Yunghi Kim

I’m rather surprised – and slightly ashamed – to find that I’ve never mentioned Yunghi Kim in my posts on this site. I’ve been aware of her work as a photographer for a long time, with some powerful images from Rwanda and Kosovo and in particular her remarkable 1996 project on ‘Comfort Women‘, Korean women then grandmothers in their 70s who had been tricked by the Japanese Army and forced to become sex slaves serving Japanese soldiers. Perhaps my only excuse is that these stories – which you can see on her web site – were made before I began seriously writing about photography for a living, but not long enough before to have become a part of photographic history.

Of course Kim has continued to produce great photography, working through Contact Press Images, and winning various awards. Her pictures on her site as ‘Protest in America 2011 & 2012‘ include some of the strongest images of the Occupy movement, and in a very different mood is her highly original and inventive series ‘Coney Island Winter’, also in black and white. It’s great work to see her work and feel how exciting black and white can be, when with so many other photographers now black and white seems more simply just a fashionable ‘look’.

I’ve also come across Kim through being a member of the Facebook group she began and runs, The Photojournalist’s Cooperative,  with its mission “to give freelance photographers a platform where they will exchange ideas and help each other maintain high standards as they navigate the dramatically changing business of photography in the areas of: image licensing, contracts and copyright protection.”  She set up the group after realising the huge extent of unauthorised use of her images on the web, wanting to find out more about how to protect her work and to share what she found with other photographers. Last month she took that sharing to a further stage, giving $10,000 from the fees she has recovered from unauthorized usage to create ten $1,000 grants for members of her Facebook group, who have until next Tuesday (Dec 20, 2015) to make submissions.

Many photographers I know are also members of the group, and it was a post from one of them, Ami Vitale, on my newsfeed today which prompted this short note. It read simply: “Yunghi Kim is a huge inspiration!” and linked to a profile of her on AI-AP (American Illustration-American Photograph) which gives all the information about her that I’ve left out here.  Ami, you are an inspiration too!

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