kyunghee lee – new york, i dreamt

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Kyunghee Lee

New York, I Dreamt

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This essay was made last September as part of my new portfolio. Title of the portfolio is ‘Island of the City’. For two years, I have been taking pictures of 6 representative cities of the world (Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, Oslo, New York, and Sydney) and this essay ‘New York, I Dreamt’ is a part of this series.

Some of you may know I’ve had a book published called ‘Island’, which is also shown here on Burn.

The ‘Island of the City’ series, as does the book ‘Island’, reflects and gives insight into the relationship between you, me and the city.



2008: “Island”; published by Toseisha, Tokyo, Japan; published on Burn.

2009: Invited to “The 8th China Photographic art festival” & “2009 DALI International Photography Exhibition”


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Kyunghee Lee


Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

53 Responses to “kyunghee lee – new york, i dreamt”

  • I love this. Nicely done!

  • Kyunghee,

    I saw some of these before from your New York workshop last fall, but this collection and edit is even better. Very magical and dreamy, and even though there is great visual variety, you maintain a consistent dreamy mood. I really like the work you do in color. Congratulations! 훌륭 해요! 잘 찍으셨어요!

  • More street shots of New York. That’s what we need.

  • Kyunghee, I remeber when you where doing this work at the Kibbutz… everyday you were coming with lots of good pictures… and here the Good result… I really like the way you get the glimpse of the image reflected on the windows, trought the city at all…

    good job and happy to see it here..


  • I’m not seeing anything new here. These are technically well handled but I remain underwhelmed. Sorry.

  • Delicious, dreamy, present and there, making me reach into this dream. With the humming of New York brims the meniscus of constant stimulation and over-saturation of the senses… it’s lovely to see a crafty, creative eye capture the spirit of the city in and of Dream. Masterful use of reflection and beautiful compositions make this an eyeful of delight. Despite my fascination with reflection, the frame that stopped me in my tracks was #21. Is this at the basketball courts off of W4th and 6th Ave? It’s perfect. That is such a great place, full of energy…a street/sports world that is transfixing. The chain link barricade allows curious ones to sneak a peek into this foreign world on native concrete. That’s an essay in and of itself. I love this essay, and it resonates with me, as I did call that island home for 5 years. What is it about New York that gets under your skin and weaves its way amongst your heartstrings? NY will always be in my blood, and I thank you for this vicarious visual journey. Kyunghee, this is amazing. LOVE it.

  • Congratulations Kyunghee, this is indeed a beautiful exercise. I like the way you treat color and especially how you play with reflections to give those insights about your relationship with the city. I really like it.

    By the way guys, I am not an English native speaker so sometimes I have problems identifying certain subtleties of the language…. Was that comment of Jim a compliment or just him being rude again?

  • Sarcasm, Ramon. Not a compliment, but it should have been because this essay is fucking amazing!

  • Kyunghee, congratulations on being published on burn many times!!

    For my eyes, it seems the photographer was always hiding behind something, focusing at a distance then releasing shutter. So almost the pictures were like: hide, focus somewhere, twist camera, click. Like almost every one. Hmmm… didnt really work for me.

    I love New York City. I dont think this is how I like it to be.
    Above comment please is my honest opinion. Please dont take it as something negative, I hope not.
    Just these did not really work, didnt make me feel New York again.
    But then again, what do I know…

  • kyung-hee:

    loved it when i saw it in NYC (and wrote about it at Road Trips)….happy to see it here too…

    we can do a collaboration: your “Island of the City’ series and my “Invisible Cities” (Toronto, Moscow, Lisboa)

    for this, a poem…


    NOTE: EDIT….since i was accused of being over-bearing, i’ve edited, the poem….

    here is the poem i left FOR Kyung-hee,…which, for me, speaks about her work…as she and i have discussed privately…

    like a poem:

    Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

  • I kinda come down on the same side as Gracie.

    I’m left feeling that this set is, but, one more series of ‘grab’ shots that are fairly
    commonplace and not a group that was/is part of any intentional direction or focus-kinda like
    someone visiting NYC for the first time and feeling, “Wow! There’s so much going on here”.

    #21 is the one that stands out in the group for me.


  • Hi Kyunghee,

    I think I preferred your Island set much more. The reason is that with island I really thought you got deep into your subject matter and spent a lot of time and sweat really plunging deep into the subject. It really showed in the final outcome. I am very weary of projects done in a short period of time. 2 years as you say is nit a short time but those 2 years I suspect are shared by those cities you mentioned. I suppose that NYC is one of those street photography meccas, too. But with this essay, unlike Island I just never got the feeling that you were really going deep. I think a lot of people try and photograph abroad. Why is that? You live in a great city for photos, Busan. I would muchy rather see a project on Busan frpm you because I’m sure you could give it the depth that this one lacked for me. Will we see a Busan project? I guess that where I’m coming from is as a photographer deeply uncomfortable shooting away from home. As you know I published my family project on Burn, and when I shoot outside of home it is literally arounf my home. The past 2 years I have mostly concentrated my effeorts on the Han River in Seoul and a park outide my home. Because of this I am much more interested in very personal work from others.Like your Island. Travel photography just doesnt really appeal to me because rarely does it open any doors on the subject that werent already opened by many other doing the same thing. Island did that with style, this one comes up short.

  • Bob, this is over-bearing, is it about you or Khyunghee? I mean, really, think….

    Khyunghee, 13, 21 and 22, for me, the others do not strike me as anything that will stay as an example of your best work. I must say that what David told Armando on “Buzz” could be repeated. You were limited in time, no doubt, and this New York seems hardly dreamt to me.


  • Kyunghee, I remember when this essay was shown at the post-workshop slideshow in the kibbutz last autumn. When the last image appeared, these blasé New Yorkers started cheering and clapping. I can also see Paul Fusco lean down from his folding chair and whisper something to you seated beside him on the floor. The expression on his face and the huge smile on yours made it clear that he was complimenting you on this essay. I loved it then and I love it now. To my eyes it looks like a kaleidoscope of the city, different-shaped shards of colored glass shaken up and twirled around to make intricate patterns. It doesn’t so much LOOK like the city as FEEL like it. To me anyway.

    I’m so happy to see it here on Burn. And regarding your having had your work shown more than once, I say if the work is good, show it. Think of magazines like Life and Look and National Geographic, no one was counting how many times each photographer had his/her work published in a certain amount of time. It was all about who could do the job the editors wanted done. So why should Burn be any different?


  • Kyunghee.. I loved your Island work but this one left me cold. Hard to explain, but as if you sold out with this series. Sure it’s not the case but that was my initial reaction. Island was obviously a labor of love and this doesn’t leave the same taste. Cheers.

  • dreams…
    a memory…
    a glance…
    a brief encounter…
    posters of men,
    I like your color work
    much as your B/W….
    were you dreaming?
    wide awake?

  • K.Lee…
    thank you x 1.000.000
    thank you times million…
    your photography is like a bird…
    i can feel the breeze…
    you brought me so many memories from NY..
    thank you…
    thank u
    thank u…:)

  • I have to say I much prefer your island work Kyunghee. It is so much deeper. Nice work here, just tough to top your earlier stuff. All good though! Gives one something to push for!

  • This to me seems like a series of accidental shutter releases, but with out the amazing content and story of Patricia’s “the best fall of my life”. There is a sense of chaos, husstle bustle and overbearing of the big city though, if this was the intent then it has been achieved. There are a couple of strong images 1 and 19, as a story for me it doesn’t hold together.

    I am not sure if I have the eye for this type of photography I often just don’t get it, sometimes this makes me feel stupid because I can’t see it, other times I am happy in my point of view, this I am afraid is one of those times.

    I also am afraid to say once again it is a clique of people who have attended a workshop with Dah who sing the praises of another attendee, I understand friendships are built and support is given, but this does give the impression of an exclusive club and can be a little off putting.

    Herve I agree with your assesment of what Bob has posted, Bob I think you are great but come on……….

  • Dear Kyunghee,

    I am always happy when I see your works.
    I love your sensitive photography.
    As Panos said:

    Your photography is like a bird.

    couldn’t add nothing more.

  • Kyunghee Lee,
    it is always a joy for me to look at your pictures!
    I’ve never been to NY, but in your pictures it looks great!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Dear friends,
    I appreciate all your response for my essay.

    There’re many encounters in life.
    My Antenna is wide open to the all.
    I always respond to the atmosphere of all arounds sensitively.
    This essay is about how i understand and communicate the new city and people to encounter.
    There are some definite differences between usual life and new.
    ‘City of Island’ has different concept from ‘island’.

    Tahnk you.

  • for me this is just a random collection of very average street photography shots. sorry.

  • john Stratoudakis

    Some pictures are interesting but many of them seems to be random shots. I cannot see a strong bond in order to make these photographs clear essay.

  • I found this to be an original (and very good) interpretation of the city. Enjoyed it.


  • Kyunghee

    I think there are some interesting photos in your essay, particularly 21 is strong. On the essay as a whole, I’ve never been to N.Y. and after a few viewings I’m not sure I know (or feel) it any better. This however may not have been your goal, and I can imagine that for those who know the city this essay will have a resonance, with visual clues to those things which make New York, well New York?

  • I saw the essay after the workshop at David’s. I like the way you photograph, Kyunghee, it’s spontaneous, intuitive, very reflective of the moment that you seem to experience. I could feel your reaction to NY: as glamorous and also chaotic, confusing and attractive for a stranger. on the other hand, i dont connect to this essay as much as i did to your previous work. for me, the tricky thing is how to stay spontaneous and Yet show the ‘depth’ of the subject you photograph. i would like to see both.

  • Khyunghee, I like the stylistic device you offer – that I need to look into the picture, to navigate a way to a point of interest, more than I actually appreciate the content of the images. I’d like to see what you could do if you developed this approach but at the moment the pictures don’t sufficiently hold my attention.

    Bob, I’m with Herve – I’m here to look at photos not to scroll through a 4000 word poem. I didn’t read it.

  • I feel like this is what sweet WALL-E would capture if he had been sent out on a mission to capture scenes of nyc street life..and by that I don’t mean it is robotic; but rather curious, experiential but detached in a sense that the photographer is from another place and has vantages that blur to the city dweller.

  • Oh dear, NY is sliding into the sea from right to left. Either that or you broke the heel off of your left shoe(((:

    ordinary shot, “click{_}” really creative shot,”click{/}”

    I’m sorry Kyunglee, but I’m sick to death of tilted camera shots. I understand the device, signalling loose off the cuff shooting, and a cheap way of introducing diagonals to imply motion. But it has become WAY over-used in my opinion, and in your case over the top.

    There are some nice shots in this collection, but as a group, too much is too much. Time to move on.

  • Gustav Liliequist

    Dear Kyunghee,

    You are clearly very talented. With regard to this particular essay I feel that it certainly displays New York very well, but I was expecting it essay would go beyond this in some way. Furthermore, I would perhaps not descripe your selection of cities as “representative cities of the world.” Finding such cities is a complicated concept in itself, but if one is to make any selection in this sense it would certainly be necessary to include cities from developing countries as well.

    Best regards,


  • Hi
    You are one of the people i;ve seen comment and now I can see yor work.
    I’m not a fan of this though. I’ve know many artists that go to New York and expect something that they never quite achieve. This project seem unfullfilled. No real engagement with life, about making pretty shots, holiday snaps from a professional. New York for me is an ugly fucked up broiling pot full of lobsters, I would never want to spend more than a couple of weeks there at a time. It’s changed good friends of mine in ways I dont like to think about, repeatedly. It’s intense horiffic, shamefull, searching, heartfelt and full of bullshit on every corner. If I were to do a project there that crap would be my focus. From your photos it looks like you have been attending a Bloomberg school class on how to create photo’s of new york. Technichly enough to be interesting but ultimately souless. I say this because I see someone lost in this essay, with means to communicate but drowned by voices of conformity.

  • Tis kinda nice. Some clever images and compositions. I’m not sure the edit ‘speaks’ and as an essay I think you reasonably expect a story to be told. I think lined up all six will give some interesting perspectives on culture.

  • Stupid Photographer

    This essay makes me sad. Derivative of every worthwhile NY street photographer, without bringing enlightening insights, feelings or observations. Stupid, but makes me sad.

  • Cmon’ stupid..:)
    u can’t be feeling that “sad”…

  • Hi Kyunghee,

    Congrats on being published on Burn. I thought your shots were technically excellent. Great use of color, and tonal range without overdoing it. I also really like the reflections which fit in with the dream theme. The edit is I think always the hardest part, how do you translate what the images mean for you to your audience. At the end of the day you can never make everyone happy but you need to stay true to your artistic vision and intention. I think you could take this deeper if you choose to continue the series over time. Overall I really enjoyed it.

    All the best,



    you should indeed photograph New York…with such strong feelings as you have , surely something quite remarkable would come out of it assuming you have the skills to do it…i always like photographers who have deep feelings…most do not….while i do not see New York as do you, it does not matter….anyone who really has an opinion is most likely going to make photographs which reveal….give it a go….then show us….

    cheers, david

  • I think this essay deserves to be looked at, and understood as it is presented here and take it from there, a very personal way of looking at a city. To me, this essay is an interesting way to look at things from the photographer’s personal point of view – it is a collection of rather odd slices of images (poetic and avante garde, if you like) that don’t tell a whole story singly, but only does so when looked at as a collection – the whole being the collection of its parts. It will always be difficult for it to avoid getting drawn into comparisons from sundry work done there, given that this city has a separate and independent existence of its own in the film world which lives on peoples memomry as a separate reality.

  • I’m wondering if some people are really understanding what they are seeing when they look at this work.
    There have been a few criticisms that the photographs fail as a “story”.

    Kyunghee is not a photojournalist and does not claim to be. And these photographs are obviously not a photojournalism story. “Story” is such a loaded term when it comes to photography, and I for one see it as problematic. Yes, Burn has featured stories in the traditional photojournalism sense, but I have not read anywhere that work featured on Burn must be a “story” in the Eugene Smith sense of the word. DAH has on more than one occasion written that Burn will feature a variety of photographic styles.

    Perhaps not all of these NYC images work, but as a series the photographs clearly reveal Kyunghee’s personal response to the city. Like the classic street photographer, she just walked around and reacted to what she saw and felt. If you want to see a story in the work, it is of Kyunghee’s New York experience.

  • ALL…

    i cannot speak for Kyunghee, but since English is not her first language, i would imagine she would find it difficult to respond to each and every one of you…certainly comparisons between this work and Island in terms of depth seem a bit odd since Island was the result of a year or more of work in Busan where Kyunghee lives, and the New York work presented here is the result of 4 days of first visual impressions with obviously no attempt at a traditional narrative….

    i see lots of street photography…i really see lots of street photography in New York…i rarely see this much fine vision on the street done in a remarkably short period of time and from someone who was not speaking the local language…

    cheers, david

  • I don’t think that not speaking the local language would be hindering to the success of an approach like the one of this essay, on the opposite, there’s the possibility of more concentration on the visual impressions.. besides the repetition of a few shots esp. in composition (3, 4, 14 and 17) I quite like the work..

  • Definitely her own vision but reminded me a little of Pinkhassov.

  • Dear friends,
    Thank you so much for all your comments and responses.

    It is very easy to see some things in the same way because it makes us comfortable.
    But the true worthy art is the extension of concept, recognition of diversity.
    It is only natural that the new things make us uncomfortable.

    For me, Art is very personal.
    It is filtered through one’s own thoughts and obtains the universe of an individual.
    After some time, even the new will get old.
    That is why I aspire to evolve and create constantly.

  • Kyunghee …
    again. you are so unique…
    you flow, you fly, you … you.. you…
    are your own ISLAND… you taught me something…
    to be myself … no time for “their” fears…
    no time for “their”…hate..
    thank you…
    i love you…
    you liberated me..
    i owe you…

  • EVA…

    i agree…i just made that comment about language for those who thought Kyunghee should have had more of a narrative or more depth..yes, for her approach, language is not really an issue….

  • I feel with this set of pictures that I am in a “circle jerk” with the photographer and desperately want to get out to engage in something that is more satisfying.

  • I haven’t yet given a negative comment on here, but I have to say I was expecting something far more from a gallery of street photographs. I saw nothing that anyone with a digicam couldn’t do in a single afternoon in New York City. No decisive moments, nothing new, not even photographs displaying any sort of courage that ALL serious street photographers must have. I feel like most of these were shot from the hip – or from the lap – (there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, by the way, but if the ENTIRE gallery looks like that? Is that supposed to be the idea?).

    Sure, call it “art” but I don’t understand it as such, its only technically good as far as moderately good exposure.

    To me, these photographs are poorly taken, poorly executed, and don’t make sense in any sort of story. There’s nothing new here. You say “uncomfortable”. I say, you have to at least get it remotely close for it to be worth the viewer’s time.

  • Dear Kyunghee…I always feel like your pictures take me deep inside your thoughts, trying to struggle and contemplate what you see. I feel the confusion of an alien surrounding. Your work always gives me more questions than answers. This is my favourite kind of photography though!

  • Some really excellent pictures, put together very well. I find your vision interesting and this example of your work made me want to see more. Congrats on your burn publication, I hope to see more from you

    good luck

  • This images are quite abstract and visually powerful. The abstractness work well here since this is about dreams according to the title. I like it very much!

    Well done!!


  • I find this essay really enjoyable and I’d consider it successful as an essay for this context (in contrast to some of my recent comments where I question that). The odd thing is there are not many pictures that I find really compelling for themselves. I think the images need each other to gain their strength. Maybe I would change my mind about that if i spent more time with them. The concept is strong and works. It really does have a dream-like atmosphere. Your pictures have lots of atmosphere. I love the layering that you have given them. But as people say above, there is a depth lacking but I am not particularly bothered by that here. Its as though maybe these commenters are looking for information about New York and disappointed because there’s not much there but surface, but dreams are like that. Its difficult to grasp things in dreams too. Everything slips out of focus when you try. For me this is much more of a conceptual work than documentary. But in a way I know what they are saying. Although I haven’t been to New York, i don’t see any things that are particularly surprising. On some level, i have seen all the parts of these images before. I like the way you’ve taken these pictures. It’s a style or technique that I would enjoy seeing more of and I think it could transpose to quite a number of subjects without looking forced.

  • jenny lynn walker

    ‘New York, I Dreamt’ feels suffocating, a nightmare more than a dream in each moment – whether by direct experience or, imagined. So the sequence fits the title but, I too feel I’ve seen each photograph before albeit not so close. The compositions lack all of the magic and poetry I saw in Love Hotel. All of this CAN be explained by your personal response to NYC but, I’m wondering about an intro that refers so little to the essay and so much to other work? It raises questions. Perhaps you are marketing yourself or feel this essay does not match up to that other work? But then the intro. sounds nothing like the beautiful voice you shared in your messages on the dah website – more like an automated response, as if ‘you’ are not there. I have only read the one message above this so perhaps there are answers to this above. Sending you a hug. Jenny : )

  • Many of those who weren’t impressed by this slideshow know or live in New York. I’ve never been to New York, I have no idea what it’s really like. I really enjoyed it overall – but personally I do feel like the tilt thing and the blur thing is a bit overdone. There are a few images in there which I love, rich and personal they drew me in. Reminiscent of Alex Webb. But they seemed lost in the jungle of tilted and blurred images, like their specialness was diluted by the mediocre ones. I think if you ditched half of these you’d have a winner. (It’s not that half of them are no good – it’s just the repetition)

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