Photographer Dongkyun Vak turns objects of purpose into works of art

Our Next Generation 2022 showcase shines a light on 22 outstanding graduates from around the globe, in seven creative fields. We profile photographer Dongkyun Vak, a graduate of Korea National University of Arts, Seoul

Two black and white photographs side by side, left is crossed over wooden planks and right image is a lady in her car
Kumimono, 2017 and Parking, 2019, by Dongkyun Vak
(Image credit: Dongkyun Vak)

With a cogent eye, Korean image-maker Dongkyun Vak presents objects as distilled symbols of their purpose. His Artifacts series is an investigation into the design principle ‘form follows function’.

He is curious about how the man-made – particularly technology – both adapts to and informs us as consumers and creators. For example, a Sekonic light meter becomes a subject of an image, rather than just a tool used in its production. Telling the story behind this image, Vak explains when he was studying lighting, he was struck by a curiosity to capture the Sekonic as it read the environment’s light. In its simplest form, photography is just a recording of light after all. In another of Vak’s works, a Bosch Quigo cross-line laser is inverted, becoming an art piece in itself rather than an instrument commonly used when hanging art. 

Sekonic light meter standing up

Sekonic L-358, 2016

(Image credit: Dongkyun Vak)

Talking of his influences, Vak mentions driverless cars, anthropomorphic robots, and the art of Roe Ethridge and Christopher Williams. The Seoul-based artist began his practice as a photorealistic painter, which is no surprise given his keen attention to detail, before moving into photography for its efficiency in rendering form. 

Looking at Vak’s work is a visually satisfying reminder of how any object can be the sum of its purpose, and much more – a reflection of the Anthropocene we live in.  

Close view of robot arm

RX-0UC, 2018

(Image credit: Dongkyun Vak)

Dongkyun Vak’s dream collaborator

‘Airbus. In winter 2015, I visited Toulouse while studying in Paris. Toulouse has the headquarters and factory of Airbus, Europe's largest aircraft manufacturer. I'm usually intrigued by aeroplanes, and I was lucky to meet Bernard Ziegler, an early engineer of Airbus. Meeting him aroused my curiosity regarding aircraft manufacturing. If there's a chance again, I would like to go back there and record the entire manufacturing process in photographs.’

ultra violet light

Ultraviolet, 2020, Dongkyun Vak

(Image credit: Dongkyun Vak)

black and white image of a Bosch Quigo laser

Bosch Quigo

(Image credit: Dongkyun Vak)

black and white image of someone feet from behind wearing white socks

White socks, 2017

(Image credit: Dongkyun Vak)


As Photography Editor at Wallpaper*, Sophie Gladstone commissions across fashion, interiors, architecture, travel, art, entertaining, beauty & grooming, watches & jewellery, transport and technology. Gladstone also writes about and researches contemporary photography. Alongside her creative commissioning process, she continues her art practice as a photographer, for which she was recently nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award. And in recognition of her work to date, listed by the British Journal of Photography as ‘One to Watch’.

With contributions from