Student Competition Winner: Says He Has Six Months To Survive, He Opens An Art Exhibition

This part is one of our 10 winners 2022 Profile Contest. You can find more here. Nathan CoAuthor, 17 and go Lumis Chaffee School Windsor, Con.


By Nathan Co

In 2019, South Korean photographer Kim Geo-sik was recognized as the best artist of the year by the Korean company KT&G. Prior to this recognition, he humbly described his popularity as “a small group of committed fans”.

During his growing fame, doctors finally diagnosed him with gastric cancer. When they told him that he had six months to live, he claimed his life insurance policy and was ready to live the rest of his life to the fullest. He opened his art exhibition in 2021 not only to explore abstract images through photography but also to find meaning in times of trouble.

The following interview has been translated from Korean and edited for clarity.

Credit …Nathan Co

Tell me about yourself.

I am a photographer who uses gelatin silver print, basically black-and-white photography. Most contemporary artists no longer use this medium.

The complex, slow and limited process of black and white photography is inconvenient. I was curious about the contemporary changes in the photo production process. Thus, in my latest series, I have focused on each production stage, highlighting the role of black-and-white photography in the contemporary industry. My work was considered relatively obsolete, which allowed me to receive positive attention.

At the highest point of your career, you have cancer. Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated during this time. I can only imagine the range of emotions you felt.

When I was allowed to live six months, I was disappointed. I had a high fever during my battle with cancer. At the beginning of the epidemic, worrying about the symptoms of Covid-19, such as fever, meant that I desperately missed out on much-needed treatment.

I initially thought that preparing for my solo show would be more effective than continuing chemotherapy, as the treatment seemed painful and inadequate. Then, a friend of mine who is a surgeon persuaded me to have surgery that many hospitals did not approve at that time. The operation was incredible, and at the end of the seven-hour process, all the doctors in the room applauded. Thanks for the surgery, I’m still here.

What does it mean to live in the face of death, and what does life mean to you?

People often say, “What would I do if I didn’t have much time to survive?” Yet this was my reality. An artist never knows what a comfortable life means. I thought working in the last days of my life might not be a comfortable end to life, but it would be a happy, meaningful end.

In the end, I figured I’d finish the job I had originally planned to do. After my solo show, I stayed in my bed mainly because of the side effects of the treatment. Yet at the same time, I’m thinking of ideas for my next project. Our will is endless!

In addition, too small to waste lives. I spend more time with my wife now, because the only thing I can leave for my loved one is memory.

Are you surprised at your work?

That can be realized in a photo of an object or a world of your head. That process of real and accurate presentation always fascinates me and gives me a feeling of sheer excitement.

What other lessons can you pass?

During my battle with cancer, I realized that life is limited and that there are infinite ways in which we can die. The meaning of the words infinite and finite is difficult to grasp in everyday life. It is important not to be influenced by what other people say. Choose your limited way to live a good life.

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