seoul. His father was an expres- sionist painter and Han grew up surrounded by art: “My father was painting every day. We lived in a house with a studio on the first floor. Ever since I was little I doodled and I painted. My father taught me how to draw perfect circles and shapes. It was just an everyday activity. Growing up I thought art was going to be my primary occupation and I was going to paint for the rest of my life.” But things changed when Han’s family immi- grated to the United States in 1977 after his father fell in love with the US after a one- year teaching gig in Oregon five years prior: “Compared to Korea, there was so much more freedom here as far as creativity and expressing yourself. But taste in art is very different in Korea and the US. My father was relatively successful in Korea but once we immigrated he wasn’t getting the same kind of success. So our family started strug- gling. My mother started working full time. My father got into the antique business to make money. But he was a horrible business- man. He would open up an antique shop in a location where they don’t have people walk- ing around looking for antiques. I would help out in the shop and we would go to antique shows together. That’s when I started to think, wait a minute, do I want to be an

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Han didn’t immediately develop a passion for the one-eyed time machine.


artist? Throughout my teenage years I was in conflict because I felt like art was what I was meant to do but at the same time I sought a steady paycheck.” So, before graduating from college, Han found steady work with a steady paycheck outside the art field. But he didn’t give up the life of an artist: “I was looking to become an illustrator. I thought about conceptual design for films or television. The job gave me the stability I didn’t experience growing up but there was no creativity in it. In my spare time, I continued to draw and paint. It wasn’t a dream profession, but I did the best I could to have a comfortable life. I started working at age 21 and retired at age 50. I’m 51 now.” Han didn’t want to go into the details of the career he had for 29 years—he has worked hard to keep that life and his artistic endeavors separate. Though his father had given him a Canon AE-1 camera when he turned 18, Han didn’t immediately develop a passion for the one- eyed time machine. Then, in 2007, a photog- rapher friend encouraged him to join him in his practice: “My friend had a couple of


Photographer Pak Han by Sima Belmar

6 / Hiring and Working with a Photographer by Kegan Marling 7 / The Draw(back) of

Awarding Achievement by Bhumi Patel

8 / March Performance Calendar 12 / RAWdance Does a Triple Take by Sarah Chenoweth 14 / Kathak’s Rhythmic Journey of Emotion by Mina Rios 16 / Diamano Coura Celebrates 45 Years by Aries Jordan


in dance MAR 2020

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