Daegu Modern History Museum showcases over 50 photographs of Daegu from the 1950s
In celebration of the 2018 Daegu Photo Biennale, the Daegu Modern History Museum is holding a special exhibition titled “Daegu in Pictures-1950s.” Held from September 14 to November 25 at the special exhibition hall of the museum, this exhibition features over 50 photographs of the streets and people of Daegu in the 1950s. The exhibition also showcases over 20 photography-related relics, such as 10 cameras housed at the Korea Film Museum (Director Kim Tae-hwan).
〈Donated photographs – photography by James Johnson〉
▲ Old Daegu Station
▲ People Waiting for the Bus
○ This exhibition has been attracting particular attention from the public by introducing a number of black and white photographs of Daegu in the 1950s, which were donated to the museum by an American. Photographed by the late James Johnson (born in 1925), an American soldier who was stationed in Daegu in the 1950s, and donated by his wife Carolyn G. Johnson (born in 1934), the pictures are rare materials that vividly show snippets of people’s daily lives and Daegu’s scenery.
○ Carolyn Johnson, recently donated 207 articles left by her late husband James Johnson, including 203 photographs to the Daegu Modern History Museum, through the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Houston, Texas. Born in 1925, the late Johnson served in the navy until he transferred to the air force. He was stationed at the K-2 Air Base in Daegu from 1954 to 1955. He took many photographs during his lifetime, including pictures of Daegu, his family and colleagues, and landscape. The photographs of Daegu show various images of the old Hanil Theater, which no longer exists, Daegu Station, houses around the Gyesan Catholic Church, and thriving downtown.
○ Aside from urban landscape and streets, the photographs include people waiting for the bus at a bus station, an old man wearing gat (traditional Korean headwear for men), women holding parasols, a shoeshine boy, women peddlers wearing headscarves, and other people of Daegu in the 1950s, immediately after the Korean War, who were happily shrouded in hope of restoration. Among the showcased photographs, pictures of an American PX located in the old product display building of the Daegu Station, a market display of American products, U.S. Forces’ equipment placed in the Daegu Commercial High School campus show images of life during the time of the Korean War.
○ The photographs were discovered by Carolyn Johnson as she was organizing items left behind by her deceased husband. She expressed her intention to donate the pictures to Consul Park Kkot-nim at the Korean Consulate General in Houston, and the photographs were able to be delivered to Daegu thanks to the efforts of the officials at the consulate general. Carolyn Johnson remarked, “I hope that these precious photographs left by my husband would be meaningful symbols that help the people of Daegu to remember the old days in Korea and their lives in the past.”
○ In addition to the donations, this exhibition features a number of photographs of Daegu in the 1950s, housed at the Daegu Modern History Museum. Moreover, exhibition booths have been set up in the exhibition hall to showcase Rolleiflex, Polaroid Land 95, and other rare cameras that inform the viewers of the photography culture at the time and the history of photography.
〈The exhibition hall〉
○ Most of the cameras showcased in the exhibition belong to the Korea Film Museum. The Daegu Modern History Museum has also set up a photo zone at the entrance of the exhibition hall for visitors to take a picture against the backdrop of the 1950s Daegu. Visitors can browse the photographs and cameras, and also watch videos of the streets of Daegu and the lives of the people of old Daegu in the 1950s.
○ The 1950s in Korea was a difficult time for Koreans, symbolized by extreme poverty after Japan’s exploitation and the Korean War. “Despite the difficult times, people look happier than now, perhaps because they had hope,” remarked Choi Hyun-mook, director of the Daegu Arts Center. “I hope that this exhibition provides an opportunity for the Korean people to think about the meaning of hope that the people of Daegu had in their plights of civil war and poverty.”
○ The 2018 Daegu Photo Biennale, which opened on September 7, will continue to be held at the Daegu Arts Center, Daegu Art Factory, and other galleries, until October 16.