Aaron Park is a photographer based in Seoul. With a portfolio full of effortlessly styled and gorgeous editorial spreads that feature a variety of Korean models, Park is poised to become one of the influencers in Korean fashion. Read on to learn more about the process he goes through to style a shoot, how he is inspired by the world around him, and the motto he lives by that reminds him to create every day.
Interview Elizabeth Royal, Photos Aaron Park, Edit Sam Cello
First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce yourself?
Aaron: Hello! It’s a bit embarrassing to call myself a photographer at this point, but my name is Aaron Park. I started out by taking street fashion photographs and currently I try to take street pictorial pictures that align with my personal aesthetic.
How did you you get your start with photography?
Aaron: When I was struggling to find out what I could do in the fashion field, I learned about street fashion through blogging. I was soon interested in it and that’s how I started doing photography.
You are known for great editorial style shoots even on Instagram, and we’re wondering how your photography evolved into that style.
Aaron: Oh, wow! I’ve never heard that I was well known with that type of photography so I feel a bit bashful. I think it’s because I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what I really want to take a picture of and how to put my own personality and ideas into it. I think it has always been very important for me to try different things and evaluate my pictures afterwards.
Monthly Aaron Park seems to be a blog that features mostly editorial style shoots, while Anovation seems to have more single features. Can you explain the goals of your two Tumblrs?
Aaron: I use my Anovation as my portfolio. I hope someone can get inspired by my photographs. Monthly Aaron Park is where I do things I solely want to do. In the future, I hope this Tumblr can become a media outlet or creative space of my own. It could be like my own magazine.
You’ve produced some pretty amazing editorial style photo shoots and worked with some great models. Can you tell us, from start to finish, about the process you go through to put something like that together?
Aaron: Well, I don’t have anything special for the process. Maybe... I do have something special where I get my inspiration from. I get inspired when I listen to the lyrics of a song or places I see while I am walking on the street. Once I am inspired, I start doing some research on other photographs, and I start planning out and directing each little detail from beginning to end.
Does it start with a phone call to the models, and then you go see what happens? Or do you imagine how the shoot is styled and then try to create the image based around that vision?
Aaron: I think it’s different for every shoot. Most of the time, I look for models who are suitable for the concept that I want. I contact and eventually shoot models who can create the picture and look I want. There are times when I get inspired while I am chatting with the models and then I plan out and shoot on the spot. It’s super impulsive, but it’s a lot of fun. (laughs)
What kind of camera and lenses do you shoot with? What’s your favorite?
Aaron: The cameras I own are a Canon 5D Mark II, a Ricoh GR, and a Contax T2. I really adore every single one of them, but the one I use the most is the Ricoh GR. The Contax T2 is the newest one on the team and I use it these days to practice my framing and photo sense.
Do you have any unexpected tips and tricks for the aspiring photographer when it comes to shooting or approaching people?
Aaron: I say “Be Crazy & Create,” which is also my motto, but I’m not saying that you should always try to create new things and go crazy while doing that. That might be what my motto means, but the real meaning is to have fun while constantly evaluating yourself and creating with original ideas. I hope people don’t try just to be cool.
Who are your favorite people to work with?
Aaron: I have worked with many models but I feel most comfortable when I’m working with Sunbin Lee (Jinkyung Lee) who has helped me figure out concept-driven photoshoots. She’s great to work with! For example, we always ask each other about different concepts and styles and try shooting them. Also, once we start shooting she follows my tempo perfectly!
Can you describe the changes in Korean fashion designer’s popularity and how modeling has changed over the last few years?
Aaron: A few years ago, only those who were actually in the fashion industry were familiar with Korean designers. I think because of the increased use of social media, Korean designers have become more accessible and in reach for the public than before, which made them more popular. Also, because of the characteristics of social media, once they get the attention from the public, it’s easier for the brands to become well known. Another factor is that the models use social media a lot, which expanded the age range of the people paying attention to them.
Korean Model's Jacqueline Hwang has said that there are too many new faces that it’s hard to keep up. What is it like as a photographer that seeks to work with the most popular and in demand models?
Aaron: I like working with models who are suitable to my demands — I don’t care if they are famous or not.
What’s your reaction to the larger agencies like YG Entertainment merging with K-plus? How has it changed the culture of fashion and modeling in Korea?
Aaron: After the big, major agencies stepped into the industry, I think it became more demanding. There are more steps added in the process and the values of the models increased as much as the value of the large agencies themselves. Now the models are more like celebrities. They are not just fashion models with large agencies. The general public and the industry itself became more aware and interested in models.
As a viewer, it all looks very glamorous and easygoing. Is it really like that? Is it a lot more hectic to get photos on the street or to work with models?
Aaron: I started photography doing street style, but it really is a difficult thing to do. It’s actually rather crazy to take a picture of a random, complete stranger only because of their fashion style. (laughs) I got rejected so many times! Sometimes ten out of the ten people I would ask for a picture would reject me.
There are also difficult things during photoshoots. Because all of the photoshoots are done on the street, the environment matters a lot. Sometimes people walk in between the models and the camera, and the models would become shy or over the top with their posing.
Can you tell us a story from a shoot about someone you love to work with? Has anything unusual or funny ever happened?
Aaron: I always have fun when I’m shooting. One that comes to mind right now is when I did a photoshoot at a Starbucks in Gangnam. Han Seungsoo was inside while I was outside, so we were using our whole bodies to communicate. It was crowded but we didn’t care about other people watching us! We really just had so much fun!
Are there any artists or musicians that we should be paying attention to right now?
Aaron: I think The Cohort, a Korean Hip Hop crew, is a group of artists people should pay attention to.
What are your goals for your own personal photographic work? Where would you like to be in five or ten years?
Aaron: My goal is to have my own studio — I would love to have my own personal workspace. Finally, I want to work with my friends or new people whom I can have fun working with.
Thank you so much for letting us interview you!