By Veronica Espinal | @minionyuta_
Since its origins, women have been attracted to photography to recount the past and form the future. Along with the freedom that comes with it, photography has been a way for women to experiment with their self-expression and document the world around them. It’s been a way to create a new form of self-determination and independence, that challenges traditional conventions in the fine arts.
Seoju Park is a Latinasian photographer and creative director from Mexico City. She’s a visual storyteller who has created her own path in an industry built against women, an inspiration for Latinasian women showing them they can be great despite the barriers placed in front of them.
Born and raised in Mexico to Korean parents, Seoju grew up in a multicultural background—in Coyoacan, a municipality in Mexico City. She shared that her parents’ decision to move there was the best way for Seoju and her sister to truly experience the local culture. Growing up, she attended an American and German school, where she never quite clicked with the gyopos (people born in other countries of Korean descent) in Mexico—never really meeting anyone who she could relate to as a Korean-Mexican.
“I never really met people that were Korean-Mexican that I could click with, that they could understand really knowing my Mexican culture. Because I feel totally Mexican,” Seoju gushed. “No one can tell me shit because I’m Mexican.” Yet, the moment she went back to Korea after high school, she met others like her. Other Latinasians, who she finally related to.
From then on, photography became a way for her to capture the moments that meant something to her, whether it was as simple as a coffee, or someone she met who she wanted to remember. This was a medium that gave her the opportunity to understand herself better, a diary of hers, a road to growing closer to her roots. She shared that every body of work that she’s working in at the moment, is something she has always wanted to see growing up.
IDENTITY AND CULTURE
Seoju is always exploring and uncovering different parts of herself through conversations inside and outside of her craft. Expressing the influence photography has had in her life, and doing it professionally for six years, she’s just starting to do what she has always believed in.
“I’ve come now to a time in my life where I’m just starting to do a series of photographs and work that I truly believe in and see myself, because the more I grew up, the meaning of culture, the meaning of nation, the meaning of growing up in Mexico changes.” Being the only Asian in her surroundings, as a child she never really liked standing out or being seen by others. Yet, as time passed, she grew to love that part of herself, meeting others who appreciated her culture.
Seoju’s proud and grateful of her biculturality. Rightfully so, she’s always had a welcoming embrace in Mexican culture not ever feeling like she doesn’t belong. “I hear the stories of Korean-Americans and how they’ve never felt American enough, or Korean enough. And for me, yeah, there are times that I don’t feel Korean enough,” she said. “But, oh my god I do feel Mexican enough. No one ever took that away from me.”
Identity-wise and photography-wise, she’s come to a better understanding of herself and the world around her. Understanding what it means to be both Asian and Mexican right now, is like she’s constantly evolving. For her, being an artist—whether you’re a musician or a photographer—means talking about something that you stand for or something that is personal, because if you don’t then what’s the point. “I don’t find the point of being an artist if you’re not going to show what you are, even the darkest, weirdest thoughts. I feel like that’s a great thing about being an artist.”
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PHOTOGRAPHY MEANS: BEING PERSONAL
As an artist and photographer, Seoju is inspired by Koreans who have achieved greatness that is out of the norm for them, away from the standard placed in front of them because they’re Asian. “We are not in the standard of what an Asian should do, but I feel that is so important because at the end, anything you do—even if it doesn’t talk about the culture—you being you. The simple fact that it’s you being Asian or Asian Latino, you’re representing something through the art you’re doing.”
The lack of Asian representation in the media is not new. When there is, it’s usually typecasted to the role society has placed—without a chance for Asians to explore a different side of themselves in media. “That wasn’t a reality for me, like I never understood that until now. For me, I had to settle in my head because I’m Asian and Latino,” Seoju expressed. “The two freaking minorities. It was not a reality. That I could do whatever I wanted, for me that’s photography.”
Photography for Seoju is where she gets to be personal and emotional, embracing and creating her own identity. Feeling sentimental, she shared how meeting other Korean artists, producers, and musicians working on something they love brings her joy. “I feel so grateful to be living in this stage, in 2021, where people are waking up and Asians, we’re starting to stand up. Mexicans too. I love being a part of that, and growing up I just wanted to be the same as everyone. And now, damn I’m so grateful I’m not bro. Honestly, it took me a while to love my culture and love myself.”
Being a woman in an industry dominated by men, Seoju was bound to face unequal treatment by her peers because of her gender. She talked about one experience at her previous company, where she was faced with sexism and unfair treatment which frustrated her, especially when she was not being recognized for her work.
“We used to come to all these meetings with great brands and clients, and I started to notice that even though I was the one selling, having the contact, everything they didn’t look at me,” she expressed. “They asked all the questions to the guy, and that started to piss me off. In my mind I was just like, ‘I have to just follow certain rules and this is how it works.’”
When she realized she had the choice of choosing the projects and people she wanted to work with, she felt liberated. So she left her previous job and started working on bigger projects. She created her own team of women without the constraint of others stopping her from speaking her mind.
SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH
Working in the industry for so many years, Seoju has also experienced insecurities and self-doubt with her work. For a time, she accepted it was fine to be with a guy because he was a guy, thinking she needed him alongside her until she realized that wasn’t the case at all. She’s become confident in speaking her truth, and expressing what she truly feels.
The importance of letting your voice be heard is life-changing and can be liberating to you and your work, according to Seoju. “Not speaking your mind in any situation, is what kills our voice. You know, I did it for a lot of years. I thought that had to be the way it had to be, and since the moment I stopped doing that, I’ve been getting projects more and more that I love. And the way I want, and that’s liberating. To speak about it.”
Seoju’s journey has always been personal, much like the pieces she creates. From exploring her identity to expressing her emotionality, photography has given her the freedom to be herself and bring her creative vision to life. She hopes to continue to explore different parts of her artistry, whether that be photography or acting, and be sincere in everything that she does and her biculturality.
If you want to stay connected with Seoju, follow her on instagram and check out her website!
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Thumbnail by Seoju Park