'The Mother of the Sea' was shortlisted in the top 20 for Life Framer theme: Humans of the World by Zed Nelson




Zed Nelson said, 

Mijoo has found a fascinating subject matter and presents a powerful, sympathetic portrait.

“The subjects reflected in my work are called “Haenyo”, literally meaning “sea women” in Korean. These women have a century-old history of making their own living by catching oysters, sea cucumbers, abalones, sea urchins, and squids. They hold their breath for over two minutes and dive to depth of twenty meters without using any diving equipment. Being a Haenyo is certainly not meant to be for the weak; hence the saying in Korea, “Haenyos do the work of the dead in the land of the living.”

The Mother of the Sea Series captures the work and portrait of haenyos to express how I view this job. When I was young, my grandmother was a Haenyo. Back then, I never realized what a difficult and physically demanding work she was doing. Ever since she passed away, I had wanted to capture both the fondness and emptiness I felt for her in my work”.

What I think works, is the simplicity with which she has approached the portrait. By choosing a neutral background and a narrow depth of field, she focusses all attention on the lady’s face, tightly pressed into her diving suit, and we’re drawn to the contrast in textures between her smooth, slippery wetsuit and her wrinkled face. The human and the synthetic.

Her expression reflects the hardship in her unusual work – to play with an old cliché, she says it all with her eyes. It speaks of someone determined and unusual.

Mijoo uses the winning combination of a genuinely interesting subject, and a skilled portrait to create something memorable.