An elderly woman in the streets of Insa-dong (And Other Thoughts pt. 2)

There have been more delays in editing and posting photos because of my ridiculous work schedule. Going from nights to days to nights back to days in less than two weeks probably isn’t very good for my health. It’s pretty ironic considering my profession.

In any case, to continue what was most likely rambling on my previous post, here are the other thoughts I had/lessons I learned while I was in Korea:

  1. Photographing for books/essays rather than single images– Prior to going to Korea and while I was there, I did a lot of reading on street photography because taking pictures of people living out their lives seemed fun and interesting. One of the opinions/concepts I came across was that a lot of photographers shot their photos with a concept or project in mind. This is pretty different from what I usually did previously and I’m sure that applies to most of the Internet as well. To get a better idea of what that entails, I went and bought Josef Koudelka’s book Exiles.Since he’s a Magnum photographer, I expected some pretty amazing images, but what I was not expecting was that there would be some images that just seemed normal and boring when taken on their own. In fact, some of the pictures just seemed like regular snapshots that could be found on someone’s Instagram account. But when viewed in context of the purpose/theme of his book as well as in relation to the other pictures in the book, these single pictures meant a lot more.

    Armed with that concept, I decided to try to do the same while I was in Korea. I honestly felt like it made taking pictures more fun for me as I wasn’t just trying to find that one picture that would generate a lot of “Likes” on some kind of social media, but instead I was trying to document and show what I was feeling and how I saw Korea. I felt a little more free to take pictures that weren’t necessarily of people up close or technically the best like being super sharp, in focus, etc.

    Despite taking almost 2000 pictures while I was there, I definitely didn’t take enough pictures to make a a coherent photo book. It’s quite difficult to walk around finding interesting spots and lingering when my wife has a set idea of what to do each day but hopefully I can edit down all of the photos to at least a photo essay of sorts. We will see.

  2. Cultural differences and shyness– In Korea, there is an incredibly emphasis placed on outwardly appearances. There are cosmetic ads/stores EVERYWHERE and cosmetic surgery is incredibly commonplace. I found it very odd at best and oppressive at its worst, but for Korean society, it’s just how it is and as far as I can gather, it’s not really questioned or looked down upon.

    So how does that relate to photography? It makes taking pictures of people quite difficult. Even when I was taking the more touristy shots with no intention of taking photos of strangers, people in the background would cover their faces. People don’t want to have their pictures taken unless it’s at the perfect angle, with the right amount of make up on, in the right lighting, with their hair perfect, etc. It makes taking candid pictures of people fairly difficult. To compound this, I guess there were a lot of concerns about guys taking perverted pictures of women secretly with their phones and so all smart phones in Korea have it set so that the photo taking sound is always turned on. I was taking pictures with my mirrorless so it was always making a sound anyway, but given these privacy laws, it made me feel much more self-conscious about taking photos.

    Thanks to my shyness and introversion, I usually like to blend into the background, but the above cultural differences made things a bit more difficult to  blend when taking photos. That being said, when I saw this elderly woman in my photo, I could not resist bending down and taking a photo of her. I wonder what she was thinking.

This is probably long enough for today. I feel like I had another personal learning point but after writing all of this up, I can’t even remember what I wanted to say.


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