Boy is Korea dark.
And I don’t mean that in a metaphorical, meta-critical sort of way. I mean literally, it’s too dark for street photography. By 4pm, my Summarit (f/2.5) was struggling to expose, and in about 30 minutes I had to change to my Summilux (f/1.4). I was struggling to keep up with the shadows that crept up so unexpectedly and so inconveniently. And the moment I was in a building or underground I had no chance with my Summarit. In fact, half the photos I took in Korea came out severely underexposed, and it was one of the few times I had to actually go into Lightroom and fix up the exposures.
“citizen”- This man stared at me for a fraction of a second before I noped my way out of the subway
Having lived there 6 years of my life, by returning to Korea I would have thought I’d know the place front to back. But through the eyes of my Leica, I discovered a whole new world. But the more I paid attention to my surroundings, the more I looked from the third-person point of view, the world I thought no longer was there.
I was left with a stark reality. Poverty, stench of vomit, voracious lust in the alleyways, and the light pollution that are neon signs.
From this trip, I came back more discouraged than any other trip. I had hoped I would rediscover the awe in the city of Seoul like I had in Tenerife, but instead I unrooted the festering pools of the society so desperately ignorant of their surroundings and perversely obsessed with status.
Don’t get be wrong though– there are moments of genuine innocence and a general sense of “everything’s going to be OK”, if you look close enough. Korea is an interesting mix of the past traditions of its former glory and the modernity that it has so quickly embraced. This makes for interesting juxtapositions, especially in places where new buildings are being torn down to replace old ones. Colors and fabrics of many kinds are abound, and it’s an interesting social mixing bowl if you’re shooting in colour.
Despite my sense of disillusionment, don’t let me discourage you– the beauty of the city is still there, just don’t be too eager to dig beneath the gilded surface.
Watch for a photo book coming very soon…
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