During my last few weeks in Korea, I made one final push to photograph the environment I called home for so long. Despite my tone of voice of late, I am making valiant efforts to reorient myself, this mostly involves going to the pub, as well as quaffing a few foaming ales, my reorientation includes finding work, making friends, reestablishing friendships, taking very long walks in the nearby forests, filling in obscene amounts of online forms, going to the bank, the Job Center, calling receptionists with pretty voices, talking to a bank customer services adviser about D.H. Lawrence’s free verse poetry & the difficulties of studying this & banging my head against the wall until I suffer semi-concussion. Such are the joys of no longer living in the 4th dimension.
The title is a dead give away for this post.
Been sitting on this set quite awhile & finally got round to having a dabble with them.
I was visiting my pal Omar, a musician from Morocco. I happened to, at this time, meet a very interesting man called Saad, also from Morocco. We met outside Omar’s lodgings around 7 a.m. & proceeded to continue talking until around 4 a.m. while we flaneuered Seoul, taking in the sunshine & putting the world to rights. It was very interesting to watch Omar & Saad converse, as they would oscillate between perfect French, Arabic & English. One would ask something in one language & the other would respond in a different language. This was not done boastfully but in a almost absentminded, organic manner, which was joyful to watch. Saad was very pleased with my curiosity.
A salient feature of the Jeju landscape is how fluid the switch from farm land to town is, often with farmland inside the town. This allows for a seamless & productive day of back n’ forth. Admittedly this is not the case here, although the farm land in these pictures is only 10 minutes walk from Hallim town, it isn’t inside the town, exactly, though the area name is Hallim-eup. Another feature is construction. Everyday, i pass multiple big construction projects, which wouldn’t happen in England. Their is a continual rattle of metal & thrumming of big engines. This makes for an interesting juxtaposition to the farm plots, huge hackberry trees & homunculus, traditional houses. But of course it also brings huge strain to the limited resources of an island. Soon Jeju will begin to feel the same strains as Santorini in Greece: inflated property prices for locals, limiting of utilities for locals & jobs that are unsatisfying, because they are all in the service industry. Problems that, when the sort of money that is involved in tourism is involved, means they don’t get sorted properly & voices go unheard for too long.
You can view part 1 here.
i was aiming on this day to get out of my abstract, narrowing habit & let the lens breath a little by opening up the periphery & see if i can’t capture something of the bustle of architecture, the way buildings & parked cars scrum & squeeze each other in a jostle for space. The continual work & construction that is a daily sight here— & the calm of facades.
Something else interesting happened this day: the weather was gloomy, but not just dark, the cloud was a white blanket, without any definition in the contours that you get with individual cloud, or even a cloudy day, when it is windy, which means the clouds are in motion; these days are ideal for photography, but milky, soupy skies, sap any opportunity for light & just create a matte effect across the landscape. i’d usually find it hard to find my stride in this atmosphere of weather & call it quits; however, i was able to alter my perceptions, pull myself up out of this coma of light & find a mood that i could work with. This feels like a leap forward in my sensitivity with the camera & i wasn’t disappointed with the results when i got the photos back for editing.
These locations have appeared in numerous poems & i have written a great many of my poems whilst out walking or riding around these places. They are not the prettiest places & i sometimes wonder what it is about them that appeals to me. i think it is their ruggedness. There is a sense of desolation, that they have been forgotten & left to the weather. & yet, they are so noisy with shape & shade, with dilapidation & trash, with motion & sound— forlorn, yet impressive. Real, unpretentious aesthetics that the camera laps up. This is where the tourists never come & yet they are the most vibrant areas of the island. i shouldn’t complain & i sure don’t wish for tourists to discover these places.
i promise this is the last batch, don’t want anyone climbing the walls or thinking i’m a broing Uncle Herb type with his projector slides from trip circa ’93.
i’ve had fun manipulating the truth though.
A 2nd batch from Busan, focusing mainly on the dense old fish market, Jagalchi. So much fish & so many bizarre creatures i never saw before.
i was treated to a short respite from work with a trip to Korea’s 2nd largest city, Busan (부산).
Busan was spared the artillery impact of the Korean war & contains historical areas that Korea on the whole, doesn’t have. There is a balance between the hyper-new, chic, beach side with glass skyscrapers scratching cloud; old fish markets with leathery faces haggling & hodge podge, pastel villages where artists make their beds & face off against the rich by scrabbling the hills.
My wife wanted to shop (which is an new ring of hell for me) so i took the opportunity to walk around a maze-like department store with a camera, with some interesting results.
i’ll try to make this weekend all about photographs if i can edit them in time.
i’ve learned a great deal from John’s posts. They are written clearly & communicate a great deal on how we can approach photography not just technically, but also philosophically.
John asks searching questions about the photographer’s role in society, which i find essential & displays his consideration for the subject he photographs; especially important with tourists just clicking away at locals without a second thought for how locals may feel about it— i myself in my guesthouse get it: they see a white guy cooking their breakfast & photograph me without asking & i’m actually not cool with them doing this.
John’s photography is also first rate.
I recently returned to Vietnam for three weeks to further two projects I’ve been working on since 2012. It felt like coming home.
The projects are on fishing communities and life around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Here I want to reflect on the former and share some new images.
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