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I made it back to Moran Market in Seongnam a few weeks ago (other parts, 1,2,). I had a student recently tell me that the market is slated to be relocated because the price of real-estate has sky-rocketed in the area. The local gov wants to clean up its image and bring it into the times by relocating it into a modern facility. Goodbye pojamacha wonderland. I really love the atmosphere of this place. Visit if you have the chance, while you still can. Enjoy some makkolli, folk music, and timeworn culinary delights. Here are a few frames from the M6. Tri-X.

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1/12

One month with the m6 and tri-x. A more complete assortment can be found here and here. These are what I found to be my favorite frames from the month of  December.

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Pusan National University subway station.

I visited Busan at the beginning of December to knock around some old neighborhoods and  see old friends. It was the first weekend with the camera so I was still toying around with it a lot, messing with aperture, focus and shutter speed constantly.  It had been raining so we decided to jump a subway across town. As we turned up the stairs, I saw these kids messing around at the top, kind of hanging on the railing. There was a patch of light coming from a window right behind them, flickering across the wall and their faces. I think the spot metering really benefited the exposure here. Anyway, I framed walking up the stairs and caught the kids glare at the last second. Damn, I really miss Busan these days.

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Vinyl Underground, Busan. Some say nighttime is the right time, and for others it just doesn’t taste right. Personally, I am easily swept up into such things.

One of our friends happens to own a few bars and clubs around Busan. The weekend I was down there was the tenth anniversary of his live music venue, Vinyl Underground. It was a good time to be there as I feel like live music in Busan is a lot more accessible than here in Seoul. These guys were in the opening act, some strange fela-kuti inspired 10 piece. They were hanging back at this table sipping a few beers and getting their gear together. They seemed to be illuminated really well. I was heading out for a bite before the music, set my controls and quickly framed as I walked out the door.

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Jongno, Seoul. An  old man on a cold day who just can’t stay home. The other day I read the Pascal quote about all of man’s problems arising from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone. What do you think about that?

 Somehow Jongno never gets played out. I have walked through this area more times than I can count, almost never to be disappointed or bored. It’s the oldest hood in Seoul, and smack dab in the center of town. Off the main drag weird little alleys abound. The streets are full of these really charismatic pensioners who just own the strip all day long. This is by the old man baduk park, which even on a frigid winter day is full of seniors getting busy with East Asia’s favorite board game. I really loved the shadows and isolation of the solitary character here. While Jongno is a haven, I often wonder how the old schools guy feel amidst such a rapidly changing city.

BLOG: M6 2 WEEKS

Jongno, Seoul.

There was the guy in the LHS hiding behind a sheet of plastic. I don’t blame him as it was a painfully cold day. He was a bit of a down and out, a subject that is always of questionable taste, so I really wanted to fit more into the frame and make a kind of streetscape photograph. The lights and shadow really worked out here. The film was at 1600 allowing me to shoot around f16 or so, which gave real definition and contrast to the shadows. This is a look I would like to return to.

BLOG: M6 2 WEEKS

Haeundae, Busan.

This photo is three quarters of what I want it to be. I like all the elements and characters, the way they jigsaw into the frame, yet I am still bummed over the cut foot and some of the overlap in the background. I am ambivalent about the amount of masks that end up in my frames.

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Insadong, Seoul.

Times like this I really wish I had a wider lens on this camera. The foreground couple is slightly oof, yet I still liked the layering here. I always find the light in Insadong to be a little dull, and the street is usually painfully cramped. I remember trying to frame the background guy several times and just snapped this one at the last moment. I usually just drift through the city, never really stopping, yet I have found myself more sedentary lately. Looking to capitalize on the geometry or characters in a certain place. Taking a few frames instead of just being swept along as usual.

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Jukjeon, Gyeonggi-do. Look up, look up. The skyline is filled with cranes as things are always being torn down and put up again. Things loom and teeter, a dull buzz of construction reverberates through my kitchen every morning lately.

I had an afternoon off and took a long walk around where I live and work. A place I usually deride and being lifeless. I walked for two hours and took three photographs. All of them looking up at apartment blocks or light posts. Something makes me want to take more unpeopled photos, if nothing else but as compositional tests. I am not sure if I am any good at that, but the more I look at certain photographers, the more impressed I am how some can turn the mundane into art as they do.

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Seoul. Always loved the patterns of office light like honeycomb cells. Wonder who works late on a Saturday night up there. Who got to leave early?

After an exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Modern Art across from city hall. The days are painfully short here in the winter. This was taken handheld at about 1/16 of a second. Iso 400. The lighting was really nice and I was drawn to the contrast between the old gate and the city hall offices in the back. I am happy the way it turned out.

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Seoul. Like Sissyphus we thought, sweeping so late at night when more snowfall was expected. Futile task, well illuminated.

Even though my lens is relatively slow, I’ve been really into nighttime scenes, in part due to shortness of days. Still, there is always something whimsical about the dark. I really waited for these fellows. They had to come out from the dark and work their way into the street light. I think I took three other shots, none of them still enough, or close enough. They seemed jolly as they swept. As we walked around the corner the snow really started to come down.

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Seoul Station.

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Moran Market, Seongnam.

I remember the first time I ever chanced across this place. I swore I walked into another world. It was the same day Harold Camping was predicting the end of the world and somehow I had a computer virus that sent out list emails with a title from Yeats’ poem The Second Coming. You know…the whole mess about goats, and “a strange beast marching towards Bethlehem to be born.” The place felt slightly like the gates to somewhere, cages of goats and livestock. Proselytizers waited at the edges saving souls. It is a traditional market, so it only happens a few days a month, and on such days country folk flood in to peddle. Well, the divide between city and country is pretty wide these days. I felt like I had been taken back in time. I try not to miss the place when it happens.

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Moran Market, Seongnam.

I was really trying to get this shot for a while. I am not totally sure that it worked out. I underexposed a little too much. Always love a fedora on an old guy though.

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Moran Market, Seongnam.

“never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and clowns when they all did tricks for you”

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Film drop: Dec 15th-31st…Kodak Tri-X @400

One month down with the M6. Frames from the first two weeks can be found here. Shooting has been slower as the temperatures have dropped to below freezing and the days have gotten shorter. I am still trying to get out a few times a week although I seem to be dipping indoors much more often. Street photography in wintertime Seoul is tough. I stayed warm at a few exhibitions being held around town. One, a project put together by Magnum photographer on AIDS patients held at the Seoul Arts Center, and another of Lim-Eung Sik, the godfather of Korean photography, who had an interesting collection of images on the transformation of Myeong-dong. I am trying to take advantage of the cold by looking through books, reading, printing, and achieving prints in a journal.

Going slowly through my prints I see that my photography gives a slightly jilted perspective on the streets of Seoul. A friend, a traditional Korean artist, wondered why I focus so much of areas like Jongno, on finding the older and rougher elements of the city. I didn’t really know how to answer, just that I find that more interesting, more original, than the glitz of Gangnam and Myeongdong, which could be recreated in any city from here to Timbuktu. Anyway, these photographs only represent a sliver of the city of Seoul.

Last week I further pigeonholed my subject by revisiting one of the oldest and roughest markets in Korea (link #1, link #2). Many of the photos here are from that trip.

As a monthly follow up and continuation of my year long attempt and focusing on one camera, one lens, etc..i will be making a monthly post with 8-10 of my favorite frames from each period/month. So if anyone reads this and has a shot they think should make the cut, please fell free to mention.

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Self portrait reflected at the Sonje Art Center. Mild show on the changing urban spaces of Seoul

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I find that I rarely take photographs in my neighbourhood because I find it a little life-less and suburban. I am attempting to get past that. This is Jukjeon Station.

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Out here it’s mostly non-descript apartment blocks, overpriced cafes, and new mothers behind expensive French made strollers. It’s all nouvea upper middle class with a Samsung plant down the street. There are stories here, but well concealed ones. Relocating from the city the suburban aspects of this place killed me at first. It was everything that I lamented about crass American subdivisions. The total lack of street life makes shooting in public a real task. Maybe that’s an explanation why I so often look to photograph its antithesis in the back alleys and of Jongno.
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Winter’s short days have had me shooting more in the evening. The cloth shutter on the M-6 has been impressively still at lower shutter speeds, making it possible to get a clear exposure where an slr might not. I’ve enjoyed the new foray into nighttime photography, even though it’s damn cold.

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