Photographer Johsel Namkung was Born in Gwangju, Korea in 1919 where he grew up with a love for both art and music. He studied voice at The Tokyo Conservatory in Japan, and in fact, won the All-Japan Music Contest in 1940. Following the war, Johsel and his wife Mineko came to Seattle when they received scholarships to the University of Washington School of Music.
After receiving a Masters in Music at UW, Namkung worked for Northwest Airlines, who hired him because he spoke fluent Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. But in 1956, his love for photography caused him to leave Northwest to study photography and print making full time. His studies included apprenticeships, work in commercial studios, and a week-long workshop with Ansel Adams in 1958. Namkung was a member of the Seattle arts community and was close friends with artists George Tsutakawa, Mark Tobey, and Kenneth Callahan, among others.
Namkung worked for 25 years as a medical photographer at the UW Medical Center, a job that gave him plenty of free time for his nature photography. The UW's Henry Art Gallery has held several solo exhibitions of Namkung's nature photographs (1966 and 1973). The Seattle Art Museum held its first Namkung show in 1978, and another in the summer of 2006 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Namkung's photos are in the collections of the Seattle Art Museum, the Oakland Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Henry Gallery. The Allen Center holds two photographs from the 2006 Seattle Art Museum exhibit on the 2nd and 4th floors. Namkung brought the photos to the Allen Center himself in his VW Microbus.
Johsel Namkung died in 2013 at the age of 94.
HistoryLink.org article "Johsel Namkung: Photographer of Landscape as Music" (from Doris Tarzan Amant's book)
Smithsonian Archives of American Art interview with Johsel Namkung (1989)
Seattle Times obituary for Johsel Namkung
Johsel Namkung: A Retrospective, Cosgrove Editions, 2012.
Ode to the Earth: Photographs by Johsel Namkung, Cosgrove Editions, 2006.
Iridescent Light: The Emergence of Northwest Art, by Deloris Tarzan Ament and Mary Randlett. University of Washington Press, 2002.
Johsel Namkung: An artist's view of nature, University of Washington Press, 1987
The Olympic rain forest, University of Washington Press, 1967
Art in the Allen Center