Korea Caught in Time by Terry Bennett

Imprint: Garnet
Authors: Terry Bennett
Co-editors: Martin Uden
ISBN: 9781859642214
Binding: Paperback
Publication Date: June 2011

East Asian photography historian Terry Bennett blesses us with a paperback reprint of his woefully rare 1998 hardcover photo journal Korea: Caught in Time. A satisfying serving of some the earliest surviving prints on Korea, Bennett graciously but briefly narrates some of the stories behind the photos from his impressive private collection. Featuring a concise and informative introduction by former British Ambassador to Korea Martin Uden, this excellent compilation is one of the few of its kind. In addition to the varied subjects and locations included from the author's collection, this photo book is also sparingly padded with various prints from other public and private collections that span from the 1870s to the early 1900s.

The book begins with a contextual background on Korea's international state of affairs prior to the introduction of the camera by foreigners. The meat of the book, though, is but only sprinkled with relevant background knowledge and instead favors a photographic exposé approach. This contrasts the compendium storytelling of Donald Clark's Missionary Photography in Korea or even John Rich's jaw-droppingly stunning Korean War in Color. Bennett's collection is more fundamental than these other photo journals; it tells what little remains of the earliest photographs of Korea. According to Bennett, pickings were slim for the time: "It is no exaggeration to say [...] that for every one Korean print dating from the 1880s, I would expect to see 500 Japanese prints. That ratio for the 1870s would be worse, and 1860s Korean prints may be non-existent." (p.18). Considering the scarcity of surviving photos, urban myths, general public misunderstanding about the photographic process, and the prevalence of non-Korean photographers, it's a wonder how Bennett was even able to accumulate the collection we have here.

Bennett's extensive knowledge of photography in Japan, China and Korea coalesce in this generous collection. It's definitively niche, but it's good niche; it's a historically significant collection that deserves to be printed. My only gripe is that it's only 144 pages and can be effortlessly finished in a single sitting. True to form, though, there are several prints that the reader will not only stare at, but also come back to admire; characteristics of a good collection, indeed. For those with an interest in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Korea, this book is worth the price of admission.

Author: Dr Jon Carter Covell, Published by: Weatherhill
Specifications: 122pp. 18x24cm. 35 color plates. 196 b/w plates. hardcover.

page from Jon Carter Covell's Korea's Cultural Roots (1980, Hollym), showing a small part of a painting that she photographed at the Emille Museum. It is still a wonderful book that was my own introduction to this motif, and in general my initial inspiration for all these years of studying traditional Korean spiritual culture.

This is a book for anyone fascinated with Asian culture. Dr. Jon Carter Covell, Japanese and Korean art history scholar, makes you enjoy the book and be unfamiliar with the Korean culture. The book is divided into three parts: Shaman Roots, Buddhist Roots, and Neo-Confucian Roots. The headings may sound academic, but the subjects are very interesting and written for the layman.

Shaman Roots will be intriguing. It explained the history and significance of the Korean reindeer with the golden antlers, also known as the famous Silla golden crown. You will be also interested by the chapter on long life goals - the Koreans have ten symbols of longevity. Korea's set of longevity symbols are more numerous and somewhat different from China's and Japan's and elicit much attention in Korean art. Included are separate chapters on evil-repelling symbols, good luck symbols, and special spirits.

Korean Impact On Japanese Culture
Publisher: Hollym International Corporation
Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.2 x 0.5 inches

This book probes into subjects still frowned upon in Tokyo; it explores a few "skeletons in the imperial closet." A half century ago this subject brought authors to prison or death. Using tools such as archeology, stylistic analysis, Japan's sacred scriptures themselves, its imperial line is here traced back to Korean origins, its legitimacy established by an iron sword from Paekche kept inaccessible at Iso-no-Kami) with a gold inscription, which dates Japan's founding ruler from 369 A.D., rather than orthodoxy's 660 B.C.

"Japanese culture," up to the eighth century, derived primarily from Korea--whether it was music, landscape gardening, textiles, ceramics, or major masterpieces of architecture, sculpture, and painting. Top "National Treasures" of Japan either came from Korea or were sponsored by Korean-descended aristocrats, such as the famed Shotoku Taishi, who imported artists and Buddhist priests to the islands.

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BLINK MAGAZINEb issue 15 back august 2012

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