In Korea we have a saying: ‘naughty 7 years old’. We think a child of six or seven is at their most mischievous, which is when I started photographing my niece, Yeonsoo.
Every kid is special but she was simply the most impressionable and sensitive girl and it made me want to look at her more closely.
This process of observation required much delicate care. It was a fragile journey to the life and heart of a most unpredictable and sensitive girl, into her relationship with those around her: her family and friends –although they remain unseen in the photographs- and also to my own childhood. It came as a surprise for me to see how the little girl managed to express herself and react to the world. It took a while for me to understand that a kid has a character that hasn't settled down yet, so she can be the sweetest girl at one moment and yet bitter or outrageous in the next. Her experience of the world is very limited by her young age, so that my sister is at once Yeonsoo's best-loved companion and her biggest rival. And yet, a kid’s imagination is unlimited; they can be anybody they want to be.
Nowadays, Yeonsoo is going to school. I knew that the stage of being 7 years old would not last long. A period of transition was inevitable, which means moving from the family setting to the society of school. She has started learning how to live with others, and this has brought much laughter and tears as well. Young kids are like very soft clay or sponges, which become harder as they find their direction. It is how we learn to find our way in life. What I didn't want to miss were these fragile moments of being a little girl, which all women went through.
Beyond my interest in her, there is also a reciprocal relationship between us. Looking at her, I often felt as if I was looking at myself as a child. It allowed me to meditate about how I came to be the woman I am today, and indeed what sort of person I’ve become.