How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?
Uno Yi: I know it will be a typical story just like other kids’ dreaming to be a war photographer. But here is the cliche: I was one of those office workers who got tired of his job. I happened to see Tim Hetherington’s Infidel and I was fascinated right away. I quit the job to be in Missouri to study photojournalism about a month later.
Can you tell us how the project “Lost Children” came about?
UY: I spent almost a decade in the U.S. staying away from my family. I always missed my niece the most. Whenever I saw kids around her age, I could see myself getting interested in them. When I drove around the town to find a story, I happened to meet Abby playing outside the house with her siblings. Abby was curious enough to ask me what my name was, who I was, where I was from and others. I liked to hang out with her and her siblings. At the beginning, they just reminded me of my niece, but inside the house was shocking and I decided to start working on the story. Later, I found the town is full of broken families.
Can you discuss your process of making these pictures?
UY: As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed hanging out with them. But it’s another issue to photograph them. I mean they are children who are ready to pose for photo shoots all the time. I needed to make sure that they got used to being around the camera. It took time but I could see the family was getting used to being around the camera and myself.
How did you meet the people you photographed?
UY: I saw a guy on the street with a tattoo showing a confederate flag. I asked him if he was a KKK member and he laughed at me — remember I am Asian. Later, we talked and he told me about his family. This is how I met the second family. I already told you about the first one. I approached other families in the story a bit differently. But I believe it can always be good to talk to people to find stories out of them.
How much time did you spend with these families as you photographed them?
UY: I think I photographed them for about 3 months. I could visit the town three time a week; but I couldn’t visit them at all in other weeks. Still, I would like to go back to see them.
What do you hope people experience or feel when they look at your photographs?
UY: Each viewer probably has a different reaction to it. It’s sort of something I can’t control. But I hope them to find the children in the photos are no different from their family, just as I felt about them.
What photographers or other artists inspire you?
UY: It’s the hardest question. I think it depends on the mood. I believe Renee C. Byer’s A Mother’s Journey is a classic. I was freaked out when I first saw Larry Sultan’s work. I should mention Tim Hetherington, Eugene Smith, Eugene Richard, Yunghi Kim, Barbara Davidson, Alex Soth, photographer friends of mine and many others.
Are you working on any other projects currently?
UY: I am currently trying to save money for the next project, picking up freelance works as a writer and a photojournalist. I am also working on a book translation. I don’t know what it is going to be about—I have too many ideas in my mind. But I would like to go to Uzbekistan or California first.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Uno Yi is a freelance photojournalist based in Seoul at the moment working with some news agencies including Bloomberg Business Weekly, Getty Images, South China Morning Post and others.
Photographer of the Day by Photographic Museum of Humanity in Jan. 2017.
Participated in Economic Hardship Reporting Project in 2016 Ohio University School of Visual Communication.
Master Candidate Hearst Journalism Awards 2014.
Mastering the Method Contest 2014 — Missouri School of Journalism.
Missouri Photo Workshop 2013.
Former Columbia Missourian Staff.
University of Missouri School of Journalism.
To see more of Uno Yi’s work, visit his official website
Also published on F-Stop magazine