Go to contents

Master of Flowers

Posted February. 26, 2007 07:23,   


Just a glance at the new book “Wonders of Flowers,” a photograph collection, amazes you. It is a set consisting of three grandly bound books (42 centimeters across and 29.7 centimeters down) weighing a net 14 kilograms. Quality printing, superb English translations, and the supplementary DVD add to this book and show the passion and determination of the author and publisher (Montessori Korea). The set is priced at 450,000 won.

Even more surprising than the outside of the book are the pictures inside, portraying flowers in lifelike form. Just looking at the photographs makes you feel as if you could smell the fragrance of the flowers, or maybe even sit down and have a chat with them.

The author is photographer Jung-myung Kim (61). A professional photographer of Korean wildflowers, Mr. Kim is better known internationally than in his own country. There are many cases of Korean photographers gaining more renown overseas, and Mr. Kim is one of them, receiving over a million won for each of his photographs. Photograph copyrights, royalties, and lecture fees allow him a yearly income of 0.3 billion won.

Mr. Kim has photographed Korean wildflowers for 25 years. Since 1995 he has produced a calendar of wildflowers every year, each with a different theme. These are known as the “bibles of floral photography”.

Mr. Kim’s new book compiles some of these photographs and his unpublished works. The translation was done by his eldest daughter Si-nae (35), who works as a lawyer in the U.S., and his American son-in-law.

“Seven years ago, my second daughter Na-ri (32) asked me what I was going to do with the films I kept in the safe, and I told her to leave them for now and bury them with me when I die. Not all people will feel their value. But she told an acquaintance that they should be published, and somehow the word got around, and a publisher asked me to publish them.”

“Wonders of Flowers” is not a just book on plants or a simple collection of photographs. It is a picture documentary vividly recording the lives of plants. Mr. Kim stayed for days in one place talking to new flowers he found. Once it took him 20 days in one spot. If he waited long enough, the flowers would begin to smile and show themselves to him.

This is why Mr. Kim’s photographs have captured rare expressions on the faces of the flowers: the moment when hydrangea serrata, silvervine, and chrysanthemum zawadskii change after pollination, the difference between azaleas and royal azaleas, and the adonis, which thaw the frozen soil with their own heat and peek out from under it. He is known as a flower person who knows flowers much better than botanists, and he himself does not allow even the smallest mistakes in recording the names and lives of flowers.

The production of the book alone cost one billion won. Mr. Kim received offers to publish it overseas, but CEO Kim Suk-kyu of Montessori Korea sent a handsome advance payment, saying, “Nonsense. A book like this must be published in Korea. Contact me whenever you decide to publish it.”

Surprisingly, this book has sold 1,500 sets in two months. The sales weren’t expected to be high, since the books were rather expensive and heavy, but there were even readers who wrote “fan letters” saying, “Finally we have a book we can boast of internationally.” Consultations are underway for orders from the U.S. and U.K.

The reason Mr. Kim chose Korean wildflowers was because of his desire to find a “Korean beauty”. He has traveled with the late Kim Soo-nam, professional photographer of Korean shamanic rituals (“gut”), to take pictures of traditional aspects of Korea, and for 20 years has recorded the ecology of Dokdo.

Mr. Kim is now in the process of producing an observation journal on the lives of Korean plants along with the members of the Korean Society of Botanical Photographers. Offers for publication of this project were also made from overseas, and it is planned to be presented in the form of a book and video clips.