This is a post about nothing in particular, I promise. It isn’t about anything that has been talked about a thousand times and it certainly isn’t going to be about comparing anything.
It is just a post about some photos I took on a day trip to Gunsan.
I had planned on going the previous weekend but the weather was shit. Luckily, the weather was nice on this particular day. Barely any clouds in the sky (depending on your processing of course) and no signs of rain!
Gunsan is about 30 minutes west of Iksan, where I live. It is a nice drive but nothing particularly interesting along the way. Perfect for some digital photos. If one were to be wanting to talk about such things.
Of course, I’m not.
Gunsan is cool in that it is an interesting blend of the old and the new. It is mostly old, though. It is famous in Korea for being the site of a great deal of the Japanese occupation. I like the blend of the old and the new. Kinda reminds me of film photography in the modern age. It is a little slow, in Gunsan, but peaceful at the same time.
A sense of nostalgia without feeling lost in time. I like that.
(Just a reminder, this is a post about a city and a trip to said city.)
Gunsan is also famous for its Museum of Modern History. Ironically, being a new and beautifully “modern” building it stands in stark contrast to the surrounding area that still shows hints of the occupation. Seems somehow out of place. I’m not sure the two things “go” together. It always baffles me how to put things like this together. That being said, I prefer this approach now as opposed to trying to make the modern “look” old.
I found it a little strange walking around that area. Some things looked old but were obviously new. It was almost like they were trying to pretend to be nostalgic and traditional yet were very obviously modern. I don’t mind this of course, but somehow I prefer a more subtle approach to this sort of thing.
Sometimes I think our “memories” (I put memories in quotations here as most of us have no actual memories of such times) are more extravagant than the actuality of how things were. Reminds me of the guys who try and mimic Daido Moriyama’s classic film look on digital. The photos become way too over the top and a lot more contrasty than his ever were. Pushed Tmax or Trix really isn’t that contrasty unless you print it. Even then, it isn’t as much as our “memories” seem to tell us.
Got a little off topic there, I apologize.
It is like when there is an extremely new cafe inside a traditionally styled Korean house. It isn’t quite “right” is it. Something about it plays with my idea of nostalgia and confuses it.
There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with this notion. I mean, people can do as they like and like what they like. I used to be the type to build a modern cafe inside a traditional house and think it was great. Not sure where along the line I changed.
I have accepted the fact that being completely traditional isn’t really possible in the modern world. There has to be an air conditioner (or should be) or fan in a traditional Korean restaurant for convenience. Some things are really better, now.
Anyway, Gunsan is cool in that it doesn’t feel like it has completely lost the plot in terms of this mix of nostalgia and modernism. It is close to becoming “too much” but not quite there yet. Not that this post is at all related to photography, but I feel like I am right around where Gunsan is on this scale if you were to compare it to photography.
I am slightly confused but trying to find my balance. I am trying to compartmentalize things. I am trying to separate my photographic brain sections into more clearly defined areas.
It is sort of akin to the Seven Eleven I saw in Jeonju once. It was built like a traditional Korean house. It is obviously not a traditional Korean house, is probably more expensive than a traditional Korean house, and most definitely takes at least as much or more effort to build in the style of a traditional Korean house than in the style of a modern Seven Eleven. Fancy frock or not, in the end, it is a Seven Eleven. And it wasn’t a “real” representation of a Korean house. It maybe had a traditional-ish roof that upon closer inspection was littered with fake engravings and plastic bits.
Why should it look like a traditional Korean house in this case? Just make it look like a Seven Eleven. EVERYONE knows it’s a Seven Eleven. Build an actual traditional Korean store. That might actually be cool. But I digress. I need to go try the new film preset in Snapseed. Heard it really does a good job at mimicking Portra!!
Well, that was how my mind wondered during my recent trip to Gunsan. A wild ride, I’m sure. Hopefully you all followed along 😉
Your inner discussion about film, digital, modern, new is important. I also fighted (and still do sometimes) with that. Very important for your growth. Anyway, it distracts from more important thing. From your focus of what (the theme, the subject) you shoot….. Greetings from the Czech Republic!
Thanks! It is an interesting dilemma always. I struggle with it constantly. Although I am more and more just using film.
Your post ‘about nothing’ inspired me not to reply!
I really enjoyed the photos about that korean town, mired in it’s struggle between tradition and modernity. But is not the modernity of today the classics of tomorrow. The world is evolving and those classifications evolve with it.
Of course I’m not talking about gear, it’s all about the feel of Gunsan! But in the end each of the facettes of Gunsan is equally valid and forms the whole. The traditional parts, steeped in sepia with that nostalgic glow and the starker, modern quarters with their rougher edges…
I prefer the classic parts of town, but that is just me. And as I know myself I’d always try, as you said, to put a modern interior into a traditionally styled house. Question of taste.
Nice photos by the way, even the ‘modern’ ones!
The pictures are great and give me an uneasy feeling, like life wasn’t always so peaceful here. But I’m really curious about how the streets look normal here, but in Korean movies all streets seem to be built on hills? I mean, going up hills? There is one place in the Bronx that is built going up a high hill. Anyway, your pictures are great!
haha, I suppose it is no different to how a lot of TV and movies supposedly in NYC are actually shot in Toronto so people are often confused by the feeling they get when they travel to New York. Although, most of the Korean TV or movies I’ve watched general feels quite true to what the country looks like. I would guess the answer is the part of Korea they film in most often might be hilly? I don’t know for sure though. I know the place where these photos were taken was where they filmed the movie “Christmas in August” if that helps 😉
I just saw your message—from last year! I see messages now! let’s stay in touch!
I dunno what it is but I enjoy your posts regardless of what you’re talking about! I have been subbed via rss for at least a year and I always look forward to your thoughts and images!
Dude, you dropped two amazing photos in this post – the one with the two kids riding their bikes, and the second with the kids blowing bubbles from the open window. I wasn’t prepared for that in the mix of city shots. So well done. Really enjoy your writing, photos and life journey you’re gracious to share with us.
Wow thanks dude. Glad you dug them. The bubbles one was probably one of my favourites from the day.
Interesting side-by-side analog/digital shots here. You clearly love your film images creamy and smooth, while you don’t go light on contrast when you process digital input, and keep those strictly neutral toned. Makes it easy to distinguish the two. But which style do you prefer? (My personal answer is: the former…)
Because if one is better, for you, than the other, there is no reason why you should not be able to match the output to the values you prefer. Those film scans can be post-processed for greater contrast too; and vice-versa you can tone your digital input to achieve the same creaminess, going lighter on contrast…
Unless, of course, a clear separation of styles is what you are after, to underline the difference in inputs. Are you, unconsciously or not, ‘protecting’ your love for film from the encroachment of digital tools?
Whatever you do, the framing is your key signature anyways.
Thanks for sharing your work, again.
I think that last statement is just about right. Some sort of weird protection. And I also definitely prefer the film. I usually process my digital to look as close to these as possible (see the new GR post for proof) but I do this mostly only to try and keep my Instagram feed consistent looking ha. A stupid reason, I know but there you go. I will continue with film indefinitely. I feel like I have found myself in this medium. I enjoy it and it feels right. Not only that but, I love the camera I’m using so much. I’ve used it for nearly three times as long as any other camera I’ve had and literally feel no need for anything else.
You’ve found your blissful flow tool. Stick with it and hold it dear! 🙂
As for consistent look, I don’t think it is a stupid reason at all. I wrote that your framing (you’re not afraid of breaking the rule of thirds, your images are oftentimes unashamedly centered) is your signature, and I stand by that statement; but it is also true that a jarring series of images skipping from toned to neutral, or from flattish to heavily contrasted (horror: from color to BW!), is instinctively a put-off. So sticking with a constant ‘look’ in processing terms is, in my mind, quite useful to draw people into your work. You can then use a change in look to separate projects and/or subjects perhaps, if you feel you need experimenting or sending different messages that way…
Giovanni really nailed the technical part of your post. I’d like to add that I enjoyed to watch out for the subtle differences in the side by side comparisons. Sometimes the model posed differently, sometimes the framing was a bit wider or narrower. Or the texture of the clothes was more or less pronounced. It made me look longer than usual.
I want to add that as for film simulation the VSCO on the iPhone does now a really good job if you subscribe to their VSCO X subscription offering. It’s 20 bucks a year and you get excellent film simulations, a high degree of customization with many tools to adapt to your personal style. I must admit that the app (together with casual use of Lightroom mobile) made me forget about my GRII. I can shoot using the native camera and either get the GR’s look or whatever I feel makes sense for the situation I was shooting in. Some situations simply cry for a certain visual style.
Anyway, I’m a longtime reader of your blog and it’s always a win to read about your personal and artistic development.
Thanks! I tried VSCO for a little while but I found the interface annoying and unintuitive. I guess I am a bit of a creature of habit so Snapseed it will continue to be for me. With the GR I use a yellow filter anyway so not much color from that. In this post, I think what I was most trying to get across was that I think for me, my film work looks 1000% better, haha.