"Photos should tell true stories"


An irregular portrait of an artist photographer:

Cho Daeyeon

// 11 May, 2016 //

We people may be different  but all of us have some picture of other nations and countries, even if those are on the far edge of the Earth. Thanks to the latest technical achievments, modern media provides us with its digital photos and the most updated information in two seconds wherever we are. But are you sure you see the truth? Far from it. And the reason is simple: the mass media will never be able to transfer the real essence of things, since it can be fed by human soul and emotions only.  The true ’transmitter’ can only be a human being who is capable to love, worry and feel pain or joy for his own land and people. He is called: „photographer”. 


Cho Daeyeon photographer was born in 1962, finished his studies in photography and multimedia at the Korean Chungan University, then at Ohio University in the United States. Now he lives and works in the slower-living, provincial southern part of Korea where ancient traditions are still make part of the every day life. He is open, a man of calm gestures and smiling eyes.  

* Could you please recall the most decisive stations of your career?

Perhaps the years of the students life at the universities, then the time that I spent as a photo reporter with a daily newspaper. The next mark was my first exhibition in Seoul in 1998 at the „Ecology Photography Exhibit”. Then comes the first international stage in Berlin at the exhibition called „Seoul”. That was really a big success. But one day came the desire to live a more peaceful, much slower, old-Korean-style life, so I moved to the real southern part of my country. My Seomjin-gang and Sae-mangeum photo series were already born there in which I’ve tried to tell the story of a fanciful, a kind of isolated, yet very sincere and pure world’s culture and life. 


* What was you experience of the American interpretation of photography? Is it very much different from the Koraen school?

It differs a lot from the Koraen approach and even from the Europen way in terms of constructioning and structuring photography. The basis of doing photography in US most of all is the ”system” and thinking in categories.  In Korea we would rather outline only the basic mental and philosophical guidelines and we are given much more freedom to our instincts and fantasy.  And yes, Europe and Korea are much more closer in understanding photography than we would have thought it before.  But as for the technical side of teaching and doing photography, my studies in the US helped me a lot and I appreciate this.  

* Master Cho, you’ve brought to Budapest a breathtaking atmosphere of Korean Buddhist temples to share with us.  How was this collection born? And what was the inspiration to call it „Temples, Breath”?

Oh, you say „breath-taking”? Well, the most important element of Buddhist zen meditation perhaps is the conditioning and regulating your breathing. While you are trying to concentrate on your never ending and regulated breath takings, you turn your mind in to the most inner yourself by this conscious movement. Sometimes you make it faster, and sometimes you switch to a much slower rhythm, but you would never stop it. Breathing is the essence of everything. Without breathing there is no life, and without life there is no breathing. And this is what we call the never ending circulation of the Universe.  Life is breathing itself.    

I’ve learnt a lot from those Buddhist monks. You know, those of them in the photos are my real good friends

(Cho Daeyeon’s smile at this point turns softer) 


* Yes, this is exactly one can feel while looking at your pictures. I mean, you are intimate and involved and not an outsider. It seems as if you were also standing somewhere in your pictures but you are just invisible. Yet, your presence is clearly perceivable, I could even touch it…

Thank you. Well, I see these friends of mine very often in their temples. I eat with them, sleep and get up with them and pray with them, feeling that I am just one of them. In other words: I am breathing together with them. Look, this photo is one of my favourits. There’s a woman monk in it, young, just 32 years old, very clever, she knows so much about the world. She finished at Harvard but not just because of that. I took this picture last autumn, lights were just perfect and colours were radiant. Here she is waiting for her mom to come, who in reality is a kind of stepmother but still… her mother.


* Please tell me about some of your other photos which are especially close to you

Perhaps this one.

You see? This monk is just preparing himself to beat the temple drums.  I am really happy that I could catch that very moment which I would call: the moment of STRENGHT. He is very concentrated and very strong. Powerful.Not necessarily physically but rather in his mind.  


Or this other one: The hand with the red flowers. Just an old, dirty worn out hand as it is, tenderly holding that tiny and fragile little plant. This hand is the embodiment of LOVE.

By the way, do you prefer any of the photos?


* Without flattering to you Master, I love them all! But if you ask me to choose one? Perhaps my choice is the monk with that mighty, big drum, showing his back to us. 

And your reason is…?

* It seems as if he was standing in front of the whole World, getting ready to enfold it with his bare, human arms. With power, yet with much respect.

(Cho Daeyeon nodded with a kind, transient smile. And at that moment I was extremely proud to be so lucky standing there, just in front of that particular picture with its author)  


* Are there other subjects, themes which you prefer taking photos of?

Sure. But they are always about the ordinary life of ordinary people. I am not happy just with landscapes, or buildings or, if they are, they are always connected to people. I am satisfied only when I am capable to catch that very particular moment of human lives that is unique and can be never repeated. That ONE moment which is the most important and tells you everything. I want a story to be reflected in that very short moment which can be told further in your fantasy.    


* The exhibition, „Imaging Korea” will travel to six more countries in Europe. Are you and your colleagues will follow the exhibit?

Oh, no. We came only to Budapest which is the very first station of this exhibition. As for me, I am very glad that it was organized like this, I really enjoy being here. But in some days we fly back to Korea. I am really busy, like all of us. Since I also work as a professor of Gwangju University, my students are waiting for me, and I have so much to tell them and those who want to see my pictures.  


* What is your guide-line when teaching or taking photos? Or, in other words, what do you believe in?   

In one word: my guideline is the TRUTH. 

You know, truth is above all and everything. As I’ve put it before, I should be able to find up and wait patiently for that particular fraction of time in which everything is involved and radiated through me.  And I must take the shot of it immediately with no hesitation! Can we call it instinct? Yes. To seize, to grab the moment which never ever comes back again, therefore it embraces the past, the present and the future. At this moment everything depends only on me because it’s only me through whom everything is reflected and manifested and can be read by the viewers.  I am responsible for everything at that particular moment! It's not that easy...  

I never set up or adjust my figures and photos, that's not my style. Cheating is prohibited.

"A photographer just cannot lie to himself and to the world. His photos always should tell the purest true tales because this is the one and only way to become credible. 



For Hungarian version see Budapest Korean Cullure Center's official website "Korea in Hungary":


A magyar változat elérhető a budapesti Koreai Kulturális Központ hivatalos blogján, "Korea in Hungary:



For more info / További információk:




Érzéki Korea

Which are your favorit CHO Daeyeon photos? (give at least two)

Dátum: 2016.08.06

Feladó: Cristel C. Leroy

Tárgy: CHO photos

1. Woman monk
2. Red Flowers in stone bed
3. Stone Buddha face

Dátum: 2016.08.03

Feladó: Lómen Beatrix

Tárgy: Képek

1. Piros virág
2. Női szerzetes
3. Négy szerzetes

Dátum: 2016.07.17

Feladó: Nana Plummer

Tárgy: photos

1. Lady Monk
2. Winter Scenery
3. Red Flowers in Hand

Congratulations Master! Can't wait the exhibit in Belgium!

Dátum: 2016.07.03

Feladó: Ewa Schratz

Tárgy: Photos preference

1. Red flowers in grey stone bed
2. Stone Buddha
3. Red flowers in old monk's head


Dátum: 2016.06.21

Feladó: Celine Gregor

Tárgy: Photo preference

1. The hand with red flowers
2. Lonely monk before playing drums
3. Red flower heads in a stone bed

But all of them are awesome!

Dátum: 2016.06.19

Feladó: Julianna C. Bernadette

Tárgy: Best Photo

I agree with "Photofan". All of them are good but the evident vinner, for me, is the "Stone Buddha". Perfect setting and meaningful message. Thank you, I wish I could see this exhibit! Lucky you over there in Europe...

Dátum: 2016.06.18

Feladó: Tamara Leitner

Tárgy: Photos preference

1. Lonely monk in the middle in front of the altar
2.Stone Buddha
3. Woman monk, fall scenery

Dátum: 2016.06.17

Feladó: Caroline Herzog

Tárgy: Photos

1. Four monks in row
2. Winter
3.The monk with big drum

Dátum: 2016.06.09

Feladó: Roth Katalin

Tárgy: Photos

1. Lonely monk in blue background
2. Winter temple
3. Woman monk waiting

Dátum: 2016.06.08

Feladó: Eva Smith Scott

Tárgy: Cho Dayen photos

1. Four monks in row
2. Red flowers in hand
3. Stone Buddha face

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