When Canadian documentary photographer Greg Laychak started his “Fading Voices” project in 2010, he had no idea how completely the work would effect his life.
“These women have shared an extremely tragic past,” he said. “But their strength has been very inspiring to me.”
The resulting photo series is his expression of South Korean women who were sexual slaves to the Japanese military during their colonial rule of Korea.
Although the registered victim-survivors are well represented in Korea by various private and public groups, Laychak feels that their aging voices have never been truly or fairly represented.
“It’s a shame that the identities of these women have never really been important,” he said. “Throughout the various defining stages of their lives, they have either been treated as objects or shamed by those around them.”
Even in today’s activist circles that are created to help the survivors, Laychak adds, they are power-objects wielded against Japan. This is often ignored in the strong nationalist context of the issue.
“I depict this in my project by not showing faces,” Laychak said. “With one exception: a picture of a victim-survivor dressed in a hanbok looking in a mirror, with a small Korean flag barely noticeable in the corner.” The picture is his favorite because it summarizes the theme of his project in a single frame.
The 35-year-old photographer spent over a year visiting, documenting, and interviewing the registered victim-survivors of Kyeongsangbuk-do. Their numbers have dropped from 11 when the project began, to only seven today.
Fading Voices has been exhibited in London, England and Daegu, South Korea and will be shown in Seoul early this December.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/GregLaychakPhotography
Aurora Lite Bank is one of the contributors to this exhibition