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Yang Seung Woo is a former gangster of the Korean underworld. Now based in Japan as a photographer, The Best Days is a reflective book of photographs revealing his former life in the Korean Yakuza underworld, and the lives of his friends who remained and have risen through it’s ranks.

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Seung-woo Yang is a Korean born photographer who lives in Japan. How he came to be here is a rather unusual story. As a teenager he seems to have been expelled from high school at least twice, not just to another school, but to another school in another city. The friends of those days became Yakuza bosses.

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This could have been Yang`s destiny, if not for certain acts of fate. The Korean Yakuza are the main subject of Yang`s book and latest exhibition at Zen Foto Gallery: "The Best Days", in reference to the excitement of those youthful days, when they were exploring the forbidden, but had not become Yakuza or adults with a sense of responsibility or guilt for what they may be involved with. Yang has many interesting series, but the subject of this book and exhibition is his former life and the lives of his friends who remained and rose to seniority in the Korean underworld.

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The photographs tell a an unusual story from an unusual point of view - there cannot be many who have had such access to the world of active gangsters. Those few other examples have been outsiders who managed to secure permission, presumably showing what the protagonists agreed to show.

Yang has shown this world from a true insider`s perspective. Apart from the overall picture, the individual photographs are very powerful, telling a story related to a major element of the underworld life, and this seems to be a life that is reduced to essentials: to money, to power, to sex, to love, to life and to death. B5 softcover edition of 700 copies. Recommended.

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Self portrait in the bathtub. In the brothels gangster's frequent, customer's recieve baths, facials and massages.

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The child of a gangster friend bows to pay his parents upon entering military service.

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Self portrait with two friends "the morning after"

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Self portrait with girl

Mr. Yang — who was born in 1966 in Gwangju, South Korea — took the picture in 2004, when he’d already been living in Japan for seven years. He shot it on one of many return visits to his homeland, recalling the life he once lived.

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Men gather at the reception of gang leader's wedding

"One of my old mates died. Actually he stopped himself, but his dying changed now. The other lads will just forget him, I will forget him too, I looked for a photo so I could see his face, but there weren’t any. I thoght he was me special mate. Sooner or later I will be gone too, it made me want to take photographs…." - Yang

Seungwoo Yang

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Beauty Recovery Room, Seoul South Korea 2013

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Beauty Recovery Room, Seoul South Korea 2012

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Casting Call Summer Hong 22 years old

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Draw On Me

Ji Yeo is a New York based artist who pursued her master’s degree in photography at Rhode Island School of Design, as a President’s Scholarship and Henry Wolf Scholarship awardee.

Ji Yeo

RS-#001, 150 x 202cm, Digital print, 2012



RS-#001, 150 x 202cm, Digital print, 2012, detail

RS-#002, 150 x 215cm, Digital print, 2012

RS-#002, 150 x 215cm, Digital print, 2012, detail

Like languages, visual images are often used as symbols to convey meaning. Photographs, in particular, are the closest representation of symbols used in society because photographs can virtually turn actuality into reality. At the same time, photography is a medium that records events taking place at a particular time and in specific settings. From family photos to face pictures used in IDs, every photograph involves capturing the moment. Even if it is used as a recording medium by the most ruthless power or regime, photography never fails to evoke compassion. This potential for duality in photography constantly collides throughout my works.

Seung woo Back






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