Alone, Together

Rala Choi (b. 1987) is a Seoul-based fine art photographer. His works, in which figures are often depicted from behind, stand out for their painterly quality and command of saturated colour. Scenes unfold within scarlet, sky blue or navy rooms where objects are kept to a minimum. Sofas, tables, curtains, a vase or a book are all that’s required to tell the story. For Choi, the most important element is to communicate his characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s something with which he hopes viewers will empathise.

“I grew up in the countryside of South Korea where few people live and my father was rarely home due to work,” Choi remembers. “I had a deeper bond with animals and nature than humans. After I moved to Seoul by myself, I started to meet more people and built human relationships. I felt affection, longing, and loneliness. In my early 20s, I did not know how to express these feelings and emotions; but then I started expressing them through photography.” The resulting images depict characters alone and together.

In one scene, a woman hands an orange to a man sitting next to her, staring ahead at a blank blue wall. In another, more sombre, setting, a figure waits in front of a window, shoulders bare and curtains drawn. These two images embody what Choi is trying to achieve. There’s a sense of feeling exposed, but also of connection, selflessness and the other fundamentals that define us as individuals. “I want my photography to embody contradictory emotions,” Choi explains. “For example, loneliness and warmth.”

Choi describes his process as beginning with contemplation, then sketches, before a scene materialises – usually illuminated solely by natural light. Crucially, it all starts by looking within. “I draw and make notes of my emotions in daily life,” he says. “It is not fantasy or imagination, it is my real experience. I am still discovering myself, and I think people can sympathise with that. We are all human beings.”

All images courtesy Rala Choi.
1. A Sharing Person, 2022.
2. Woman and Man – 1, 2017.
3. Lady in Red Dress, 2017.
4. Mute, 2018.
5. Embrace – 5, 2017.
6. Women – 2, 2016.