Korean funerary photo-portraiture: Vernacular photographic practice as parallax

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This essay challenges an established understanding of photography in the West through a vernacular photographic practice in Korea. Funerary photo-portraiture in Korea collapses the dichotomy of cult value and exhibition value which Walter Benjamin establishes via photography in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". It also contests the Barthean notion of photography as a memento mori as well as the Freudian approach to the portrait photograph of the dead as a fetish. Korean funerary photoportraiture demonstrates how vernacular photography interweaves personal memory and historical memory, functioning as a reminder of presence rather than absence. A different notion of death underlies how funerary photo-portraiture functions in Korea. In this essay, I attempt to investigate how one can explicate the Other’s experience, suggesting a selfreflexive methodology and Kojin Karatani’s concept of "parallax".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-20
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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