Tradition Meets Modernity in Korea: Fine Art Photography

Korea, Fish. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)
Korea, Fish. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Julia Fullerton-Batten is a London based photographer acclaimed for her fine art and commercial work.

In 2013, she ventured to South Korea’s capital for five days to work on a conceptual photo-series titled Korea, and the results are sublime.

A group of street-cast Korean women were styled in traditional Hanbok, and posed against Seoul’s modern city backdrop. Various props were used to convey the culture, traditions, and history — such as the political tensions between North and South Korea as shown in Tug of War.

Korea, Rope. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Rope. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Hanbok is the traditional dress of South Korea, often worn for holidays and festive events. In the past the women would wear wigs, but nowadays they wear the hair pulled back tightly held together with a pin.

The lines of the fabric are meant to hide the shape of the body, and jewelry was worn as a sign of class. Hanbok can also be plain colored fabric, and in present day Korea sometimes even used as a school uniform.

The bright colors of the Hanbok really shine out against the gray skies and the muted colors of the cityscapes. Fullerton-Batten’s shots have such a cinematic style, using a mix of natural and artificial lights.

Korea, Forest. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Forest. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

The shoot took place during South Korea’s monsoon season — which was a challenge dealing with heavy rain, and the humidity that follows. Some locations became flooded, but luckily dried out by the time shooting begun.

These photographs showcase traditions such as Tea Ceremony or Present — a tribute to Korea’s tradition of gift giving.

Korea, Present. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Present. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

The color of paper a gift is wrapped in has meaning — red and yellow are royal colors, yellow and pink express happiness, however, green is not recommended. So, the imagined concept the artist realized for Present is a gift that is wrapped in green, as the women look downward at it on the floor.

Some props contrast the traditional dress such as Badminton — which Koreans love and thrive at in international competitions. Also featured in a scene is a pastime where a woman decorates a tree known as Ikebana.

Korea, Ikebana. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Ikebana. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

The artist thoroughly explored Korea’s history acknowledging the thousands of years Korea was an independent kingdom with it’s traditional architecture, works of art, and customs. Her photo Rickshaw picks up at a time when this all begins to fall apart, depicting Korea’s unsettling occupation by Japan from 1910 to 1945.

Japan was defeated (the end of WWII), and Korea was split into two nations by 1950. A bloody war then took place with North Korea invading South Korea. Tug of War shows this struggle.

Click on Julia Fullerton-Battens website to view more of her work, or visit her agent Wyatt-Clarke & Jones for commercial work.

Korea, Badminton. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Badminton. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Tea Ceremony. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Tea Ceremony. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Birdcage. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Birdcage. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Eun-Joo Park. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Eun-Joo Park. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Chae-eun Son. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Chae-eun Son. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Ladder. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Ladder. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Monsoon. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Monsoon. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Seo Won Kim. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Seo Won Kim. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Mil Kwon. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Mil Kwon. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Rickshaw. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Rickshaw. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Harvest. (Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

Korea, Harvest. (Courtesy of Julia Fullerton-Batten)

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