The History of Planet

- Essay for Thirsty Land-by Ralph Gibson

The history of photography tells us that the landscape is one of the very earliest subjects. But then of course, the earth is much older than photography. But these thoughts are now moving through my mind because Cheon, Kyoun Ae has made these timeless photographs and they now enter through my eyes. Where exactly do I position myself as I study this very deep, very abstract space that she has created?


Her understanding of the relationship of photography to topography is highly personal, highly empirical and very advanced. Her eye has a kind of intuition that belongs to the artist; one who thinks in purely visual terms. I am pleased to discover these photographs in Korea but in fact she is a universal human being observing the particular planet where she finds herself. She is not alone. There are billions of us who share her human condition. But Cheon, Kyong Ae has perhaps better defined this set of circumstances.


I'm very impressed with these photographs because they make me look, think, and feel about things away from the city, away from my minor concerns and see the universe before me, and let us further consider the role of black and white here. The earth tones, the greens and browns and blues that are so immediately recognizable have been abstracted into tones of grey, and then smothered in snow or clouds. How far away are the original colors and the mountains with all their height and weight?


We hold a small piece of paper in our hand and dream of earth and water. This woman is a visual poet and her heart beats in time with the universe. Her photographs are part of the universe.


Ralph Gibson

Seoul/New York

November 2005