Thank you for visiting! Please enjoy reading Patrick and Suhee’s story below.
In the Summer of 2011, Suhee Kang had just returned to Seoul, South Korea after spending time photographing villages in Turkey and Syria. During her preparation for exhibition of these images, a curious American artist named Patrick Lydon contacted her; he was in Seoul to undertake a project on the city’s subway system, and looking to meet other photographers in Seoul. Suhee happily invited him to her exhibition opening, and it was here that these two visual storytellers with wildly different subject matters would first meet.
Now, one might imagine a wide gap between a woman who likes to photograph old people in rural villages, and a man who enjoys photographing urban infrastructure. Indeed there was…
Still, Patrick was taken by the beauty of Suhee, and that of her ideas and the deeply moving relationships with the people she photographed. Suhee, to be honest, was a bit off-put by this American who claimed to be a photographer and arts commissioner, and talked of wild and grandiose plans to use art for building sustainable cities. She devised a plan to see if this man was just a brash foreigner, or if he was genuinely interested in sustainability, inviting him to take a 6am train the next morning to work at an organic farm just outside the city with her. He did. The two put their hands in the soil and talked the entire day and night about their common roots of photography, art, storytelling, and a desire to build a better future for humanity.
The next month, the two would start an online magazine together called SocieCity, a publication focused on telling the stories of people working towards social and ecological well being around the world. What they didn’t expect, was for one of these interviews to rattle the very foundations of their lives and beliefs.
Meeting the Korean natural farmer, Seong Hyun Choi did just that. This man (and others like him who they were soon to meet during their travels) told a story of humanity working together with nature to build a better world for both. The story itself was interesting, however it was not just a story or a philosophy for these individuals; it was a way of thinking and doing that seemed to infuse everything in their life and work.
In the following years, both in cities and on small hillside farms around the world, Patrick and Suhee witnessed a silent army of people who were slowly changing the way everything was done. These people were abolishing the social, economic, and political contracts that were no longer working for them, and in their place, they were forging new contracts that did work; contracts aimed not at competition, but at cooperation; contracts made not exclusively between humans and humans, but between humans and the entire living world which we rely on for our products, our food, and our lives.
Witnessing all of this offered the two more than just an alternative view. It ultimately gave them a rich and fertile soil in which they could grow a new artistic practice, one based on uncovering and conveying new and old social and ecological truths about this earth, and the kind of life and future we humans might build here.
Meeting Mr. Choi sent the couple on a trajectory that saw them quit their jobs and begin a mostly nomadic life, with no home and few possessions. It is here that Patrick and Suhee (camera in one hand, sickle in the other) began learning in earnest about the lives and mindsets of natural farmers. Patrick was offered a grant to attend The University of Edinburgh, earning his MFA studying art and ecological urbanism while working on a documentary film about the “natural farming” mindset with Suhee.
After four years of film production, Patrick and Suhee completed their documentary film, Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness, and since then the two have toured extensively, personally screening the film over 140 times throughout the world to excellent reviews. Along the way, they have been commissioned to conduct workshops on art, nature, and creativity, to write articles and books, and to produce exhibitions in galleries and art spaces in Japan, Korea, and Scotland. All of it would be about connecting the philosophies of the natural farmers they were meeting to art and urban life.
The goal in all of this — and the foundations of Suhee and Patrick’s life since the first years of their relationship — has been to build a plausible ecological future for humanity by bringing us into a closer relationship with this earth by which we live.
As improbable and unimaginable as it might have seemed when they first met, during these past six years of knowing each other and working together, Patrick and Suhee have shared inspirations and ideas for the future one way or another, with over half a million people in over 150 countries!
Now the two are taking two first big steps, firstly by getting married, and secondly by working to build a physical location for their future activities. With that, this fall Patrick and Suhee will marry in a traditional ceremony in Seoul. Then they’ll get their hands dirty, revitalizing an old urban dwelling with friends, colleagues, and a local philanthropic organization in Osaka, Japan, turning it into what will be a small but powerful center for art and ecology.
Their work at The Branch brings together their study and experiences over these past years, and will work with partners in Osaka and internationally to develop and push all of it further, wider, and deeper.
Activities at The Branch will pair a deeply-engaged environmental awareness with boundary-pushing art exhibitions, community-engaged nature and craft activities, and eye-opening media production, all of it working to help society re-imagine an equitable future.
This is an exciting time for us, one where we look forward to bringing people together, to helping solve society’s biggest problems with small solutions, and to finding common ground with people of all backgrounds, poking holes in the borders that so often divide us.
We would like you to join in support of The Branch project; it will be our next labor of love, our first home together, and the first work to be undertaken as an officially married couple. We would love to have you all on board.
Your gift of a donation goes directly to building our project, The Branch. We look forward to your support, whether monetarily or through your time and skill, and to having you with us on this journey in truth, goodness, and beauty.
Yours in Nature,
Patrick M. Lydon and Suhee Kang