Jisun Choi's work is uncomfortable, different and arresting. In other words, it grabbed our attention but also left us feeling the desire to find out more. Choi had this to say over an email exchange with assistant editor Alexander Strecker.
What's special for you about the medium of photography?
I think photography is a fascinating format to visualize invisible emotions and other psychological elements. It feels like a great way to deal with questions surrounding authenticity, reverie and reality. I also relish the creative camaraderie found in the preparation, timing and creation of a photograph. It's rarely a solitary pursuit since it involves reality so heavily.
Tell us more about "My Sweet Home." How did you become interested in the subject?
Since I began living alone, I was forced to confront myself—something I had managed to avoid while living with my family. I soon discovered that my space consisted of both big and small habits of anxiety. My home is sweet for me because it feels like a place where I can freely expose my secret habits of anxiety without external observation.
Photography is supposedly about capturing reality. And your subject, anxiety, is a very real problem. Yet your series has an otherworldly feeling. Can you elaborate?
We are imperfect creatures. We are born with both rational and irrational parts. We seem to have absolute control over ourselves and our environments—but at the same time, we have no control over our emotions. Photography is contradictory in the same way: it has a certainty and factuality about it but also conveys our uncertain and subjective emotions and perspectives. So, photography seemed like a good way to approach my subject.
How did you find the models for this project? How about the spaces? Did you construct the spaces in reality or through digital manipulation afterward?
The models were not hard to find—they are me, in every photo.
I constructed all the spaces myself. I used plywood and decorated the "sets" with paint, wall paper and props. I even fabricated the props and costumes myself to minimize costs. Some shots took more than a month to construct. Since I did not have enough space to keep the sets around, I had to demolish each one as soon as the image had been made.
Most viewers think my work is constructed digitally, which I find to be a great compliment. I wanted to build perfect sets each time—exquisitely designed with accurate dimensions—but I am no expert. As hard as I tried, they could not be perfect. From this, I concluded that people become anxious once they recognize they cannot always be perfect.
—Jisun Choi, as told to Alexander Strecker