Photographer Lee Cheho (38, commonly spelled Lee Jae Ho) has been garnering much attention for shooting the We Got Married’s Yong-Seo couple’s wedding photos. Lee is an incredibly well-known Korean photographer who has shot 2PM, Lee Minho, Kim Yuna, and many other celebrities. While he mainly focuses on shooting general advertisements, fashion, and the fine arts, photographer Lee Cheho has also enlarged his scope to include weddings. When asked why, Lee answered, “I wanted to capture the beauty of normal, non-celeb folks at their happiest moments. I was also disheartened at the way wedding photographers were viewed in Korea. They’re usually seen as the least talented, hungry photographers who make money out of their works. I wanted to change these perspectives.” His passion for wedding photography showed as he described the delicate difference between a photo that looks pretty and one that tells a story. For any shoot, be it for advertisements or weddings, Lee tries to express the soul and emotions of his subjects.
Lee is also infamous for his jinx. In the past, Lee had guest starred as a photographer to shoot MC Mong and Kim Sung Min on KBS Happy Sunday reality programs 1 Night 2 Days and Qualifications of a Man respectively. Unfortunately, soon after Lee’s appearance, both stars were caught committing illegal actions and were removed from their shows. MC Mong was found dodging his military service, and Kim Sung Min was arrested for possessing Methamphetamine. Lee’s presence in We Got Married sparked much speculation as to whether Yong Hwa and Seo Hyun would also leave the show. Currently, Lee Cheho has expanded his resume to include founder and creative director of TK Retro atelier (www.tkretro.com). TK Retro atelier houses a new generation of photographers mentored by Lee and leases its studio for various commercial purposes.
Q&A with photographer Lee Cheho
What is the difference between shooting celebrities and regular folks?
The main difference lies in their confidence and experience in front of a camera. Many non-celebrity folks believe they don’t photograph well because they aren’t as good looking as celebrities. Non-celebrities are extremely tense when they’re being photographed; whereas stars are very confident as well as actively posing for the camera. Additionally, you can’t deny that celebrities have been blessed with their good looks.
What type of celebrities do you like to work with and why?
I really enjoy photographing idols because they’re so full of passion and energy. I never get tired of working with them; and their smiles are infectious. One of my favorite idols to work with is 2PM. They are smart confident young men who take pride in what they do. Even when I make them jump a hundred times for a shot, they never run out of energy nor do they ever complain.
What is the most important aspect to keep in mind before shooting?
The most important thing is to study your subjects. In order to shoot amazing photographs, it is crucial to know who it is you’re photographing. You have to keep in mind their characters and personalities or else you’re going to have the same photographs with different people. If I’m taking wedding photographs, I usually ask for stories about how they first met or special milestones during their relationship.
How did you start photography?
My father was in the publishing business, and it was an unspoken fact that I would take over the family business. However, photography has always been in my life; I grew up with cameras because my dad loved taking pictures and there were always plenty of books about the craft in our house. During my junior year of high school, I suffered from optic nerve paralysis, and the pain got to the point where I couldn’t even sleep or see anything. It was then my mother’s friend recommended I go outside, breathe some fresh air, and take pictures. Photography cured my illness and I realized there was more to the world than academics; but of course like all typical Korean parents, they wouldn’t allow me to pursue photography in college. As a result, I studied international trade and business in college; but once I was discharged from the mandatory military obligation, there was no family business to return to and I changed my major to photography.
What are your future plans? Dreams? Goals?
I would like to publish a photo book that contains some of my best works. When I was younger, I always thought that a photographer wasn’t truly considered a professional photographer unless he publishes a book.
Another dream I want to accomplish is to establish a foundation where talented aspiring photographers from financially-hard families can continue to pursue their dreams. In Korea, it is extremely hard to establish a name for yourself as a professional photographer unless you own a decent studio and expensive equipment. That’s not the case overseas, but the idea of possession is very strong in Korea, and money is always an issue. However, money can’t buy creativity or talent.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is my window to life. It showed me the world beyond academics and cured me when I was sick. So to sum it up, photography is me – without photography, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
How would you like to be remembered in the future?
I hope people remember me as the photographer who could express people well rather than as the best commercial or fashion photographer. I want my photographs to portray the warmness and the subtle characteristics of the people in my pictures.
Here are some of photographer Lee Cheho’s works: