On the Clouds, Boomoon

Boomoon was the first Korean photographer I encountered.

Before I left for NYU fifteen years ago, my parents bought me a subscription to Lightwork, which included a print and a book. (The book was Todd Hido’s Outskirts.) This subscription also landed me on Nazraeli‘s catalog, which is where I encountered Boomoon’s Naksan and later his One Picture Book #26, On the Clouds. Nazraeli describes Boomoon as “one of Korea’s greatest contemporary photographers.” Though I purchased neither, both Naksan and OPB #26: On the Clouds are touchstones of my earliest interest in photo books.

When I went to Korea for the first time, one of the first books of Korean photography that I came across and purchased was Boomoon’s On the Clouds, the same photographs as OPB #26: On the Clouds and the same title but a different book. It must have been fate.

This is neither here nor there in regards to the book itself.

On the Clouds comprises photographs of the sliver of sky above the cloud horizon and below space as seen from commercial airliners. The photographs are a slope of blue above cloud white. The last several plates in the book are taken in evening light in which the clouds form a dark gradient with the sky above drifting into the dark of space.

The book’s physical form is a simple folded signature with exposed stitching and board covers. The cover is a slightly ghosted photograph with the title and photographer’s name in white lettering. On the rear cover is the same ghosted image with the publisher’s name in white lettering. The book opens with a title page followed by the first plate and then a short text by Taro Amano in English and Korean. The plates begin in earnest after this text with a gate fold spread of three images. Most spreads are pairs of images, though a double gate fold is tucked into the layout. There are 23 plates in total. The plates are followed by the artist’s CV (in English and Korean), an index of the plates and the book’s colophon page.

This is a simple book of simple photographs that offer complex possibility for reflection. What on first examination appears to be a straightforward formula becomes photographs full of nuance, spatial and chromatic. The viewers eyes hover between the compositional emptiness of the foreground clouds and the dark physical emptiness of space pressing in above the clouds. I find this meeting of voids, compositional and subject, to be powerfully evocative. Boomoon has pared these images back to an absolute minimum of information and yet they suggest much meaning.

On the Clouds
Published by Nabizang / Choi Woong Lim
Essay “The Ever Changing Sky” by Taro Amano
Translation by Yun Ki Eun (Korean) and Sumiko Yamakawa (English)
Designed by Design Seed, Kim Mee Jin and Lee Jae Hyun
Printed by GG Communications
2006, edition of 1000