Yun journal met the duo Korean photographer, MUTED GRAY, just a few days ago. Our first relationship started with the last product shooting and we wanted to get to know them a little bit more. They invited us to their recently opened MUTED STUDIO, and in this white new space, interesting stories swarmed with the warm light constantly coming into the studio.
You did not start photography from the beginning. What made you to be a photographer? Minyi My major in university did not suit me. I have always been interested in a photo in general. One day I was part-timing as a model and saw the result after the shooting. There was no ground to this confidence but looking over the photos and I immediately thought ‘I can do better than that.’ That is the moment I decided to take photo seriously. Apart from my liking I also considered photo as a ‘job’. Which leaves the question ‘could I make money out of it?’. My answer was yes. So here I am now as a photographer.
Are there any hardships due to variables in the studio? Junhuk Of course, shooting does not always go smoothly. No matter how thoroughly prepared, there are always unexpected elements. But the whole team just do our best in the given situation and no one gets stressed out because of those unpredictable things. Minyi I am more stressed out after the shooting. I put great effort into editing the results. It gives me pain but at the same time it suits me and it gives me indescribable satisfaction when done right.
First shooting with YUN, there was no name “muted gray” and only your name. Why did you create this brand? Junhuk We share the same path and goal as a photographer. That is the main reason we work together and opening the studio and have a brand is one of the dots that lie in that path. Minyi We have been looking for the studio for a very long time. But there was no space that suits our needs. A studio needs a massive amount of natural light and high ceilings. In Korea, we seldom find high ceiling spaces, right? Then six months ago, we magically found this building and it was everything that we have been looking for. Finally, we have space and the name naturally followed.
Meaning of Muted Gray? Junhuk It’s a fashion term which means soft, toned down gray color. We both like placid and peaceful state so it well represents us. And we like the gray color. Our cat is also gray. Min-Ah came up with the name.
What did you consider when creating this space? Minyi Brooklyn studio designs helped a lot when we start planning. This building won the architecture award when just built. And this top floor was to be building owner’s home. That is why all four walls have big windows for lots of lights. Time passed and the original shape and structure of this space have changed a lot. So we try to make it back as it was built. We did not want to put too many things and artificially elaborate this space. Remodeling took less than 14 days. Minimal items, furniture, and plants now give life here.
Working together as a team is quite unusual. What is your strength as a team? Junhuk I am good with technique and Min-Ah is better with catching a mood and sentiment. Us together, I think we can come up with better results than working separately – like the synergy effect. I know several photographers working together and also as a couple. During the shooting, we argue constantly but it is okay that way. More talking leads to the better photos. We do not ask for more than what we already got. We try to let it flow and watch what comes out of it.
Who is your favorite photographer? Minyi I like Juergen Teller’s fashion shoots. His style is so different from what I do but I am just attracted to his work. Hard to describe the reason. And I read magazines like Self Service and Union. Junhuk I love classical photos. I admire almost legendary photographers like Irving Penn and Peter Hindberg. Their photos are simple but elegant. I like photos that give the clear message. Gentle woman magazine is what I also like to read. Minyi I agree. I do love photos that look easy and simple but have its own mood.
Favorite brands? Minyi Joseph, Alvar Aalto. The brand that creates a simple and beautiful line with color. I react very sensitively to the colors and tones.
What kind of tone? Minyi It differs from every photo but there is a certain tone that I think is perfect and beautiful. Most of my photos have simple backgrounds and that is why color becomes very important. I generally like a low chroma tone. Junhuk People might think our photo is just average. But to have that just average ‘feel’ is very difficult. Little numbers can change everything so it is a very delicate and time-consuming process.
How can we communicate through photos? Minyi I don’t think photo always have to have serious meaning. When someone finds beauty out of it, then that is it.A photo does not need explanation. It comes to you before it talks. It is only natural people to have different ideas and emotions. There is no need to “communicate” or to “understand.” Let the photo just be there. Junhuk Us photographers always talk about taste. A photo is eventually a taste too. Not everyone needs to like my work.
YUN’s big motto is the balance. What does the word balance means to you? Junhuk Work balance is going smoothly. It wasn’t like this from the start. We needed time to find one another’s style. Like I said before we are good at different parts and now we know how to mingle with those two. Minyi Balance in the relationship is also going smoothly. We are together almost all the time but we do not get uncomfortable by that situation. It is like being in the air. You do not really recognize the presence. Many people say couples work together end up not so good but we have a lot of things in common and that holds our balance. And our secret to balanced relationship is actually….our cat!! Haha. I love our way of life and that satisfaction reminds me that I am living a pretty good life these days.
What kind of virtue does Muted Gray pursue? Junhuk The simple goal is to be more famous. I want clients to come to us for our unique color. I want to solidify our own color so when people see the photo, they will instantly recognize that it is ours. Minyi I am a little different. Of course, I do photo because I love it but if I find something that I love more than a photo, I might change my career. In that sense, I want the freedom to be more flexible and keep looking for my tastes. I believe that freedom is the core element that holds me and my life with balance.