The inspiration for JeongMee Yoon's photographic project was her 5-year-old daughter, Seowoo, who loved things pink. As a setting for a portrait, Ms. Yoon assembled all of her daughter's pink possessions - stuffed animals, dolls, plastic toys, books, clothes, jewelry, makeup and school supplies - into an orderly display. Seowoo's bedroom was transformed into a pink kingdom for a child queen.
Ms. Yoon, a 38-year-old South Korean artist, began work on this project three years ago when she was studying at the School of Visual Arts (she returned to South Korea in late 2006). She subsequently expanded the original portrait into a larger undertaking called “The Pink Project” by asking other parents if she could photograph their daughters and the things they loved.
She posted notices in her apartment building in Forest Hills, Queens, and at her child's school. She also stopped people on the street, in the subway and at Target, where she was no doubt shopping for more pink things.
To “The Pink Project” was added a boys' version, “The Blue Project.” Results of Ms. Yoon's efforts, “The Pink and Blue Project,” will be on view from March 3 to April 26 at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Chelsea.
The themes of gender difference and compulsive shopping scream out from these portraits, but more subtle themes are also apparent. The children, both Asian and non-Asian, collect toys that are both Asian and non-Asian: “Hello Kitty” and anime action figures appear as often as Barbie and Superman. Mass-produced items sit beside family keepsakes - the traditional Korean dress called the hanbok or a hand-me-down, smocked party dress.
Children of all ages are hooked on pink and blue, a trend ensured by parents who begin collecting for sons and daughters when they are infants. The project touches raw cultural nerves while delighting the eye and coercing a smile.
Bonnie Yochelson is the author of “Berenice Abbott: Changing New York” and, with Daniel Czitrom, of “Rediscovering Jacob Riis: The Reformer, His Journalism and His Photographs,” published this month by New Press.