“The Pink and Blue Projects were initiated by my five-year-old daughter, who loved the colour pink so much that she wanted to wear only pink clothes and play with only pink toys and objects,” writes JeongMee Yoon. “I discovered that my daughter’s case was not unusual.
“In the United States, South Korea and elsewhere, most young girls love pink clothing, accessories and toys. This phenomenon is widespread among children of various ethnic groups regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the colour pink in order to look feminine.”
Yoon started to photograph children with their belongings in 2005, but the project – shot mostly in New York and Seoul – continues to this day. Showing babies and toddlers in their bedrooms, and shot in forensic detail on a medium format camera, the images show both the creation of gender identity and the overwhelming impact of consumerism. As time has gone on she has also revisited the children she has photographed, to consider the impact this marketing has had on them.
As Yoon points out, the association of pink with girls and blue with boys is arbitrary – and was originally the other way around. In 1914 American newspaper The Sunday Sentinel advised mothers to “use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention”; it was only after World War Two that the current convention became fixed in the US, and beyond. But as Yoon points out, these now well-established conventions include more than just the colours.
“The differences between girls’ objects and boys’ objects are also divided and affect their thinking and behavioral patterns,” she states. “Many toys and books for girls are pink, purple, or red, and are related to make up, dress up, cooking, and domestic affairs. However, most toys and books for boys are made from the different shades of blue and are related to robots, industry, science, dinosaurs, etc.
“This is a phenomenon as intense as the Barbie craze. Manufacturers produce anthropomorphic ponies that have the characteristics of young girls. They have barrettes, combs and accessories, and the girls adorn and make up the ponies. These kinds of divided guidelines for the two genders deeply affect children’s gender group identification and social learning.”
The Pink and Blue Project by JeongMee Yoon is published by Hatje Cantz, priced €40 www.hatjecantz.de/jeongmee-yoon-7393-1.html