My theory: Old folks wake up early because, when they were young parents, “before the kids wake up” was the only time of the day they had to themselves. This photo was taken with the Olympus Pen EE2 during one of those periods at a friend’s home.
Speaking of friends, my old pal Jayavant has made a habit of posting photos he took a decade ago in Korea. While he made the transition to back home (amazing what you can do when you have a desired skill set) and I’m still here slinging English, these images were from around the time we met. Korea hasn’t changed a bit since that time. All the cities still look the same. The housing too. The only real difference that I can tell is the massive influx of coffee houses on every corner now.
I don’t have any photos from a decade ago. [Insert rant about how you must double back-up your image files here] The above is the best I can do and this is from 2011. For all intents and purposes it might as well be from a decade ago. Or two for that matter. As much as I’d love to get back in Japan, realistically I’m deep in that undesirable age bracket for work there and the odds are pretty damned long.
I really shouldn’t be here in Korea for that matter, saggy old fucker that I am. Score one for being willing to live in a small city while your betters fill up Seoul and Busan.
(A previously posted image this time with new words)
Even though I’ve previously ragged on people for taking the same photos in Seoul/ Tokyo/ NYC/ etc… I’m gonna tell you right now that you should feel free as you want to take cliché photos.
(I know you need validation from an internet stranger. We all do. That’s why we’re online. Well, for that and so we can rage at other strangers. It sure ain’t for the intelligent conversation.)
My reasoning goes like this: You are never going to be the next Bill Ray, Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White, or even the next Anne Geddes because we live in a post Getty/ Shutterstock/ Internet world and there is absolutely no motivation for a big publisher like LIFE Magazine to promote your photography as part of their brand. Not only because they can get any image they want on the cheap and no longer have to have a staff photographer. But also because there are really no big publishers left.
Sure there are some magazines and newspapers kicking around, but the Internet has moved us into the world of niche. As a result, you are most likely going to be all your audience knows about whatever art it is you’re producing. Thus you can get away with taking the same photo of the Buddha in Gangnam, squid fishermen in Jeju, stylish Tokyo youths, or homeless New Yorkers as everyone else because they haven’t seen the hundred thousand other shots that are identical to yours.
This is the Internet Age. Their ignorance is your greatest strength.
I couldn’t decide between the images so it was suggested to me that I pair them off. I think the suggestion was a good one.
I’m not really a social person. I’m pretty bad at it at the best of times and I’m at that age where I have no patience for the games everyone takes for granted so I’ve not really had the opportunity/ motivation to get better at it. I do start to feel pretty tired and… I guess the best way I can describe it as “Raw skinned”… after an extended time in groups. So I tend to withdraw from social situations as soon as I feel that mental itch come upon me.
I’m also a geek. Funny how those two things went hand in hand.
Sometimes when I look at these old photos I took of social gatherings from years ago, I feel a twinge of regret in withdrawing from them as quickly as I often do. The young ladies in the top half of the image saw me with a camera and stopped me to take some photos of them together. Both with their cellphones and with my DSLR. Sadly they came out even more blurry than this (Teach me to not bring a tripod with me at night.) though I assume their cellphone shots came out because they did gather around them to have a looksee as I was walking away. That’s when I took the picture.
The bottom half was me simply turning ninety degrees and shooting again.
But there would have been no problem stopping to chat with them further and take more photos. It’s a missed opportunity that probably prevented me from improving my skills just a little bit. I’m slowly starting to get better at ignoring that mental rawness as I age, but I’m still eying the exit.
One of the lesser images from my last roll of Gunsan shots.
I may have mentioned that Gunsan is small. It really came home to me last night when I was walking around the same bar district this image was taken. I pointed my camera at the same lady I photographed before and stopped when I realized it was her. I swing by there once a month and I could recognize the same people. Too small.
I did get to spend some time chatting with some other expats out on the town. Nice enough folks.
A fairly typical street corner in Gunsan. And Ansan. And Incheon. And Cheonan. And Seoul, but not Gangnam because they all live in the subway stations there like a collection of well-dressed C.H.U.D.S.. Korea is small enough, and its cities new enough, that you can get away with saying, “Seen one? Seen ‘em all.”
What I do find interesting is how you can really see each phase of urban development. Even more so than other cities due to the young age of the nation (South Korea didn’t exist until the 1950s after all.) and the oldest buildings still being useable. I mean, sure, if you want to be a pedant about it you can point out the few occupation-era and pre-invasion structures still around the nation. But Korea really has three eras of building evident. Brick, tile, and marble.
Brick seems to be most common in buildings from the post war era before the economic boom of the 90s. Marble is mostly used in the current post Asian Tiger era. Marble is on everything including the walkways and building entrances. Which is something I hate because it turns to footing into a slippery nightmare when it rains. Tile buildings seem to bridge the gap between the two eras. And while it gives buildings from that time the look of an inside out bathroom, it must have seemed pretty fancy at the time.
But as I said above: Seen one? Seen them all. That recent development does create a lot of similar looking cities and this image could have just as easily been taken in Daejeon or Suwon.
While pal Bob finds all sorts of fascination with looking at all these up close, many others feel the cities don’t come alive until you look at them at night from a high vantage point. I wrote years ago about feeling like the lights of the city are more like rivers of light to me than the stars and galaxies they usually get compared to. Swirls, pools, and streams joining large rivers of light passing through the dark landscape…
I usually wish I could blend into the background when I take this sort of photograph because, as you know, once the subject knows that it’s being observed it changes it’s behaviour. Unfortunately I’m a big, fat, ugly guy and the only way I could blend into the crowd would be to go back to Canada.
Burn on you, Canadians!
The problem with thinking like this… The wanting to vanish part, not the self-loathing… is that you are separating yourself from the crowd because you feel they are simply a thing placed there for your use and not people. I think that’s why a lot of street photography makes people uncomfortable. The photographer is basically treating the subject same way a sociopath would. Yes, there are a lot of street photographers with this attitude. Several of them are hanging in galleries right now.
I guess there’s a balance to be found between being courteous towards your subject and getting the so-called “moment”. I sure haven’t found it yet.
Nice of her to not glare at me like most people here do.
This was on the Yoyogi Park side of Harajuku Station in Tokyo.
The last time I had experienced a crowd that thick was in Seoul’s Dongdaemun shopping area when they had closed off half the sidewalks, forcing the massive crowd into a bottleneck between the department stores and the subway station. No such excuse here. Everyone was simply making the scene that day and we got caught up in it.
A fellow in a full cowboy outfit glared me. I can only assume that it was because my Australian cowboy hat looked a lot cooler than his American one.
And then I came across a dog patrolling on top of a gate entering someone’s property in the old part of Gunsan and I thought to myself. “I don’t know how it got up there. But that’s something that needs photographing.”
I had a student (not this guy) who lived in the Japanese countryside, far from the mall the eikaiwa was in, so he and his mother would make a day of it. He had a tendency to go exploring while his mom was distracted. It got to the point that my partner teacher and I would keep an eye out after class for him wandering the mall by himself. I lost track of how many times I walked him back to his worried mother.
This picture was taken with an iPhone4. I had to appify the photo because the sensor and lens were not up to the job for the situation and I needed a cover-up. What you see here was me trying to de-appify the image years later.
Should I ever own a smartphone again, I plan to be a bit wiser about what filters I use and when I use them.