Jae Eun Seok’s lens: capturing the soul of fashion through photography

Jae Eun Seok, our photography collaborator, just finished shooting the beauty photo story "Into the Unknown" for Harper's Bazaar Vietnam. In the following interview,  she reveals the profound connection between her artistic upbringing and her distinctive approach to fashion photography, highlighting her journey from raw passion to industry acclaim.

Into the Unknown. Jae Eun Seok's lens: capturing the soul of fashion 1

“Into the Unknown” beauty story. Photo: Jae Eun Seok.

Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam: Jae, could you share what initially attracted you to photography and fashion, and how your education at the School of Visual Arts has shaped your approach to your work?

JAE EUN SEOK: Despite not being in the art industry, my father possesses a natural talent for drawing and photography. He gifted me a camera on my birthday, sparking my interest as I began capturing moments involving friends, family, and anything that captured my attention.

My burgeoning passion for photography steered me towards pursuing art, with the aspiration of living in New York City. While studying fine arts in photography at the School of Visual Arts, I developed an affinity for experimenting with textures, fabrics, colors, and the interplay between light and shadow.

This exploration encouraged me to pursue a Master’s degree in Fashion Photography at the same institution. I believe that while art school isn’t essential to become an artist or photographer, it provided me with a conducive environment to explore and grow alongside peers who shared similar aspirations.

It offered me the opportunity to delve into my identity and discover my unique contributions to the industry.

HBZVN: You’ve expressed enjoyment in the process of cropping and composing objects through your lens to create impactful imagery. Could you describe your typical creative process, from the initial concept to the final shot?

JAE EUN SEOK: Fashion and beauty photography are inherently collaborative, with all creative minds uniting under a shared vision outlined in a mood board. Before the shoot, I collaborate with my team to establish a mood, but on set, I prioritize flexibility and intuition.

This approach fosters moments of serendipity that I find particularly rewarding. Post-shoot, during the editing phase, I meticulously review the images to craft a cohesive narrative and ensure they robustly represent the envisioned story.

HBZVN: Your work is celebrated for its vibrant use of colors and the dynamic interplay of light and shadow. How do you choose the color palette for a shoot, and what significance do you think light has in setting the mood of your images?

JAE EUN SEOK: The makeup and styling choices provide the initial inspiration for my color palette. Starting with their hues on a blank canvas, I might introduce additional colors with lighting for a more striking effect.

The decision also hinges on whether the shoot is editorial or commercial, as each targets a different audience and thus influences how much creative freedom I have with colors and lighting.

I view light and shadow as symbolic representations of our inner and possibly spiritual lives, illustrating the dualities we navigate, akin to yin and yang. This interplay, I believe, crafts images that captivate and prompt the audience to delve into their imagination.

HBZVN: You’ve mentioned an interest in creating images that inspire ambiguous feelings, prompting viewers to use their imagination. Why is ambiguity valuable in your work, and how do you maintain it while conveying specific messages or emotions?

JAE EUN SEOK: I find art that ignites our imagination and provokes questions to be profoundly more intriguing, as it allows us to superimpose our life experiences. Preferring ambiguity to clarity, I aim to offer art as a mirror for individual reflection.

Nevertheless, considering that fashion and beauty photography primarily serve commercial ends and aim at product promotion, the extent of creative freedom varies based on the audience. My objective is to balance this creative dichotomy, adjusting my approach based on the project’s direction and the target audience.

HBZVN: Securing first place in the Amazon Fashion Studio Sessions in 2014 and presenting your graduate exhibit at Milk Gallery are standout achievements. How have these accomplishments shaped your career trajectory and opportunities within the industry?

JAE EUN SEOK: My involvement in the Amazon Fashion Studio Sessions as a School of Visual Arts student, and subsequently winning first place among competitors from other New York art schools, was an honor. Similarly, showcasing my work at Milk Gallery was a treasured milestone.

These experiences have been pivotal in my development and have facilitated numerous opportunities for advancement in my career. I view not only these milestones but also daily experiences as vital lessons in my artistic growth.

HBZVN: How has your style evolved from your early days as a photographer and creative director, and what have been the major influences on this evolution?

JAE EUN SEOK: My journey began with a curiosity about my perspective and the desire to capture how I see the world. This has been a continuous process of articulating my inner visions through photography.

My imagination and patience have been crucial influences, allowing me to reinterpret everything from my viewpoint. As the world evolves, so does my work, in a perpetual narrative of self-discovery and adaptation to maintain the authenticity of my artistic identity.

Into the Unknown. Jae Eun Seok's lens: capturing the soul of fashion 2

Into the Unknown – Look 1. Skin: Makeup Forever HD Foundation mixed with White Color Adjuster. Eyeshadows: Jeffree Star Cosmetics ‘Controversy’ Palette + Danessa Myricks Lightwork V: I Am Palette. Lashes: Custom. Brows: Kevyn Aucoin True Feather Brow Duo. Lips: MAC Cosmetics Costa Riche Pencil + Winky Lux Winter Cherry Lip Oil.

Look 1.

Into the Unknown – Look 2. Skin: Face Atelier HD Foundation. Brows: Kevyn Aucoin True Feather Brow Duo. Bronzer: DIBS Beauty contour sticks. Eyes: Formula Z Happystick Liner Duo in Cedar/Topaz + Danessa Myricks Lightwork V: I Am Palette. Lashes: Custom. Lips: Makeup Forever Artist Pencil in Endless Cacao + MAC Cosmetics Blankety Lipstick.

Into the Unknown. Jae Eun Seok's lens: capturing the soul of fashion 3

Look 2.

Look 3. Skin: Face Atelier HD Foundation. Brows: Kevyn Aucoin True Feather Brow Duo. Eyeshadow + Blush: Anastasia Beverly Hills x Norvina Vol.3. Eyeliner: Inglot #77. Lips: MAC Cosmetics Powder Kiss Lipstick in Mull it Over.

Into the Unknown. Jae Eun Seok's lens: capturing the soul of fashion 4

Look 3.

Look 3.

Into the Unknown – Look 3. Photo: Jae Eun Seok.

Into the Unknown

Creative Director / Photographer: Jae Eun Seok @jaeeunseok_.
Makeup artist: Maite Moreira @mai.mor.
Hair stylist: Takayuki Umeda @um_takayuki at 87artists @87artists.
Talent: Hayden Graye @hayden.graye at State Management @statemgmt.

Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam