It has been so long since I met an actor that seems to have some kind of lingering aura from his presence. No, I better said I met a normal person instead. To be frankly, Yeon Jung Hoon is a type of man who has the ability to express himself so refinedly and yet he still a cool-minded person at heart. The glorious sunshine of Saturday’s May made the meeting with him more fun.
At a gallery in Chungmuro, Seoul; the ‘camera district’ of Korea, there was the place where I met Yeon Jung Hoon (35). His 18 black-and-white or sepia toned photo-pieces were exhibited in the low-light gallery. And the neatly dressed Yeon Jung Hoon had a playful expression on his face. Seeing this, a reporter who wanted to joke with him asked “What the hell are you doing here?” and he simply replied “I heard that a very talented photographer just opened his first exhibition so I came here to play,” tried to play along with the tease. With such appropriate wit, it was definitely a good start for the meeting.
Yeon Jung Hoon’s behaviour towards the reporters on that day was a little bit cheeky. While coming to the place where the interview took place and Yeon Jung Hoon wasn’t arrived there yet, I thought maybe I could feel the scarcity effect of his ‘absence’. A sense of alienation, a sense of inferiority complex that intensely growing and I considered that Yeon Jung Hoon seemed to be a very ‘distant’ man. Instead, he’s always in easy going, confident and buoyant mood. Reporters with negative attitude concluded that the positive energy coming from someone who hasn’t experience failure like him because of the ‘special privilege’ that he has. But he taught me that there is actually a difference between a person who just simply rich and a person who truly enjoys his life. And as expected, he is the latter.
~Yeon Jung Hoon, becomes a photgrapher~
It has been for a long time now since many men look at Yeon Jung Hoon with jealous eyes. A man like him who enjoys life and certainly has financial power as well as a pretty wife beside him could be envied by others. Plus, with his love for cars and fondness to travel, he is said to be free from emotional baggage.
For this time around I heard he starts to have passion for camera and decides to add angles to his artistic ability. I asked him whether people will pour out jealousy through their eyes once again when he suddenly involves with camera photography. “Photography is the thing that I’m interested with and want to do the most right now,” Yeon Jung Hoon came up with a simple answer.
Q: The title of this exhibition ‘As it, hence…’, please tell the meaning of it.
The theme of this photo exhibition is landscape and scenery. I took pictures of closed building or the ones that have been worn-out by nature. A closed door of a factory located in a secluded mountain village in Kangwondo for example or an old lighthouse that lights up the sea that can make people’s mind more humble and calm. That kind of feeling is very appealing to me. I have prepared for this exhibition from last winter. Personally this is a time when I be more matured in life. It is splendid but now looking at the pictures of closed building that I took, it makes me keep looking back to the time when I was in my twenties (20s). I have prepared for this exhibition with a hope in mind that my photo pieces would serve an opportunity for not only me but other people as well to look back calmly at our past. To capture this feeling, I’ve processed the pictures to be either in black-and-white or sepia toned, in a way that they can make us recall the finiteness of human rather than dreaming about bright future. It is called mid-30s, is that it? I guess I’m getting older too.
Q: There are a lot of people who likes to take pictures but not all want to hold an exhibition. Is there a reason to open this exhibition? Is it because of your passion for photography has grown that much?
I like to look at pictures as much as I like to take pictures. Somehow, the more I look at the pictures, I feel like I’m experiencing a sense development. Along the way, I found a wonderful world on the internet. There are so many amateur photographers posting their pictures on the internet. Those pictures are just as good as the picture taken by a professional photographer. Looking at their pictures, I thought it’s a shame that the pictures can only be seen on the internet. It would be good if such great pictures can be shared with more people. Unfortunately, these people didn’t think much about opening an exhibition. I’m the first one to have the nerves to do it (laughed). ‘Look, it can be done!’ Something like this. I hope that my exhibition will be a good precedent for them.
Q: Have you thought to take pictures with scenery concept too in the future?
I’m attracted to this kind of concept more than the portrait photography. It is good that this era of time that we’re living, filled with pictures of people but I am interested in pictures that emphasize more on the visual part. In the future, I would like to work on the abstract concept of fine art and focusing on similar photo concept. I’m still on the practising stage right now.
Q: Landscape photography is a long-wait task and involves lots of leg-work as well.
I always carry a camera with me in daily life to take pictures. Of course, sometimes I do schedule a separate travel itinerary for taking picture purposes. Within this country, I frequently go to Kangwon-do and Jeju island to search for places that offers good scenery. Do you see that picture over there (pointing at a picture). It’s a picture of black sea and a small light house that can be seen in the far distance. There is a speck of light in that picture isn’t it? But actually, it’s not the light coming from the lighthouse. I’m the one who made it myself. To take pictures in the middle of the night, I bought a flashlight at a nearby store. The picture was taken with the ray of light illuminated all over the place from the flashlight. Although landscape photography is a long-wait process and requires a lot of leg-work but it is a great fun to me since I can give my own variations to it.
Q: Do you have any particular place that you desired to go? Place that you want to go back to and take pictures?
Spain. I went to Valencia, Spain to attend for Ferrari annual event ‘Ferrari’s Final’. The sky was so perfect but it was the day when I forgot that I left my camera at the hotel. Thick puffy clouds were floating on the high sky that day. It was such clouds that make you feel good. Since I left my camera and unavoidably I just took pictures using a mobile phone. See this. (Yeon Jung Hoon showed a video with picture of the sky that resembles Rene Magritte paintings. The air was clear, the sky was deep blue and the clouds gave you a ‘teenage girl-ish’ feeling; pure and fresh.) It was so incredible right? I’m shooting a drama currently. After I finish shooting the drama, I want to go back there again.
~ Car racing vs Camera ~
He is also known as a sports enthusiast. When the name ‘Yeon Jung Hoon’ comes up, people will recognize his association with car racing first rather than the masterpiece of his acting. Yeon Jung Hoon; a man who has wealth and enjoys car racing with his advanced driving skills. That’s how it is. Then a stupid question came up spontaneously. Between car racing and camera, which hobby do you like more? Even though it’s a ‘Do you like mom more or do you like dad more?’ type of question; a simple but has obvious answer (I like both) kind of question, but still I was just curious.
Q: I thought you only enjoy car racing and water sports but I was surprised knowing that you enjoy photography too.
The real opportunity was XTM cable channel program ‘Top Gear Season 2’. It is a program that validates the performance of cars but because I like car racing, I decided to take the MC position for the program. At that time the co-MC were Jo Min Ki sunbaenim and Kim Jin Pyo. Somehow I could easily befriend with someone who has mutual interest in cars. When three men who like machinery gathered, we developed a ‘hyped-up’ atmosphere with each other. Our get-together time became longer because various of topics came up when we caught sight of each other. And one of the topic is photography. As you know, those two people are also well-known as photographer. Jo Min Ki sunbaenim even running a studio at Cheongdamdong. For both of them, photography is beyond just-a-mere hobby. Thanks to them, my passion for photography that had been put on hold for quite some times could be revived back once again.
Q: What do you mean by ‘once again’? Didn’t you enjoy taking pictures before this too?
I did lots of art studies when I was a child. I majored in industrial design at college. In industrial design, not only the design part that is important, but even how the designed product is going to be showed is a serious deal that shouldn’t be taken lightly. So, the important part here is the picture of the product. Depending on the angle and the light, the image of the product will be completely different. In some projects (referring to his college projects), I took the picture of the products myself.
Q: Car racing and camera. What kind of charm that each has respectively?
It is difficult to explain it briefly. (His eyes grew bigger and lit up suddenly). Car racing is a very attractive field. Usually when car racing subject comes out, people will connect it with explosive speed first but the truth is, speed is just a portion of what car racing is all about. The required qualities to be a car racer is actually having a great composure. The triumph feeling when you managed to outpace the car in front of you while running the car for several hundreds kilometer per hours and maintaining your composure at the same time is inexpressible. It’s not my goal to win. In a game, if I can outpace even only one car, I still think that it is a succeed. In my ‘phsycological warfare’, I still didn’t know if I able to outpace even if there was only a car ahead of me. For example, if there is a following car that tailgates another car and the driver of the other car will start to feel tense. At any moment, if the tailgating car manage to advance ahead, the perplexed driver of the other car might leave the track. This could happen because the driver is just completely defeated in the ‘phsycological warfare’ with the driver of the tailgating car. Although car performance and wheel’s movement is important but the top priority is to calm yourself while maintaining your concentration in the actual racing game. I enjoy experiencing the composure and ‘physcological warfare’ given by the racing game. I guess different hobby gives different kind of enjoyment. To me photography is a medium to capture and document every fun moment in my everyday life.
~ Another Controversy Surfaced ~
There’s a rumour circulating around about the pictures taken by Yeon Jung Hoon. Some people say that he pays attention more to his camera rather than the photos he took. The H-system medium format digital camera that he owns is a well-known Swedish brand camera (Hasselblad) which even its cheapest model costs around 40 million won. There are various of comments posted on related articles about it and several of them are malicious comments.
Q: If it’s you ‘Yeon Jung Hoon’, even fine men will lose their cool and gushingly make personal remarks against you. (There is even a joke about him stating that he is one of the 3 thieves in Korea; (1)Yeon Jung Hoon [Han Ga In’s man], (2)Rain [Kim Tae Hee’s man] and (3)Soy sauce marinated crab [Koreans called certain side dishes as ‘rice thieves’ because they’re so good you can’t stop getting more bowls of rice. Soy sauce marinated crabs are one of them]. But this time around is about camera. There was also such malicious comment saying ‘if it’s such a really great camera, no matter whoever use it, the pictures produced will be great photo-pieces too’ am I right?
Yes, I have seen the comments. It’s a little uncomfortable subject for me. Those people talked about camera not picture, and also they even focused on the price rather than the camera’s performance. Truthfully, it’s expensive (smile). But the camera has so many great benefits. The benefits that cannot be ignored and looked down upon. More than anything, I have make sure that it is well-suited for landscape photography and even if I do some post-production work, the pictures wouldn’t get distorted. Instead, it makes the pictures rather more glowing. Last time I’ve used a different camera. Somehow, I think the camera that I’m using currently is very well-suited for me. The 18 photo-pieces that are displayed here in this exhibition are the photos that I took with the same camera. But of course, it also has disadvantages due to the fact that it is an extremely heavy camera.
Q: Have you take pictures of your wife with such a great camera?
Of course I took my wife’s pictures with it. I want to capture her every moment but my wife is an actress. I cannot just willy nilly take her pictures like that. Personally, she is prettier without make-up but I like taking pictures when she has make-up on her face. I’ve received so many questions from people asking me why I didn’t display the pictures of my wife that I took in this exhibition. There are no plans to do so yet. The captured couple photos are intended for a collection of personal memories. Besides, didn’t the picture of our trip to Hong Kong last time has already uploaded on my wife’s fancafe.
~ My wife gives approval for the first time ~
This couple’s marriage life is tough. They seldomly make public appearance together and refrain to comment on each other as much as possible in interviews with media and thus indirectly grows more people’s suspicions about their marriage. Nonetheless, this couple still keep trying to protect their private life from the public. However, it’s a fact that the private life of top star couple will always being the subject of public’s curiosity.
Q: How did Han Ga In react to her husband’s new hobby?
Photography is the only hobby that my wife supports. Maybe she didn’t like my other hobbies in water sports and car racing due the fact that there is a risk of getting injured. At first, she asked me to rethink about it and because she couldn’t stop me from doing it then, she had no choice but to give up and say “Ok whatever, just go ahead.” (Smile) But this time, she really likes with my new hobby. I think maybe because it is related to my degree major, she seems to give more supports to it. Basically, liking photography is like I’m enjoying and respects cultural-related things in some ways and she feels more at ease about it.
Q: It’s great if a couple spends time together by doing a certain hobby. When you were photographing, did you do it together with Han Ga In?
For an artist, some degree of solitude is needed right?(Laugh). I mostly took pictures in everyday life but there were times that I went to other regions within the country or even abroad. I went off to those places with my wife sometimes. If we went abroad, my wife did take some pictures on her own. We also took pictures of each other.
Q: Both of you are actor and share same profession. What kind of topic that you talk to each other regarding your work?
The area that we focused is a little different. I tend to concern about the impression of a particular drama or that kind of circumstances but in contrast, my wife really cares a lot about whether her acting isn’t as equally good as her visual (Laugh), or the hairstyle doesn’t seem to go with the role or her face looks bloated, that kind of things.
Yeon Jung Hoon said hobby can release stress and one of the ways to create a happy life. Wanting to do a lot of happy things, he hinted that he has prepared another event around the end of the year.
~ Together with family on the exhibition’s opening ceremony ~
The opening ceremony began around 3pm on last 4th May. Before the opening ceremony, the gallery was already crowded with people. One of the first guests arrived was Yeon Jung Hoon’s parents. His father; actor Yeon Kyu Jin and his mother appeared just in time when the opening ceremony began. As soon as his mother stepped in, Yeon Jung Hoon became as if he was a boy once again. From the look of Yeon Jung Hoon who smiled brightly and ran to hug his mother, a glimpse of a strong family affection could be seen. Unlike the mother who held her son’s hands and had a chat with him, the father was silently browsing the photos right after he entered the gallery. A taciturn father and a loving mother, it’s just an image of a typical family.
Later, Han Ji Jye and Hong Seok Cheon, Kim Hyung Joon of SS501 and other close celebrity friends of Yeon Jung Hoon arrived one after another. Han Ga In who arrived later than expected, attended her parents-in-law and gave a reliable wifely assistance to support her husband.
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