Have you heard of The Knowing Smile? This is what it looks like.
I’m often at a loss about what I should write in relation to these images. Writing about the expat’s perspective on Korean culture? Excuse me while I make a rude gesture that indicates masturbation. That’s probably why I tend to post once a week and when I do I’m making some wisecracks. Like saying the word “masturbation” in a hopefully unexpected manner that will elicit a smirk from the surprise but really just having it come across like a dad joke.
I often wonder if this is due to a lack of focus (In the motif sense of the word) or artistic goal in my photos. I tend to call myself a documentarian, but I think that’s true in only the broadest sense: I document. So does a security camera. I like to think I’m a lot better than a swiveling security camera, but I’ve never been featured on World’s Craziest Security Footage shows so I guess they win.
People tend to look at that label as being more of a path for people like Dorothea Lange who showed the world big events and social issues in the hopes that maybe someone would do something about it aside from taking photographs. Nothing like that is going on in my images and likely never will. Witnessing something like Tomoko Uemura In Her Bath would leave me a depressed mess unwilling to go outside due to despair for humanity. Maybe if I took a jog through World War Two like W. Eugene Smith did I’d be made of sterner stuff like him.
A quick look at Wikipedia’s list of photography genres leads me to think that what I do could be better described as Vernacular Photography. Which means that I can’t really hang out with all of the cool photographers because they see it as barely a step above posting heavily-filtered selfies on Instagram. (Also, I don’t own a Leica and you’re not a real photographer until you own a Leica.)
There are fields that I do have an interest in such as the Photo-Essay. That kind of seems to require photography being your job given the depth you need to go into it. I actually did try to do it in Japan at the mall my eikaiwa was in. I wanted to document the hours before the opening of a shopping mall and the people who get up early to make the magic happen. The mall management and security were mildly interested in the idea but they listed so many restrictions that I’d essentially be photographing people’s feet. There’s probably also a lot more to it than just taking some names and some pictures and writing some prose to go with it that I’m unaware of.
Retirement project I guess. Assuming I’m not eating out of dumpsters by then…
Ehn. This is getting mopey.
Cameramen at a concert in the park in Gunsan last weekend.
Unfortunately, the mics on the audience and the crowd barrier prevented me from getting a full body shot of the photographer. He was posed like a Power Ranger and it was very dynamic. That’s the problem with documenting what you see: The world is completely uninterested in making sure your line of sight is clear. You can work with the backs of people’s heads if you’re willing to just shift a little bit. Long things like parked cars or utility poles are the worst because all they do is sit there being in your away.
Almost the end of October now. November marks four months remaining in this contract. Which is kind of sad because I’m finally getting out and meeting people instead of suffering here in solitude. Same thing happened in my final year in Japan as well. All I know is that I need to polish off my resume at around Christmas. More importantly: I have to get myself a pretty picture where I look younger because, y’know, ageism (and all the other isms)in hiring policies isn’t illegal here in Asia like it is in the rest of the civilized nations.
Remember this: The LCD screen on the back of your digital camera is a liar. Your image isn’t that sharp. It isn’t that bright. The colors aren’t that vivid. And as you can tell by the photo up above, it in no way tells you that you’re out of focus. I think I could have cropped this one into a nice image if it was in focus. I guess it’s my fault for trying to use a manual-focus telephoto lens at night.
However, I did get a number of images from the concert that I’m happy with that I’ll start posting up soonish.
Yeah, I’ve been kind of slacking on the whole blogging thing recently. It’s hard to come up with expert-sounding posts about South Korea when there are dozens of other expert-sounding people posting on websites about South Korea. And really, my life is anything but interesting. “Tiring and depressing” would probably be a better description. Of course, I’m at that time in my life where I’m becoming aware of just how we pigeonhole ourselves by the choices we made when we were young and, gosh, maybe we could have been a rock god if we just stuck with playing the guitar when we were teenagers instead of giving up on it so quickly to go play D&D so “tired and depressing” is pretty much to be expected.
Speaking of D&D, I’ve been playing the old video games recently. Man, what a bunch of games that should have been better.
So in order to shake off the spiritual malaise I took my four day weekend and went down to Busan to take some pictures and hang out with the Indiana Jones of the webcomic set: Ryan Estrada. A bit more serious-minded of a fellow than I was expecting for some reason, but you can’t really be a professional artist and global adventurer without being so. Or it could have just been me being too odd for the room. That happens a lot. Maybe that would be better if I had stuck with the guitar instead of D&D but what yah gonna do? I did draw a few sketches while I was there so that’s something.
I’d have enjoyed it better if I didn’t spend roughly fourteen hours sitting on various trains and buses thanks to highway construction and most of the places I wanted to go being on the outskirts of the city. Man, those pictures better come out good when I get them developed or I’m going to cry like a gamer who just heard a girl talk about their video games. But if it doesn’t, I still have hundreds of photos from Japan to recycle.
Here’s a song that’s playing on my iPod right now. That’s right. I still own an iPod.
I think you’ll agree that The Monks were pretty rad.
As the weather is getting colder here in Korea, I’ve had to start digging the thick clothing out from the back of the closet. Like most men, I wear my clothing until it becomes too threadbare or stained to be able to place it upon my body and my winter clothing is no exception. Frayed cuffs and collars. A pocket ripping away. Pilling to the point that it looks intentional by the designers. I’m going to have to make the trip into Seoul this weekend to try my luck in buying winter clothing in Itaewon, land of knock-off fat people clothing for foreign fatties. It’s a real slog finding what you need there, dodging tailors and their pitchmen. Digging through the piles of excessively ugly clothing that even Macklemore would be ashamed to be seen in just for something that will keep you toasty long enough to get to work.
Odd that this Ramones song came on as I typed that line about getting to work…
I’m due to meet the indefatigable Ryan Estrada this week so I decided to crack my stiff fingers and shake the cobwebs out of the drawing side of my brain just so I can try to keep up.
Drawing old people is easy in a way. All you need to do is put in enough lines in roughly the right spot and people will buy it. Youth and beauty is hard because beauty is generally defined by it’s lack of deviation and it takes a lot of effort to not same-face everyone while maintaining the look of the conventionally attractive. You need to be subtle with your line to pull it off. Or at least be good at using transparent layers in Photoshop.
Drawn with a ballpoint pen because I like drawing with ballpoint pens.
Sorry for the dissonance, my only autumn pictures were taken in Canada and Japan. But today I shall speak of Korea.
People tend to mark the start of the cold part of the year with either the changing of the leaves or by the first day they have to put on a jacket. These aren’t too bad and in most cases they’re a good way to go about it. In Canada that day is somewhere around Labour Day. (I’m using the Canadian spelling of “labour” so screw you Chrome spellchecker!) Pity us and our eight months of perky nipples. In Kyushu that day is some time in late November. (Sweet Clancy Wiggum, I miss that.)
Today is that day in Korea. While I have been putting on a jacket at night, I don’t think that counts. You do a lot of stuff at night that doesn’t count. I’ll probably be wearing a jacket today as I head to work as well. Yet what makes today the start of Korea’s cold time is the smell.
Korea is big on smells because Korea is a smelly place. Not as smelly as other locations where people are pooing in the streets, trash is piling up everywhere, no one bathes, and the best way to sell meat is to leave it to rot on a hook out front… But enough about Toronto. Zing! The summer here is a nose buffet of B.O., and mould in the air conditioning. Korea’s winter smells are largely industrial: Ozone, propane, gas. Mixed into that is the same pleasant smell of rotting vegetation we enjoy back home. The smell of the oden and toast stalls that start opening up after it gets cool enough for the world to act as a refrigerator. The smell of frost in the smog.
I know, so romantic.
As I’ve stated before, Korea is a winter country. Nothing about the landscapes here benefit from the greenery of the summer. However the rugged, craggy mountains do look great when they’re covered in the kaleidoscope of autumn colors. And they look even better when they’re laid bare to the world. The cityscapes are grey and miserable all year round, but there’s something about the steam coming up from the sewers and stalls that add a nice air of romance to that grey. The ever-present haze now sparkling in the low light and every hour becomes Golden Hour…
I have posted up two new images over on Flickr that I quite like.
You can go ahead and not click on the links and just look at them here. If you’d like… You lazy bugger.
Or you can do a few more clicks and go look at much bigger versions there… You lazy bugger.
You are also free to copy (Not that I could stop you), reblog, or even just keep everything I do in your private stalker shrine to me. You can do this because I have a creative commons license on everything I put on the internet. I do this because it is the internet and people will right click on the images they like anyway. So instead of trying to pull a Canute and slapping a big watermark on everything, I instead rely on the idea that if you like what I do you will reward me by telling others that you like what I do.
That’s right. I trust you.
Gauntlet: Thrown down!