BredaPhoto festival interview; Deasung Lee

An intriguing visual story about globalisation and disappearing cultures. Deasung Lee worked for two years on his project ‘Futuristic Archaeology’ which will be shown during It will be shown at the next edition of BredaPhoto Festival with the theme “To Infinity and Beyond”, which opens in September.

© Deasung Lee

Globalisation and climate change are big themes in your work, why is this? 

''I was born and raised in Busan, South Korea. Busan is a big harbour city which export products, produced in Korea. There used to be a lot of textile factories that manufactured clothes and shoes in the 1980's. In the 1990's they started moving to China and Vietnam but nowadays, they don’t longer exist. Besides that, I could see the price of products decline from the 1990's. The global economy is highly depending on the labour and natural resource cost in production. Factory’s move to places where labour and resources are cheap. This global economy gives a lot of impact on environment by decreasing the price of the product. We can buy and consume more with spending the same money because of this globalisation. That means we exploit and consume more natural resources and create more pollution than before. Climate change is the consequence of this mass production and consumption society that we built. I visually focus on the consequence of climate change which is the consequence of globalisation.''

© Deasung Lee

What attracted you to Mongolia?

''The most attractive matter to me is their nomadic life. It’s the oldest life style in human history before civilisation and a great result of adaptation to harsh nature. Mongolia is located 1000m above sea level. It has very hot, dry and short summers and extreme long, cold winters. These circumstances don’t allow agriculture in this area. Nomadic life is a sustainable adaptation to the environment, but the rapid change of climate makes the Mongolian nomad unable to continue their traditional life style.''  

We have a preconception nowadays on photography, living in this digital age with photoshop. I intentionally used this preconception in reversal way

Did you take the photos presented on the backdrop yourself too?

''The landscape images that are printed on the backdrop were taken at different places in Mongolia by myself. I travelled there to take these pictures and searched for landscapes that would match with these images. After that I started to imagine stories or situations between the two images, between the real landscape and the backdrop image.'' 

© Deasung Lee

I love it that you really printed the backdrops and got them in the right position in the landscape, instead of doing this in postproduction. Why did you do this and was it hard to realize that in such a remote country as Mongolia? 

''I wanted to give some visual confusion to the viewers. In fact, as you can see, it looks photoshopped, but it is all real. We have a preconception nowadays on photography, living in this digital age with photoshop. I intentionally used this preconception in reversal way. Like we used to have preconception on photography considered as reality in the past. It was physically very hard. I asked a steel workshop to make the frame for the backdrop (five by three meters) and attached a wooden panel in front of it. After that I printed the backdrop. A truck carried it around the desert for the first part and after that and I carried it myself with help from the nomads. I searched for a location that would match the backdrop image, installed it and created a story with the people and animals. Managing the animals was also a difficult part because they move around in the field, all day long. When I found a location to install the backdrop they would just disappear, so the nomads would help me sometimes. They would ride their horse and try to find the animals and bring them back into the desert. Actually, they don’t come into desert itself anymore because there is no food for them. So, we always pushed them, entering the desert and we managed to get them in front of the backdrop. Because of the short summers, I only could photograph the green grass fields less than three months a year. As a result of this, it took me six months to make 16 to 17 images in a total of two years.''

Why are you referring to a museum diorama?

''Many cultures are disappearing, and life styles are displayed in museums to illustrate the past. Ironically, many of them were destroyed during colonial time (for example; Inka and Aztec) by those who are currently preserved in the museum themselves. The best way to preserve the culture and lifestyle is preserving them naturally and alive, instead of preserving the fossils in museums. But unfortunately, the nomadic life in Mongolia will have the same destiny by climate change as the consequence of the system we built.''

BredaPhoto Festival Early Bird

Scoor snel je Early Bird ticket ! Je betaalt € 22,25 in plaats van € 44,50 en kunt dan zeven weken lang alle tentoonstellingen én het randprogramma bezoeken. Bij aankoop van een 'passe-partout onbeperkt' ontvang je bij invulling van de kortingscode BP-EARLYBIRD 50% korting op het passe-partout. 

BredaPhoto Festival is te bezoeken van 5 september tot en met 21 oktober 2018.