Many of you may be familiar with Korean photographer Cindy Hwang, known as CYJO, from her participation in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2011–12 exhibition Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter. She is best known for her KYOPO Project, an ongoing series of more than 200 full-body portraits that speak about Korean immigration and cultural identity. With these portraits, CYJO hopes to highlight the diversity of kyopo—a Korean term that describes people of Korean descent who reside permanently outside of Korea—and challenge preconceptions of Korean identity.
CYJO poses each portrait frontally against a plain white backdrop and wood floor. Each person faces and meets the gaze of the viewer. When seen as a group, individual characteristics in each portrait immediately jump out; clothing choices, stance, and expressions all add to the diversity that CYJO hopes to express. Individual portraits are paired with the person’s name, basic biographical information, and their words on their feelings and experiences of being a Korean immersed in another culture.
Umbrage Editions published a handsome catalogue of the KYOPO Project. It includes 237 full-color reproductions of her portraits alongside corresponding text, as well as insightful essays by Julian Stallabras (a writer, curator, photographer, and Art History professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art) and Marie Myung-OK Lee (resident and teacher at the Center for the Study of Race & Ethnicity in America at Brown University). For any fans of Lost actor Daniel Dae Hyun Kim, he’s included here as well!
We welcome all to stop by to look at this beautiful book in person. We’re open to the public M–F, 10 a.m.–noon and 1 p.m.–5 p.m. If you’re touring the museum’s exhibitions, the library makes a great starting point on the fourth floor! In addition to the beautiful books and comfy reading chairs, visitors enjoy interesting exhibitions featuring artists’ books, archival manuscripts, and rare books. Reference Desk staff are always happy to answer questions and offer assistance. We hope to see you soon!
—Jennifer Page is the Library Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.