While I hadn’t been taking many photos for the past couple of months, the past couple of weeks has changed a bit. Slowly, I’m starting to take more photos.
Going back to some old places in Seoul has helped, like the above, from Namdaemun Market. I’m not taking the best photos I ever have, but, I am wanting to take photos again.
A good start.
I’ve been working on a fairly long post, as well, talking about photography (street and otherwise) and how I feel like I need to do it again. Also, it will introduce a new set from my portfolio that will be ongoing, entitled, My Korea.
Yesterday, a friend asked me about the draft of a blog post he had been writing about using his mobile phone (or compact camera) to take photos of his daily life. It was an interesting read, many of the same feelings I often have. The mobile phone has changed the way we photograph because it really is, always there.
Last night, my girlfriend asked me to take her to school so she could do a little work. Tired from a day working myself, I didn’t even think to bring a camera. Why would I? Unlike some, cameras and photographs are far from the only thing I think about or do.
We weren’t there very long, maybe 30 minutes. Like a good boyfriend often does, I got bored, ha. So I took a photo with my phone while she mixed something. She is an art major, if you hadn’t guessed.
I can honestly say, I have no idea where I will be in five years, or ten. But, wherever I am, I know I will want to have remembered this. I’m from a small town in Newfoundland, Canada. Finding myself in the art room of a university in South Korea watching someone work after midnight wasn’t probably something I ever thought I would do.
I was glad I had read my friends blog post earlier, or else maybe I would have stayed in the car or bit my fingernails or whatever. I’m glad I took some photos to remember.
It got me to thinking as we drove home, people ask me often about cameras and smart phones versus real compact cameras and blah.
I’m happy to get questions, and this one is probably the easiest.
It is pretty simple.
When you feel like taking a photo, take one with whatever is fucking closest.
For me, that is usually my phone. I don’t carry more than one picture taking thingy with me at a time for two reasons.
Choice. Choice isn’t that good of a thing for me because by the time I figure out what to take the photo with whatever feeling that had driven me to want to take the photo in the first place is gone. Then, I’m doing for the sake of doing. I hate reading facebook posts from people about to travel where they lay out 15 cameras on the floor of their apartment asking for advice on which 5 they should take so they are covered for every situation. I wish those people would just shoot with their phone for a trip and feel how liberating it is to not have choice. How much better of a photographer it would make them.
The other reason is more important, I think, even if it can be said in just a couple of sentences. I don’t want to leave my house for the sake of taking photos, because if I do, I’m not doing anything else. I take photos of what I’m doing, I don’t “do” taking photos.
Don’t get offended, this is just “me.” Whatever floats your boat, as they say.
I’ve been working a little bit on this series of “contact sheets.” So far, I talked about a couple of my favorite photos from the past year or so. This one, ha, is a bit funny. The story behind taking Eric’s current (at the time of this writing) profile photo.
The story starts in the Hongdae District of Seoul. Eric and his girlfriend Cindy had come to Korea for a workshop that Eric and I would teach for Leica Korea. Not drinking much these days, Eric asked for a tour of coffee shops in Hongdae, famous mostly for a different type of drink.
I knew of one cool little cafe that I had been too a couple of years ago in the downstairs of a pub. Honestly, it had been converted into a coffee shop/house in which we ended up in the “library” sitting room.
This book above was on our table.
A cool photo, we thought. It is Truman Capote in case you were curious. I had seen it before as had Eric. He jokingly said he wanted me to take a similar one of him with the twist of my style, whatever that means, ha.
So, this ensued:
Overall, I took ten photos including the photo of the book. I used a Sony compact camera with flash. We tried some different poses and attempts to get the light I wanted.
The cafe was pretty dark so I used the flash on the camera. I almost always do now anyway. I still couldn’t really get it right so I had our other friend, Harry, hold a couple of phones with their flashes on for some extra light diffusing one with a napkin, lol. I guess the moral of the story is to use what you’ve got.
In fact, this was my favorite, ha. Eric and I usually agree on photos so I suppose it is kinda ironic that we would have different favorites. I think the one he likes is closer to the original, so that’s cool.
Either way, I quite like the photo. Like many of my photos now, I don’t care a whole lot about whether or not they are great photos as long as I like them and they serve their purpose to me.
On a bit of a side note, Eric will be at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai coming up soon. I will also have a couple of photos being exhibited there, although I will not be there in person. This is one of the photos (also from Hongdae):
Yesterday, I wrote about why I don’t do much street photography anymore. I posted some older photos. The above is older, too. I took it my first day back to Korea.
I guess you could call this post part II of what I started yesterday.
Some people emailed me (thanks – by the way) to urge me to do a little more street photography. The sentiment is nice, I appreciate it. The fact of the matter is, though, I don’t have time. I suppose that is the case for most of you, too.
The above, for example, was taken while I transferred from the bus to the subway at Seoul Station last year. I had forgotten about this photo, until I found an old hard drive with some files yesterday. I didn’t know there were protests. I only took this photo.
These, were on the same drive. I had forgotten them, too. Nothing special, really, but they do bring me right back to that day. It was my first day back in Namdaemun Market since returning to Korea. I had once loved to come here and take photos, like a lot of foreigners do. It had become boring and has done again.
I take more photos like this, now. Near the house I lived in for a year in Suwon, just South of Seoul. I walked past this everyday. I took this the last day before I moved. Just wanted something to remember.
One of the hardest parts about living in Korea, is seeing friends leave. For a year, Harry here, was as good of a friend as I’ve had in Seoul. He didn’t care much for photography. Weirdly though, he was one of my biggest influences for the time he was here. When I would take ‘normal’ photos of my friends he always urged me to just “fuck what they think” (his words) and use my own style. Not everyone likes it, but sometimes, it takes a friend to tell you such things.
Photography for me is all about a photo like this.
This is not dissimilar. A photo of my baby cousin the first time I had met him. I don’t make it back to Canada much, and am not even sure when I’ll visit again. I’m glad I took this photo. It is probably the photo I like the most from being home this past time. Photography people, would hardly agree I’m sure. I’m also sure that I could give a fuck.
So, I guess this leads me to the end of this long rant. Some of the photos here will be part of a series I’ve decided to start called My Korea.
There is no theme, or angle. It is just that,
It will be ongoing on a portfolio hosted by good mate, Eric. In chapters, you should be able to see some of the first photos soon.
Someone asked me recently why I don’t do street photography very much anymore. I don’t know, really, and that’s what I told them. Since coming back to Korea full time, I’ve (whether consciously or not) have started to photograph my life more than anything else.
That isn’t to say I’ve stopped completely. I still carry a small camera or phone with me all the time. I still take photos when I see them. Maybe I don’t post them, or get to them as fast.
When I left Korea, for the first time, I was disappointed that I had so many photos that felt random, yet, I kept going back to the photos I took of people around me and wishing I had more.
Photos of random people are great, for random people. For me, it is the portraits of people I know that I always go back to.
When I take “street” photos now, they are a little different. I don’t feel I’m of the HCB school of finding moments. I don’t care much about moments.
I probably won’t be famous, so the photos I take are for me. Things that are unique to where I am and things that will remind me of what it felt like to be here.
Might be photos of people, might not be. I’m not so interested in other people’s stories these days as I am of my own. At least, when I take photos in my own time.
I’ve been to Hongdae, for example, hundreds of times. I’ve taken hundreds of photos there. Weirdly though, it is the one above that reminds me most of the “feeling” of Hongdae.
The buildings near my first house in Suwon. Old, tattered, but somehow happy.
The fish market in Busan.
I don’t spend as much time on the metro as I used to, but I remember the feeling of taking it for the first time again when I came back. It was the first time I really felt like I was back.
Sadly, this is the Korea I see most often now.
Namdaemun Market. A favorite for photography when I was here first. Really feels like “Asia”…
I guess the point is, I still do some “street” photography, but I don’t know if I’d really call that. It is more personal to me than that. I don’t take photos anymore so that I can rush home and post them to photography groups on flickr. I take photos so I can have something to remember my time here by.
And I guess, write posts like this.
A love song to Korea, perhaps. At least a mini one.
After a bit of a push from a good friend, and popular photographer Eric Kim, I’ll finally start to put together a series of photos here.
People may or may not know, that I am a teacher. Deciding I didn’t want to pursue law in Canada, I originally came to Korea to teach and have loved every minute of it. I don’t talk about it much, but I do really have fun teaching.