A chat with Jin-Woo Prensena, daredevil photographer

April 25, 2017

Until June 13 this summer, visitors to 45 Park Lane can discover the striking works of audacious photographer Jin-Woo Prensena as he unveils ELEMENTS, a collection of his daring travel adventures laid bare in 29 stunning prints – many shown publicly for the first time.

We caught up with Jin-Woo to find out more about what inspires his stunning photographs, and how he manages to work in such extreme conditions.

What first inspired you to start taking pictures?
Before my career as a photographer, I spent 12 years working as one of the top handlers in Hollywood for an A-list celebrity. The job took me to many of the most unique and interesting destinations around the world. All these experiences and the urge to constantly evolve in photography played a big part of how I saw the world through the lens.

How do you approach each subject?
Less is more, but not without struggle! My images are meant to be straightforward and uplifting. They range from a peacefully floating great white shark off the coast of Mexico to unique aerials I shot hanging out of helicopters and tiny airplanes. I love shooting under very challenging conditions with excellent camera equipment, which allows me to print large scale at the highest quality. I enjoy the drama and challenges behind the camera, but try to create a final fine art print that has a very unobtrusive peacefulness about it.

FOURNINTEEN (Santa Monica, 2016)                                                           DANGEROUSMOUSE (Mexico, 2016) 

What is the inspiration behind your pictures?
The idea of being able to capture a specific moment and feeling that otherwise vanishes instantly is exciting for me. And to see those moments beautifully framed in large format gives me an extreme satisfaction.

Do you have to mentally and physically prepare yourself to take these photographs?
I remember the first time I stepped out of a helicopter to shoot up in the air, flown by my good friend Aaron Fitzgerald. This was my chance to shoot the images that I had already envisioned weeks prior in my head. The combination of beating my own fears and shooting with my favourite piece of equipment, a Phase One IQ3 100MP medium format camera, while flying over breathtaking cityscapes and natural scenery gives me an ultimate high. It makes me feel 100% ALIVE.

What was the most challenging aspect to get these perfect shots?
In ELEMENTS I am featuring a sequence of six shots of the breathtaking glacier riverbeds of the highlands of Iceland. I had the true pleasure to be taken up in the air by my fellow photographer Ragnar Axelsson in a tiny single propeller airplane. I like to shoot straight down from above so taking pictures from the Supercup was far more challenging than shooting out of a hovering helicopter. Work space is minimal and having a joystick between your legs and a throttle on the left that you are not allowed to touch doesn’t make it easy. The plane is also moving at a much faster speed than shooting out of helicopter. In order to anticipate what I wanted to shoot I had to lean my head far out of the cabin into the ice cold, Icelandic winds. My eyes started watering right away. And because I was leaning out, Ragnar had to constantly countersteer to balance the uneven weight distribution. I had to anticipate the areas to shoot in the far distance, then had only a split second to find focus and take the shot.

RIVERBEDS I, II, III, IV., V, VI (Iceland, 2016)

To date, what has been your favourite place to shoot?
I am fascinated by the ever-changing scenery of Iceland. The island has a very special energy to it. From being deep inside the chamber of a volcano, to landing on top of an untouched glacier and flying over the riverbeds of the highlands, Iceland gives me so many unique locations to shoot.

If you could pick anywhere in the world to photograph, where would that be?
The list is long but I would love to shoot an aerial series over Greenland, especially given the impact of climate change. I want to capture the beauty of this wonderful place for people to enjoy.

Jin-Woo’s prints will be on display at 45 Park Lane from April 4 – June 13, so it’s the perfect time to stop by for a cocktail at BAR 45.

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