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July 24, 2013

Ahae at the Château de Versailles

By Shivani Vora | Photography

Ahae at the Chateau de Versailles
Courtesy of Ahae a Versailles

Paris has no shortage of notable art exhibits, but the one to see this summer is undoubtedly “Ahae. The Extraordinary Within the Ordinary,” which features the works of Korean photographer Ahae in the Orangerie Hall at the Château de Versailles. The show, continuing through September 9, opened June 25 and drew more than 5,000 visitors in its first four days alone.

The exhibit of 220 photographs is a part of Versailles’s celebration of the 400th anniversary of the birth of André Le Nôtre (1613–1700), who was the master landscape architect and gardener at the palace during King Louis XIV’s reign. “Ahae's exhibition shows photography of an un-managed landscape, and this was seen by Versailles as a particularly relevant juxtaposition to a celebration of the formality of the 17th-century gardens," says Guy Oliver, designer of the exhibit. "There is beauty in both, with and without the interference."

To make the works easier to appreciate, they are divided into multiple galleries, each representing a theme, such as birds, land and sky, sunset and clouds, nightscapes and water reflections. The 72-year-old has depicted the cycle of a day, from dawn till dusk, but what stands out about his method is that all the images were taken from a single window in his studio in the South Korean peninsula, all made different by simply changing the angle of his lens. And the exhibit’s uniqueness isn’t limited to Ahae’s technique: Every picture is untouched and un-manipulated—a rarity in photography.

Ahae was born in 1941 in Kyoto, Japan. His family had been relocated there during Japanese colonial rule, and returned to Korea at the end of World War II. He began taking photos in the 1970s but didn’t venture into his single-window approach until two years ago. He rarely leaves his home (his son, Keith Yoo, attended the exhibit opening in his stead), taking between 2,000 and 4,000 shots a day. All told he has captured more than two million images. "Ahae's work teaches us to really look at what we see in an outlook—it isn't merely a view," says Oliver. "Reflections, shadows, light and color...the variations are infinite." Place d’Armes, 33-1/30-83-78-00; chateauversailles.fr.

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