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Do-yeon Gwon

Do-yeon Gwon, Traveler Novice 4,
from the series Traveler Novice, 2011
 Courtesy of the artist.

Dictionary of Notion

Early on, I took pictures of moments when the existence of something appeared as words on a piece of paper. It was a joyful experience to expand my mental activity to a physical object. Later I wanted to put these objects into a conceptual context, which I call a “notion,” in order to give it a broader scope.

In beginning this work, I wrote over three hundred words in a notebook to describe what was in my mind and heart. As I continued, I included words that had only subtle differences in meaning, easily filling more than one notebook. Then I collected words from documents that had been thrown into a treatment facility for wastepaper. I discovered a sense of freedom as I perused dictionaries whose usefulness was worn out and that were detached from their inherent function. I came to believe that as long as an object is identified only in terms of its instrumental usage, the object itself remains invisible. It is when the instrumental functionality is broken that you get a sense of the existence of the object itself.

For me, showing the existence otherwise hidden in the instrumental form of an object has become important: photography is “the proof of the existence” of the invisible. I made the Dictionary of Notion by compiling these works.

Traveler Novice

Over time I would come to understand the world from the acts of folding a piece of paper and reading a book. As images appeared out of the folded paper created from my hand movements, my body and mind became harmoniously reconciled with each other. Reading books revealed to me the deep secret that myriad worlds are born from one world as if from the presence of infinite folds.

When we read a book, we share words and thoughts, and connect them at the same time. We continue to connect these things while seeing the image that appears at the point of contact between the paper and ink, the object and thought.

My photographic works express not only that the paper and the book, icons of knowledge, are physical entities, but also how they become the representation of another dimension at the point when we “see” them.

Do-yeon Gwon


Do-yeon Gwon’s work reveals the unexpected worlds found in books, the shape of paper, and the interweaving of visual imagery with language. Populated with inanimate objects, books, and folded paper, his photographs search for their “place” in the universe as he explores ideas of memory. He is perhaps best known for the early photographic series he completed while still in graduate school, titled Traveler Novice (2011). The series features paper airplanes that take off, land, and travel through interior spaces. Later, he embarked upon the project Dictionary of Notion.

Born in 1980 in Seoul, Do-yeon Gwon received his B.F.A. in literature from Hanyang University and completed his M.A. in photography at Sangmyung University. His work was featured in the 2014 Seoul Lunar Photo Fest and the 2011 Seoul Photo Festival. His work has appeared in solo exhibitions at the Ryugaheon Gallery, Seoul, and at Nuda Gallery, Daejeon, South Korea. His series Dictionary of Notion received the Korean Photographer’s Fellowship Artist of the Year prize at KT&G Sangsang Madang in 2014. He was winner of the portfolio review at the 2014 Daegu Photo Biennale in South Korea, and was awarded portfolio prizes at the Seoul Photo Festival and at the 12th Sajin Bipyong Awards at Photospace, Seoul, in 2011.

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