For various reasons, bathhouse culture is on the decline in Seoul. Fewer than a thousand public bathhouses remain, down from over 2000 in 1997. Together with editor Lee Jaeyoung, photographer Hyunsung Park focused on ten of the oldest bathhouses that managed to survive in the margins and gaps of the city for more than thirty years.
In Park’s photographs, these bathhouses – whose function as social communal spaces goes beyond mere hygiene – are introduced from different angles and perspectives. Mixing more objective, almost documentary-like photography with impressions that evoke the sensation of visiting these dying places, soaking in the shared pools, breathing the humid, hot air. Though the ten bathhouses are separated in individual chapters, Park’s photographic style and Jaeyoung’s editing do their part to blend the different places into one cohesive visual experience.
“I tried to search Seoul bathhouses older than thirty years and express the quaint beauty and the stories of those places in photographs—one that opened in 1967, another surrounded with bamboo, a resident-friendly one that hosts community festival every year, another one run by an old couple since their youth, one with music heard coming from radio, another about to be closed down after it has changed hands several times, and one that does not welcome guests any longer, its doors now firmly closed. It was quite a challenge to enter these places with a camera. I’m very grateful for the hospitality we were shown.”
― from Lee Jaeyoung (6699press)’s statement