Family, Status, and individuality in Early Korean Photography

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Korean Man and Three Girls, late 19th century, albumen print, Peabody Essex Museum



By Jiyeon Kim

Project Specialist at Peabody Essex Museum, MA


Wednesday, October 25, 2017, at 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Korean Cultural Center New York

460 Park Avenue, Floor 6, New York, NY 10022

Free admission

refreshments provided




In the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), representation of individual and social identity took limited forms and channels, mostly the official portraits of the male elite. Commoners, women, and children were only pictured in highly stereotyped manners through genre and anecdotal paintings. Photography, introduced to Korea in the late 19th century, presented one’s social and familial identity in a radically different way. This lecture will read some early photographs of Korean men, women, and children of both elite and non-elite families. Primarily collected by foreigners for the purpose of ethnographic documentation or as exotic souvenirs and novel items, these photographs unintentionally reveal the changing social and family dynamics of the late 19th century Korea. Furthermore, they ask the question of individuality, one that had rarely been addressed in Joseon traditional paintings. 



Jiyeon Kim, Project Specialist at Peabody Essex Museum, MA
Jiyeon Kim received a Ph.D. in East Asian art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her main field of research is Korean art within its East Asian context and with an emphasis on social status and artistic identity. She has also done researches on gardens as social and ideological spaces and early phases of Korean modern art market. Her recent publications include “Hundred Fans” and the Art Market of the 19th and early 20th century Korea (2017), Negotiating Modernity: Elegant Gathering by Go Huidong (1886-1966) (2016), and Kim Hongdo’s Sandalwood Garden: Self Image of a Late Chosǒn Court Painter (2013). Apart from teaching at different U.S. and Korean universities including Ewha Women’s University and Brandeis University, she has worked on several research and exhibition projects for the National Museum of Korea and the Fowler Museum at UCLA, as well as the Peabody Essex Museum, where she currently works as a project specialist of Korean art.  


AHL Foundation and Korean Cultural Center New York’s collaborative Public Lecture Series aims to provide the general public, as well as the Korean American community, with the opportunity to learn diverse theoretical perspectives on issues related to Korean art and culture and to reflect further on future interactions between Korean art and various worldwide global communities.


Organized by the AHL Foundation in collaboration with the Korean Cultural Center New York