Photographer Jayne Cho:
Written by Duke Stewart
“I want to capture their real, everyday life experiences.”
Jayne tells me as she begins explaining how personally rewarding her photography has become. I’ve already heard tons about Jayne’s wonderful, unique personality and scanned through her various projects prior to our conversation. Jayne Cho is an excellent photographer whose portfolio continues to grow and improve, thanks to insatiable dedication and a desire to learn from others.
Jayne is most importantly a mother intent on keeping track of her family’s life here in Korea. Her photography keeps tabs on adventures in and around this country, and through time spanning her children’s lives. Jayne also possesses powerful networking skills and has created something special with a fellow “mom photographer.” She remains grounded and determined to improve while recording memories that her family will look back on with pride and a big smile.
Real, Family Perspectives
Jayne’s vibrant personality shines through during our talk and topics vary from perspectives on Korea to the beautiful places she’s seen here. It doesn’t feel like I’m interviewing a photographer as much as I’m speaking with a familiar friend. Jayne’s extremely grounded nature keeps the conversation light yet occasional shifts towards her photography aren’t unwelcome. There’s no pressure to focus on any specific topic and that makes this conversation an easy one.
Learning about Jayne’s family and their life in Yongin, a Seoul suburb, reinforces my love of Korea’s small towns. Though it’s near the big city, Jayne views Yongin more as “real Korea” and getting out to photograph as much of it as possible. She currently prefers a Canon 7D with a 30 mm lens for low light (her ideal time) and a 24/105 zoom lens for a wider range of scenes. Even if she’s out for a quick minute, Jayne is always ready to shoot with her iPhone and mentions that “it’s a powerful camera” as well.
Clickin’ Mom, Hanging With Dad
Ever since coming to Korea, Jayne has made conscious efforts to improve her photography but credits an American-based network for helping her along the way. She found a group called Clickin’ Moms and credits them for many of her numerous achievements as a photographer. Through an active calendar of workshops and keeping in touch through daily conversations with other moms on the site, Jayne has cultivated a wonderful community and space to grow along with others.
A self-taught photographer from Queensland in Australia, Jayne highlights a lifelong competition with her father Jim that keeps the fire burning. He’s visited a few times and they’ve got on photo walks but the real action is post-production, when they banter back and forth on Flickr. Aside from family and friends made online, Jayne credits Australian photographer Gordon Undy as having the biggest influence on her work. Regarding Undy, Jayne credits him with having “taught me to look beyond big grand landscapes and to really feel what you’re photographing.”
37 Degrees North
Jayne has such a bright outlook on life so it’s almost no surprise when she explains a recent collaboration between her and another Clickin’ Mom named Laura Beth. LB recently approached Jayne for a collaborative project that has grown into something truly wonderful. Since Yongin and Laura Beth’s home in Johnson City, Tennessee are close to the same parallel, they decided to combine efforts (and photos) to show the world “the similarities and differences in our lives and surroundings.”
Aptly named 37 Degrees North, the two ladies display a variety of subjects taken both in Korea and Tennessee combined into one picture. The results are pretty staggering and continue to amaze anyone lucky enough to see them. Sometimes Laura Beth and Jayne shoot with a specific topic in mind but other matches are simply the result of good organization and teamwork during post-processing. Jayne comments that their photos “work so well together because the landscapes are similar.”
Light Over Gear
Throughout our talk, I sense this unstoppable optimism when speaking with Jayne and recharge my own appreciation for Korea. As she explains, “I love the diversity here,” I start to realize that my own perceptions of the country need a makeover. Jayne has been traveling all over this tiny country and keeps finding beauty no matter how close she is to home. A lot of her favorite moments and scenes in Korea depend on the light, and Jayne goes into deep detail about its relationship to the landscape.
As Jayne tells me about beautiful moments in the countryside and sunlight radiating from green leaves, I’m waiting to ask her thoughts on how she creates these wonderful photos. Jayne stays focused on the idea that your equipment is only a part of the equation. She explains, “It’s not about your gear. Use the light. You can take some awesome photos with cheap gear.” Even when talking about her iPhone shots, Jayne talks about the importance of “incorporating light.”
Our conversation revolves around so many topics but the big prize comes hearing her talk about family and the memories she hopes to keep through photography. She tells me, “I don’t just want do the ‘Cheese! Smile!’ shots. I want to capture their everyday life experiences.” Jayne wants to record her children’s memories in a way that they’ll look back on and appreciate in a way that’s not possible today, of course before they catch her.
In keeping track of life here, Jayne has shared moments with her family and friends throughout the world. With projects like 37 Degrees North and individually produced photos, Jayne is building a following. It’s not just her spectacular work that’s drawn me in and as our conversation closes, I tell her just how much this conversation made me laugh and smile. There’s so much brightness and a general sense of warmth that comes from speaking with her. Her work speaks loudly but Jayne Cho’s warm personality has earned yet another person to note the massive impression she’s made on them.