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Hannah Moon, Almost Something (2022)
Almost Something by photographer Hanna Moon is ‘a rejected love letter for Korea’Photography Hannah Moon

Hanna Moon’s new photo book is ‘a rejected love letter for Korea’

Almost Something is a collection of candid portraits which convey the potent energy of South Korea

The pages of Hanna Moon’s new monograph appear animated and busy, designed with the windows of a desktop computer in mind, the familiar grey line and three control buttons hovering above images which overlay further photographs. “My desktop is a mess,” the photographer remarks of her own digital backdrop, “I’m very disorganised.” She shares a screenshot as proof, but all there is to see are five neatly assembled columns of files.

Almost Something is Moon’s first solo book project, and began life in 2018, initially commissioned for a luxury fashion brand. “I didn’t really mean to make this book,” she says, speaking over Zoom a few hours before flying to New York for a signing at Dashwood Books. An intimate survey of contemporary life in South Korea, the pictures have an unpolished quality, as Moon’s protagonists – her friends and family – take selfies, enjoy sleepovers and eat watermelon slices without any performance. A bold contrast with the more manicured image of Korea usually found online, this naturalness ultimately galvanised pushback, which is how it came to be published by Patrick Remy Studio. “I was like OK then, I’ll make this a rejected love letter for Korea,” she muses of the moniker.

Born and raised in Daejeon, the country’s fifth-largest metropolis, Moon has been working between London and Korea for over a decade, first studying at CSM, where she established A Nice Magazine, and later interning for Tyrone Lebon, where she met the model and writer Moffy Gathorne-Hardy, who wrote the book’s accompanying text (Moon was also behind Harry Styles’ topsy-turvy Harry’s House album cover which debuted earlier this year). “The essay is sort of between me and Moffy. We didn’t write together, but she’s been writing for me for a very long time and knew everything that happened [with the brand],” she continues. “We’re really good friends, I have photographed her many times, so it made sense for her to do it because she just understands me inside out.”

Arriving in a vivid pink and yellow cover, the book is aware of the questions it might inspire and the angles imposed on it, which Gathorne-Hardy confronts in her closing essay, stating that “it is a Korean-ness that simply is, that does not cite itself; its purity of essence is not subverted by self-reflexivity.” Later, she notes that “it doesn’t make a scene about the photographer’s status as Asian, woman or lesbian, but rather allows for the emergence of other narratives in the interstices of the images.”

These images are the product of an archive that stretches back more than ten years. “I basically just gave [the studio] all the images, thousands and thousands, and it works well,all jumping around and a bit crazy,” says Moon, referring back to the nostalgia-tinged design. “It makes sense with the energy of Korea.” From 2018 onwards, Moon began working with casting, which is how she found the book’s blonde cover star. “She’s a bit of an influencer. I did a photograph of her in my hotel, then we were like, ‘let’s go for dinner’ and we just went for a barbecue, where I took some more pictures. I like the fact that something so chill is a cover.”

While the pair have remained friends, elsewhere the project has put a strain on her close relationships, a cultural consequence she thinks, of her hometown’s difficult relationship with vulnerability. “My mum’s not coming to my Korean launch, and my sister doesn’t really like it either,” she shares. Despite the reluctance, Moon, who recently began studying for a masters in film at Goldsmiths University, is pragmatic about the experience, seeing it as an opportunity for something to build on and potentially incorporate into future work. “It’s a learning curve, that’s just part of it.”

Take a look at the gallery above for a closer look. 

Almost Something by Hannah Moon is published by Patrick Remy Studio. Moon will be signing copies of the book at New York’s Dashwood Books on December 14 2022

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