Monica Kwon

Photo Media Year Four

“When it came time to make the decision about what tertiary school I should apply for while in my final year at Pakuranga College, my main influence was my mother. She studied Fine Arts at Whitecliffe back when the school was in its original Grafton location. My mother told me how she gained an incredible, creative experience and how great the teachers and the facilities were,” says Year Three Photo Media student Monica Kwon. She continues, “I could feel that it was a big part of her life and it influenced her to be who she is now. My mother has been right so far. I will confidently say that I am having the most interesting and inventive time of my life.”

Monica chose Photo Media as her major because she felt she could express and explore her ideas through the medium of photography, which started off as a hobby for Monica in 2006. She is working on a photobook project at the moment and says “it is quite challenging and exciting at the same time. It is my first official book that I am creating and my ideas require a lot of strenuous work, but I have to remind myself no pain, no gain.” During the annual Auckland Festival of Photography held in June, Monica was chosen as the sole student participant of the Magnum Workshop held at Whitecliffe. This was the first time Magnum Photo Agency held a workshop of this kind in the region. Renowned Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak led the workshop and Monica says it was an incredibly rewarding experience. “Our critiques were in a collective manner rather then individual meetings with Thomas; we could see him one on one if we wanted to, but Thomas was encouraging everybody to get involved and learn from each other. Within the group conversations, Thomas would simply share his knowledge of what he knew and believed to be a photojournalist, which naturally brought up good questions and ideas of what the next step should be for our projects.”

When asked about what she enjoys most about studying at Whitecliffe she states, “being in a creative atmosphere everyday and having your own studio space” is at the top of her list. She cherishes the “Whitecliffe style of building essential formal and informal collegial companionships.” As to what inspires or motivates her, she says, “school is where I splash out my thoughts and visions of ideas that I get from outside of school or from my personal life experiences. Motivations and inspirations don’t have to be something tremendous or hard to reach. It can come from little moments that you might not pay attention to everyday.”

Of South Korean heritage, Monica says that the Republic of Korea is “mostly well known because of the many issues with North Korea. However, South Korea has its own way of reaching out towards a global audience. Korean contemporary culture is grabbing more attention around the world; people want to experience the exoticness alongside the traditional culture. In terms of arts and design, there is the Busan Biennale, Gwang-ju Biennale, Korean International Art Fair and Seoul Fashion Week. There is also huge interest in forms of entertainment referred to as the Korean Wave, which includes K-Drama and K-Pop music.”

Looking towards the future, Monica is hoping to go back to Korea for a long-term visit once she graduates. She says she wants to “experience a whole new different level of social life that I am not so familiar with. Of course keeping my artist practice active and my wish to work with like-minded creative friends to collaborate with while I am there. But I am definitely coming back to New Zealand after accomplishing my dream lists after visiting a few countries. I want to creatively explore these countries and return back to New Zealand and continue my practice.”

Monica Kwon