Jan Svenungsson

Taejon photo documentation backstory

In 1992 I had made my first experiences using a large format photo camera. In order to photograph the First Chimney for the exhibition catalogue I had borrowed a 8x10" Gandolfi from architecture photographer Åke E:son Lindmwhichan. I found the experience, and the result, absolutely fascinating and went on to use the Gandolfi for a series of images of Stockholm, which have so far (2011) never been shown. Not long after, I travelled to New York (the dollar was cheap) and bought my own 4x5" Linhof Technica Kardan, with two Nikon lenses. I'm still using it.

In the summer of 1993 I spent six weeks in South-Korea building the Second Chimney at a site in Tajeon, together with a Korean team. The site was a sculpture garden being built up in the middle of a World Fair exhibition: "expo '93", which was also being built from scratch. Pontus Hulten had been commissioned to create the sculpture garden, and he had invited a number of younger artists who had studied at Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques (among them Chen Zhen), as well as some more established ones who had taught there, like Daniel Buren. After the day's work was finished I would use my new 4x5" to photograph the building site, from near and afar.

In the photo series which resulted, the first image ("March 27, 1993") was made during my first reconnaissance trip to the site, obviously using another camera. The second image, "March 27 + April 8, 1993", is a computer enhanced version of the first. Also the last image in the series ("November 8, 1993 + May 11, 1994") was manipulated in the computer, can be seen when comparing it to the preceeding image. Digitl image manipulation was far from common in 1993-94. I had to enlist the services of a specialist lab.

I am using the spelling "Taejon", because that's how this Korean city's name was transcribed in 1993, when I took the photos. Today it is transcribed "Daejeon". When in 2023 I scanned and color corrected all the photos, and made new high quality digital prints for the exhibition "Future Lies Ahead 1993/2023" in the Daejeon Museum of Art, I still kept the old transcription for the titles of the photos.