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Q&A with MFA student artist Minjin Kang

Photographer Minjin Kang didn’t always plan on being an artist. After realizing she had a passion for photography, Kang has created a few different bodies of work, each one with a different meaning and inspiration. Kang is a student in the Master of Fine Arts program at UNC. She is presenting her exhibit, “Not part of sale,” in the John and June Allcott Gallery throughout the week at the Hanes Art Center as a part of the nine-week exhibition series. The exhibit focuses on the personal belongings of people who have passed away.

Staff writer Paige Hopkins spoke with Kang about what draws her to photography. 

The Daily Tar Heel: What first sparked your interest in art?

Minjin Kang: I like traveling and I like taking pictures. I didn’t think that I could be an artistic photographer — I was a photographer just not an art photographer. I don’t remember exactly how I started. I think I started this fine arts photography accidentally because I like taking pictures — there’s a very basic vision to that. I actually went to the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and that was the first time.

DTH: What draws you specifically to photography?

MJ: I was finding how I could present myself through art. I’m not good at painting I just I think I’m pretty good at photography. I really like photography its kind of like taking a moment and stopping a moment. Stopping a moment is the best part of photography, I think.

DTH: On your website you say your work is inspired in part by this quote, “The earth is a beehive; we all enter by the same door but live in different cells,” what does this quote mean to you and your work?

MJ: In America the exterior of a house is almost the same; it’s not that different. But in Korea, we always care about the exterior. So if someone lives in a very tall and giant apartment, it is like they are rich. But here the exterior is kind of the same but we’re not sure. That’s why I took these pictures because we don’t know how they live. So I’m interested in human beings, but I just want to know not just how they lived but also what’s interesting about them.

DTH: You have a way of viewing portraits in an unconventional way, tell me more about that.

MJ: My first portrait work is of my grandfather. When he died I wanted something to have to remember him by, so I took the picture of his friend. I was looking for my grandfather through his friend. My second portraiture is of a custodian in the Haines Art building. I met them very late at night and I was very surprised that they work from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. They always care about us, but we don’t know them, that’s why I took that picture I wanted to make them visible through my work.

DTH: Your most recent of body of work is inspired by estate sales. Why did you chose to focus on these sales?

MJ: The first experience I had at an estate sale was with my friend. In Korea we don’t have that kind of culture. We don’t use the stuff from dead people because we think it comes with a ghost — it comes with a soul or something like that. Whenever I go to an estate sale I always feel something real, like a ghost is here. So, I just want to make my pictures mysterious, something like that.

DTH: What do you hope viewers get out of the gallery?

MJ: This is not about people. It’s about us after we’ve gone our families are going to sell our stuff and they’re going to remember us by what we leave behind. I think the dead are silent but the dead people can talk through what they left behind.

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