Digital FeaturesBogwang SaunaJi+Doh
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Bogwang Sauna · Ji+Doh 1 / 1




© Anne Danao

photography JI+DOH @JIDOH.WORLD stylist MINJI KIM @MINJIENA hair stylist MINJUNG KYUNG @KYUNG.MIN.JUNG makeup artist MINSEOK CHOI @_CHOIMINSEOK photography assistant JAEHEE LEE
stylist assistant MYNA KIM, MINJI YOON  Camera Leica SL2 with APO-Summicron-SL 1:2/35 Asph, APO-Summicron-SL 1:2/50 Asph and Vario-Elmarit-SL 1:2.8–4/24–90 Asph

When Ji Ahn and Doh Lee met in London around a year ago, they had an instant connection. Ever since then, the photographer duo – known as JI+DOH – has been brimming with ideas and manifesting them in a wide variety of ways. For this series, which was created in their original home country of South Korea, the artists orchestrated a manga-style character inside a traditional Korean bathhouse.

Here they talk about how they conceptualised this feature, the challenges they faced during the shoot, and why this project had the entire team break into a sweat.

How did you come up with the idea for ‘Bogwang Sauna’ – was this project an assignment or an independent series?
Ji: ‘Bogwang Sauna’ is our own work, and was inspired by Bogwang-dong, an old neighbourhood in Seoul. Located right next to Itaewon, one of the most multicultural and vibrant districts in Seoul, Bogwang-dong is a more residential and less gentrified area that feels almost unmodernised compared to other parts of Seoul. Retro is a huge trend in Korea these days, with many cafes and stores being deliberately designed to look old and antique. There’s even a term that was created to describe it: ‘newtro’ – as in new+retro. Bogwang-dong, however, is a neighbourhood full of old-school vibes, with hidden gems and traditional markets loved by the locals.
Doh: This project started the moment we were walking through Bogwang-dong and noticed just how many saunas there were on the main street. It was fascinating to see these old-fashioned saunas all together in one neighbourhood. Saunas traditionally promote a strong sense of community, and are known to serve as a local meeting point for the elder generation. These are not places where you just take a quick dip. People go there to relax and hang out, and that perfectly reflects the atmosphere of Bogwang-dong. As we have always wanted to do a shoot with a retro theme, we thought it would be more meaningful to try a project about Korean tradition and culture, especially as this was our first shoot in Korea.

How did you find the setting for this series?
Doh: While scouting for the right location, we visited every bath-house in Bogwang-dong, but nowhere was as fascinating as Bogwang Sauna. Inside this compact space on the basement floor, there was everything we needed - retro colours, worn-out tiles and showers, a proper steam room, and even a tiny hair salon. One of the traditions of Korean sauna culture is that everyone has to use it fully naked in sex-segregated areas. Because of this, when we mentioned about doing a photoshoot, some owners gave us the cold shoulder straight away. The moment we went inside Bogwang Sauna, we immediately knew that this was the place we’d been looking for - so we carefully and anxiously asked if we could shoot there. We were very lucky because the owner’s daughter used to be a fashion model, so the owner was open to it and agreed without any hesitation.

What were the challenges of working in a sauna?
Doh: Korean saunas are usually open 24 hours, and closed once a week. At Bogwang Sauna, Wednesday was their regular day off. We arranged the shoot for a Tuesday evening, after business hours, so that the space would be empty but the tubs would still be filled with hot water. However, this was also the biggest challenge of shooting in a sauna. Because the space was still hot and filled with steam, everyone was covered in sweat, and soaking wet from the droplets that were coming off the ceiling. The floors were so slippery that everyone had to be extra careful when moving around.
Ji: Electricity was another issue that called for careful planning, in order to create a safe environment for everyone. The building was very old, so the ceilings were low and the space was small and tight - which was another challenge to overcome, given that we were shooting a tall model. However, everyone really kept up the positive energy and enjoyed working in such a unique environment.

With your previous series, ‘Prince Jester’, you created a fantasy world centred around a Harlequin-type character. This time your protagonist is female, and seems rather like a manga character. What was the concept behind this?
Ji: We think that, in some ways, Bogwang Sauna is also about fantasy - in terms of popping colours, flashy lights, nostalgic themes, etc. ‘Prince Jester’ was a beauty shoot that focused on portraying the character himself, and the dark and twisted emotions that were going on inside of him. This time, we wanted to focus more on the stories that are happening inside a sauna – by creating moments in which the character enjoys the sauna in various ways, but also through bold and fashionable styling, makeup and hair. This visual dynamism resulted in a manga feel, which was very much our intention, as we wanted to create something humorous and light-hearted compared to ‘Prince Jester’.
Doh: For us, retro stands for a nostalgic and at the same time joyful feeling. So when it came to casting, the key consideration was whether the model would be able to bring across both of these emotions. This is why we chose Eunseo Kim from the model agency ‘Esteem’. She has a unique beauty that fits very well with the retro mood, but she also has a fresh and lovely energy. We wanted a face that was just like Bogwang Sauna - fun, lovely, vintage, somewhat quirky, but fashionable. And Eunseo proved to be the perfect match, as she fully committed herself to the shoot despite the challenging conditions. We asked Eunseo to act out many different scenarios, such as playing in the water, eating ice cream in a hot steam room, stepping into a tub of ice cold water, taking a shower etc., which was a lot of work. But none of it was a problem – Eunseo gave her all in every shot, which allowed us to get great results.

What other projects are you currently working on, or planning for the near future?  Ji: We can’t believe it has already been a year since we first started working as JI+DOH, and that this is the second time our work has been published in Leica S Magazine! We are still on a journey of shaping our own voice as a creative duo. One thing we have found so far is that we love working on fun and exciting ideas, and sharing our interest in fashion, music, and people. It has been a tough year for artists and the creative industry. However, despite the given circumstances, we believe it is important to keep sharing positive messages, as we have done with the Bogwang Sauna project.
Doh: Since the summer, we have been planning to launch a platform for artists who share our passion for fashion and music. This will take the form of a digital magazine based in Seoul and London. At the moment we are in London to work on our first-ever music video, and we are also planning another trip to Seoul within this year.