Seoul photographer Cho Gi Seok captures a new era of Korean cool

_This story originally appeared on iD Korea.

Ask anyone for a list of the rising stars of the Korean fashion scene and they will mention Cho Gi-Seok. With more than 300,000 people – including magazine editors, stylists, celebrities and luxury brand designers – currently following the photographer’s every move on Instagram, it’s clear its reach extends far beyond. beyond Korean borders. Another border that the 29-year-old artist crosses freely is that between art and commerce. Constantly creating original works and pushing the boundaries, Cho continues to be a unique benchmark for others in the industry. Yet he is far from complacent.

“I’m a curious person,” he tells us. “I broaden my field of work beyond photography, graphic design, scenography, artistic direction, video, etc. This is partly why I launched my brand Kusikohc. Without her, it would have been difficult to undertake projects outside of photography. Whenever I’m stuck or lost working on a photography project, I look for fun and inspiration at Kusikohc. I feel like visual art creates for the eye, while fashion design creates for the touch as well. They are fun in every way.

While planning this shoot with iD Korea, Cho was eager to participate in the casting and express i-D’s original identity. He ended up selecting nine subjects. “I wanted to show the diversity and uniqueness within the Korean identity,” he explains. “They all have different looks, different personalities and different occupations. I have proposed two concepts for the images: one where all the models are in school uniforms and one where each model shows their own personality. Uniforms tend to hide the individual, but they remain stylish even after a long time: a classic. The image of the school uniform is also an extension of my personal series.

Items from Kusikohc’s SS22 collection helped accentuate the unique characteristics of each model. Among them was a black coat with a slit, a biker jacket with a burn, a knit with a signature pattern and an oversized bomber jacket with eyelets, all perfectly suited to the new faces of Korean youth culture. . “ID has always been interested, not only in fashion, but in youth subcultures as a whole, and has commented on contemporary society,” Cho says. “I also wanted to capture that spirit in this collaboration for the all new iD Korea. “

a collage of portraits of young korean creatives by photographer cho gi seok

Kusikohc – Cho’s name spelled backwards – is now a 5 year old brand, with items so far introduced project by project. For ES22, he refreshed the brand and brought back the original slogan, “Right to Fail”. “I think it’s always helpful to try new things, big or small,” he says. “Even if you fail, trying is what makes the difference. If you are unsure whether or not to start something new, Kusikohc will remind you that you have a ‘right to fail’. Putting what they preach into practice, the brand is set to present a capsule as well as a number of new, smaller projects in addition to its regular collections. Fashion shopping for the upcoming season is almost over, which means starting next year, you can expect to see Kusikohc’s new season in stores around the world.

But back to his photography. Would it be fair to say that his work is inherently “Korean” or “Asian”? In some images, Cho certainly used items that embody Asian cultures, such as the Hanbok (Korean traditional attire), Tal (Korean performative masks), Yu-Gi-Oh cards (Japanese collectibles), as well as various decorative objects reminiscent of China. New year celebrations. “In the past, I avoided displaying cultural motifs directly in my work,” he says. “But now I see Asia as one of the central themes, as does the way Western photographers draw inspiration from European mythology. We say the world is hyper-connected now, but as a Korean artist, by showing more of these cultures that are familiar to me, I could give my audience something new through my work. His main goal for composing each image, on the other hand, is quite simple: “I focus on the subject. Is it beautiful to the naked eye, without artificial light? This is what I am looking for.

a portrait of a person with a shaved head, looking at the camera and pulling his hood up

Self-taught, Cho did not follow the traditional path of most photographers. Nonetheless, he has achieved a high degree of perfection, both in his art and in his vision, and now works with acclaimed fashion magazines while carrying out global campaigns for luxury brands. “I started at 21, so it’s been nine years. I firmly believe that the only thing you can count on after years and years is your own talent. That’s why I strive to hone my talent and try to believe in my own experience.

Cho’s very first professional title was editor-in-chief of an independent magazine. Since then, Cho has strived to stay true to her identity while undertaking projects as diverse as album covers, set designs, art direction, campaigns, solo exhibition at Fotografiska from Stolkholm, and many cover stories. He credits the failures along the way as having helped him grow.

I’ve known Cho personally for years, but haven’t seen him stop or slow down yet. Like a train that does not need fuel, it keeps moving. Even on days without a shoot, he works on personal projects with like-minded team members, or works on Kusikohc, or studies the work of other photographers. His work and his life seem one and the same. When I ask this hardworking artist what drives his relentless creativity, his response surprises me: “A feeling of inferiority I experienced when I wasn’t doing what I love. That’s why I strive to capture that initial feeling of excitement when I started this line of work. Doing the job that I love for the rest of my life would be my ultimate happiness. “

a portrait of a person with bleached hair wearing a worn leather biker jacket against a red background
a photograph of a person in a brown leather jacket with their face pressed against the glass, distorting it
a photograph of a person wearing an eye patch, devil horns and a bomber jacket, standing on a roof at night, flexing their muscles
a man lights a cigarette under blue light
a model wearing a white shirt and black suit jacket winks at the camera cute
a model with lots of silver earrings and a shaved head blows smoke from her mouth, obscuring part of her face
a man is wearing an abstract black coat over a suit and tie, looking off camera
a man in an abstract black fashion jacket over a shirt and tie sits against a dark tiled wall
girl with pigtails wears pencil mask construction and looks at camera


Songin Creative Direction
Photography Giseok Cho
Writer Hyunji Nam
Translator Keith S. Kim
Makeup Seongseok Oh
Gabe Sin Hair
Models Sunmean, Xenher, Jiyoung, Sukyung, Damo, Seungjin, Junhyun, Sangyon, Sooo

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