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Heaven for fans of photography opens its doors: Prints and high-end cameras fill up new shop

Apr 16,2019
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Right: Around 500 photographs are on display at 291 Photographs’, a new space dedicated to photo art and high-end cameras at Lotte World Tower’s Avenuel department store in southern Seoul. Visitors, top left, browse photographs in the space. Seating for photography classes and reading photo books are also available, above left. [KIM EUN-JIN, 291 PHOTOGRAPHS’]
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On display is Hasselblad’s Lunar Surface SWC Camera, manufactured to capture the moon’s surface in the 1960s. [KIM EUN-JIN]

Lotte’s posh Avenuel department store at the soaring Lotte World Tower in Jamsil, southern Seoul, is a shopping mecca for those looking for items from luxury brands like Gucci and Balenciaga.

A brand new space in the upscale department store is attempting to offer something more than high-end shoes and clothes to customers - photography.

Last Thursday, 291 Photographs’, also known as “Everywhere about Photos,” opened on the store’s fifth floor.

Six clothing stores worth of space, or 660 square meters (7,110 square feet), has been transformed and dedicated to displaying and selling hundreds of photographs, photo books, high-end cameras and equipment. The store attracted immediate attention on its first day as crowds young and old gathered to check out the seemingly out-of-place exhibition.

“The project originated from a desire to offer visitors new value besides clothes and handbags,” said Kim Rima, chief buyer at Lotte Department Store’s Tenant MD Team which organized the space.

“We teamed up with the ‘Cooperative Photography Workshop’ to curate the photographs and photo books and with Bando Camera for our camera selection. Lotte just provided the space and planning.”

A huge chunk of 291 Photographs’, named after famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue, displays photos taken by around 500 professional and amateur members of the Cooperative.

Unlike most galleries, the photographers’ names are not exhibited beside their works.

“Customers can only see the name of the artists by opening up a drawer below the displays,” explained Kim.

“We want to promote works by artists at different stages of their career equally. We distribute profits equally between the photographers and Lotte only takes the production costs while the artists get the rest. But we hope the business will be profitable for Lotte in the long run as well.”

Starting at just 10,000 won ($8.80), customers can get an A4 or A2-sized print-out of their favorite photograph. They can also purchase selected works from featured artists in the mini gallery, which is currently hosting pieces that run up to tens of millions of won by award-winning photographers like Gwon Do-yeon.

The photo collection at 291 Photographs’ is set to be updated every month.

“If there are established photographers like Han Young-soo, whose new photo book is due to come out later this year, we may transform the entire gallery with just photos from one artist’s body of work,” said Lim Soo-sik, head of the Cooperative and professor of photography at Chung-Ang University.

Besides photographs, a choice selection of cameras and equipment from some of the finest brands like Hasselblad and Leica are on sale, courtesy of local camera retailer Bando Camera. For a limited time, visitors can even get a look at a very rare Hasselblad Lunar Surface SWC Camera, which was manufactured for capturing the moon’s surface during space missions in the 1960s.

Visitors can also get their photo taken by professional photographers on the spot at an adjacent photo studio. Also the store will offer interactive activities like regular photography-related seminars.

“291 Photographs’ is the first art business platform from Lotte,” said Lee Ju-hyun, head of Lotte’s Tenant MD Team. “We hope that it will become a heaven for hobbyists and collectors.”

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]