March 2020 In Dance

little seismic dance company photo by Pak Han

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manual Leica cameras. I would play with them and he would look at my pictures and go, ‘Wow. You know Han these are actu- ally good.’ That planted a seed in my head. I started to explore photography seriously from that point on, got myself a Canon DSLR, a large camera with a big lens. I started to wander around taking photos in the South Bay. I got hooked. It was a weird feeling, like grabbing a jacket off a rack and it fits perfectly. That was the feeling I got with photography.” For ten years, Han jug- gled 12-hour shifts at his day job, with 3-4 days a week devoted to photography, two full-time jobs: “I wasn’t getting any rest.” Despite being digital photographs, Han’s black and white pictures remind me of the photos I grew up with; they have a grainy feel that evokes timelessness and my father’s basement dark room: “I strive for that. I don’t like digital photos to look like digital photos.”When Han had an opportunity to go to Japan in 2008 and 2009—the first time for a Star Wars convention (he’s a huge fan), the second time to see the person he met on the first trip—he took his camera with him. He quickly started getting lost on purpose, just taking photos: “It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It was meditative. Being in that zone, just with my camera, it gave me this amazing euphoric feeling.” When he came back to California, he showed his photos to renowned Bay Area- based actor, dancer, choreographer, director Erika Chong Shuch. Shuch and Han have known each other all their lives—Han’s father introduced Shuch’s parents to each other in Korea—so they’re “like cousins.” She loved the photos and asked Han if he could take rehearsal photographs of a proj- ect she was embarking on in collaboration with Sean San Jose and Dennis Kim called Sunday Will Come at Intersection for the Arts: “I was hesitant because I felt like that wasn’t my thing. But Erika knows how to convince me. She said, ‘Hey, it’s just like street photography! You’re just going to be there and take these candid photos of us during rehearsal.’ I agreed under two condi- tions: one, complete freedom, no art direc- tion, and two, I’m shooting in black and white.” Pleased with his work, Shuch asked

Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project / photo by Pak Han

photographs, I wanted to have that collab- orative relationship. Once they are okay with that, I would work with them.” This agree- ment doesn’t necessarily guarantee a contin- uous relationship. Han needs to connect as personalities and artistically: “I have a very special relationship with just a handful of people where we can explore ideas and con- jure up imageries and visual concepts.” Han’s experiences in Japan cemented his passion for street photography. A street pho- tographer strives to remain unseen. With the help of the camera as protective barrier, a street photographer retains their anonymity. This mode of being in the world suited Han: “With street photography you’re trying to create something beautiful or interesting. But at the same time, I have to be mindful that I’m taking photos of strangers in the street. How do I do it without sacrificing art and without crossing that line of being creepy.”

him to take promotional photos, then pro- duction photos: “I had no training in pro- duction photography. When I showed up, there were people in the seats, the lights kept changing. I just remember running around everywhere with my camera, sweat coming down my forehead and getting into my eyes. I was constantly changing the settings of my camera to adjust to the lighting and the movement. When everything was over Erika and Sean asked how it went. I didn’t really know. It was a blur. I picked maybe a couple dozen shots I thought were good and gave it to them. I didn’t hear anything right away. But after a few days, they told me they loved them.” When Han is shooting a live produc- tion, he is all over the place: “Before I take a job with any theater, I explain to them that I need to get up close. Instead of cap- turing images from the point of view of the

audience, I want to capture a perspective the audience doesn’t have. And I want it to be cinematic.” Cinematic is a good word for Han’s photography, both street and perfor- mance. His photographs tell a story unfold- ing in time, in that split-second moment after he sees an interesting composition and before he presses the shutter; the photogra- pher recognizes something emergent and a whole universe of change happens in that moment. That’s why it’s not quite right to call photography a technology of capture, and why photographers like Han seem to have an uncanny way of attuning to their environment. Han has worked long time with Shuch as well as with several Bay Area theater and dance companies such as Nina Haft & Co, Paufve Dance, Anna Halprin, Crowded Fire, Dohee Lee, inkBoat, and Shotgun Players: “I didn’t want to show up and just take

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