Photographic celebration of culture “Take Your Seat Together: Korea” opens June 15th

Father and son duo invites cultures to come together through photography

There has been a Korean influence on Canadian affairs and culture dating back to the 1950s. Canadian troops fought alongside the South Korean military as part of a United Nations contingent against Chinese and North Korean forces during the Korean War. For many, this may have been all they knew about Korea until ten-plus years ago when a cultural renaissance began taking shape in South Korea.

Since 2012 this Korean cultural movement has been increasingly visible in Canadian society. K-pop music artists attract millions of listeners per year. If you are unfamiliar, think Gangnam Style. The decade-old song was a smash hit worldwide for K-pop star Psy.

When it comes to the country’s hundred-year-old film industry, the world took notice when director Bong Joon-ho won an Academy Award for his film Parasite.

Korean culture continues to have an impact, but much of the credit for the upsurge in the familiarity of Korean culture in Canada begins with the Embassy of Korea to Canada and the Korean Cultural Centre, located on Elgin Street. The centre does an excellent job promoting Korean arts and culture, hosting in-person and online events year-round.

This year the Republic of Korea and Canada are celebrating a significant milestone, 60 years of established bilateral diplomatic relations. In celebration of this hallmark, the Korean Cultural Centre invited renowned Canadian photography team, Randy and Spencer VanDerStarren, to exhibit their global photography project, Take Your Seat, with a stunning visual presentation titled, Take Your Seat Together: Korea.

Buddhist monks observe the drum ceremony at the Jewel Temple in Korea. (Photo: Randy VanDerStarren)

This incredible show has taken the VanDerStarrens and their red director’s chair around the world for the last six years. The father-son duo has taken photos of people in 21 countries, celebrating people, their stories, and connections.

Randy says they chose the director’s chair because it is a universally recognizable symbol and “it’s your life… it’s the biggest screen of them all.”

The director’s chair represents the ability to shape your life with your choices on “how we relate to each other, our planet, and be our best selves.”

With his years invested in the “Take Your Seat” project, Randy notes that he’s become aware of just how similar we all are, even at the deepest level. Things may seem different on the surface, including where we live, what we wear, and what we eat, but he says at the heart level, “people (around the world) want exactly the same things as we do.”

The Take Your Seat Together: Korea depicts photographs of Canada and the Republic of Korea to show the similarities in things like religious sites. Contrasting Buddhist temples with Churches shows that religion is a cultural tool used to bring a sense of community.

Lighthouses on opposite sides of the world show that despite aesthetic differences, every ship, no matter where they are sailing, is happy to see the illumination. Many of the locations photographed, like Temples, must be planned, and you’ll want to see the incredible results yourself.

Spencer describes with particular pride how they managed to place the red director’s chair between two Buddhist monks during a drum ceremony at the Jewel Temple, but not all shots are highly planned. The VanDerStarrens have an innate ability to see similarity everywhere, including in simple crop fields on the sides of hills or in everyday moments.

What makes Take Your Seat Together: Korea special, according to Randy, was Korean’s understanding of the project; in finding connectives between the cultures, it allowed the VanDerStarrens to pursue the project to ends they did not think possible in their quest to demonstrate our similarities.

Don’t miss Take Your Seat Together: Korea at the Korean Cultural Centre’s Gallery at 150 Elgin Street. The exhibition opens on June 15th and runs until July 12, 2023.

If you would like to register for the special opening night vernissage of Take Your Seat Together: Korea, click here.