Artist Cho Gi Seok’s Exhibition “Coexistence” Speaks to Both Sides of His Personality

A collage of photographs by Cho Gi-Seok.
Photographs by Cho Gi-Seok. Collage by W magazine.

Welcome to Ways of Seeing, an interview series that highlights emerging talents in the field of photography and film, working behind the camera. In this week’s edition, Senior Content Editor Michael Beckert chats with photographer Cho Gi Seok about his new show up at Fotografiska in New York City, and how he first got into photography.

How did your career start? Were you always doing photography or did you start off doing something else?

I have always wanted to be an artist since I was very young because I love to draw. But I started [my career] as an art director and focused on set designing. In 2016, I made my own clothing brand, Kusikohc, and took photos to create the look book.

When did you switch to doing photography full-time?

As I was making the look book, I began to figure out what images I wanted to capture and became more interested in photography. I am still a creative director for my brand, but I have begun to focus on photography more and more now.

© Cho Gi-Seok, Nostalgia #2 2020. Photograph courtesy of Cho Gi-Seok.

What was the original inspiration behind your exhibition “Co-existence”?

As a young boy, I always wondered why I became quiet at home, when I was not near my friends. I questioned who I truly was. Growing up, I realized that I just happen to have two very different sides of myself—and such a contrast is very interesting. Then, I noticed how we are very different yet similar at the same time and that’s when I explored the idea of “coexistence.” I have always loved flowers and nature since I was young because of my mother. And I find them interesting because they are beautiful just as they are, so I wanted to go even deeper into the subject by deconstructing them and deforming the figures. Flowers and humans may seem like two different species, but I still see that they are paralleled in certain ways.

When you’re looking back at your older work, do you see things you’d want to change now?

I would put more narrative into my work so there are more stories that correspond to the images.

Of all the pictures currently on display at New York’s Fotografiska, which is your favorite? Why?

I say all of the Flower Series because I’ve been doing the work and developing them for a long time.

© Cho Gi-Seok, Flower Study #7 2019. Photograph courtesy of Cho Gi-Seok.

Your photography practice seems very intimate and thoughtful. I wonder what it has been like to start collaborating with outside fashion brands and editorial publications.

I think I had a bit of trouble in the beginning; but now, I approach all projects as if they’re my own personal works. Before, I would separate fashion, but now I am trying to incorporate fashion into personal boundaries and figure out the way to balance both.

This past year, you released a Matrix-inspired photoshoot, which I absolutely loved. Can you tell me a bit about making that series of images?

I was inspired by the movie and decided to turn some of the film’s key scenes in a more fashionable manner. It was my attempt to reinterpret the movie.

Do you look at other artists for inspiration?

I’ve always been inspired by everything and everyone around me that I could relate myself to. I get inspired by all other artists—literally, I look at all artworks, from classic to modern. These days, I am into Surrealism.

Of everything you’ve accomplished in your journey as an artist so far, what are you most proud of?

I would have to say the cover of Vogue Italia, because I grew up seeing so many works done by the magazine and the fact that my work is finally there was a big accomplishment.