ISOLATION by Sunik Kim (KIMSUNIK) explores the modern-day cafe lifestyle
Being a writer I have found myself spending a good bit of time in coffee shops over the years. I would walk in, look for a spot with an outlet as my old MacBook pro was always needing a charge, and go order a black iced coffee. I would then sit down and get to work typing away at my screen, doing emails, writing articles, you know business stuff. I started to notice some of the same people each day, and it made me wonder what was it they are doing here. Maybe they are also writing, do they run a blog, are they a student studying, who knows. I would never find out as even within such a social setting we still isolate ourselves from the ones surrounding us, staying in our own comfortable bubble.
“ISOLATION” by Korean photographer Sunik Kim is a series of photos taken before the pandemic of 2020. Finding himself in Cafes in Seoul, Kim started to take photos of the people around him. We see people facing each other, yet their view of one another is obstructed by their cell phones. Many elbows on the tables, headphones in ears, and faces buried in their screens. The Cafe is a sea of people who are all very much alone, but who are all enjoying the presents of being around others.
Sunik wondered what was it like before Cafe’s, where would people go to get out of the home but still focus on work, or whatever task they were doing. Kim discovered that in the earily ’90s in South Korea most people didn’t go to coffee shops but rather would stay home but with the front door open, an invite for the neighbors to stop by for a chat. Neighbors would pop in for nothing more than a little small talk, check in on each other, have their daily dose of human contact. As time went on the doors began to stay closed, and people began to go spend time in Cafes instead.
Kim’s images are intimate, capturing the moment and freezing every detail. Acting like a fly on the way and observing the people, the used mugs, the charging phones, and the many sleeping customers. An atmosphere of true isolation bleeds through the images, though they are filled with people there is a lingering feeling of loneliness. While all these images were taken pre-pandemic they not only work as an observation of daily life but now act as a time capsule of a time before lockdowns across the world forced us to truly isolate. Hopefully, after this is all over and we can start to sit around Cafes again we decide to put our phones down and talk to those around us and became more social.
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