Ahae’s Zen world seen from his window overlooking the park

Two years spent at a window looking at the world and describing it solely from that point. Where the seasons change. Where a water deer passes by, frolicking in the grass as if it had wings. Where there are groves of cedars covered in wintry frost, or budding and with the colors of spring. Where things change with the rhythm of nature, without any artificial acceleration—with waiting, patience and measure. “Through My Window” is the first opportunity to see the work of a Korean artist who has never shown in Italy. His name is Ahae, which in his native tongue means child. Today, at 6:30 pm, the exhibition will open in Florence at the Alinari Musum (Piazza Santa Maria Novella) and will remain on view until January 8th, offering a selection of forty photographs. The selection was made by Keith H. Yoo, the photographer’s son, from over one million shots taken during the last two years from the same small window in Ahae’s studio in South Korea. A solitary post, a sort of retreat immersed in nature.

Photo Gallery

His photographs “are everything and nothing”, Milan Knizak, the former director of the National Gallery in Prague, has written. And it’s true. Taking a quick look around the rooms, they just seem to be landscape and nature photos, nothing more, or nearly. But if you slow down and stop, you catch the unrepeatable instant of beating wings, the moment of the great tit balanced on a branch, or the cold rays of the sun presaging autumn … everything. Slowing down we see what we ignore when we run: the waves caused by the wind on the lake, the perfection in the sky, a fawn as it emerges from a bush. An environmental activist, Ahae is also a businessman with a number of organic farms.

“If I could have shown tens of thousands of the photos my father has taken,” Keith H. Yoo tells us, “you would not see an abrupt change in the seasons, but rather a slow, almost delicate, passing of time.” Ahae works using digital technology and takes between two- and four-thousand pictures a day, always from the same window. Dedication and observation, remaining still and watching what changes and what happens. “He doesn’t want anything between his camera and what he photographs. No filters, no post-production correction or editing.” Things the way they are, simple and bare. Sometimes he pairs the photos with poems. “His photographs make me think, how much potential for life is being suppressed by the clean sheet of asphalt in front of my house?” writes the curator of this exhibition presented by Alinari and which was already hosted in Grand Central Terminal in New York last spring. Following its Florence appearance, it will move on to Venice, Paris and Stockholm.

Ahae’s photographs are a silent appeal, an environmentalist’s call to nature whose beauty captivates us, but which we are at risk of losing. “The works of this artist remind us,” says his son Keith H. Yoo in the catalog, “that nature is alive as it always has been and awaits the care of each one of us.” And it seems to tell us it is not too late, it can be done.

by Laura Montanari
La Repubblica Firenze