Over the summer, I’ve been returning to this aging rural theme-park east of Gwangju city. The location evokes a long dormant sense of nostalgia for similar experiences had in my own childhood. However, along with this sappy remembering comes an appreciation for the near cinematic qualities from this place. Perhaps it is in the high, direct light which seems to both saturate, and overexpose the images taken there. Maybe it is the sensations of uneasy anticipation easily projected onto the little girl in red. Or, these feelings might not be the result of visual stimuli alone. Indeed, the best images (in my opinion) are those which arouse more subtle sensations. For example, when engaging with the photo above, I can almost hear the bells and low-end whirl of the ride in the background. Additionally, subtle fragrances of cotton candy, funnel cakes, and vomit combine to create a heady olfactory experience. Taking the sum total of these sensations, they produce an experience which may not be factual to the setting within which the image was taken. Rather, these memories, internalized through direct experience and codified through popular (American) culture, exist in conjunction what is seen above. As such, it begs the question, what is the photo, if not merely a vessel for our deeper memories to piggy-back upon on their way towards impacting our conscious waking-life.
As a photographer, I am naturally curious about the experience of photo-taking. As such, I often wonder at the photo-taking experience as it happens. What is it which defines that timeless moment just before the shutter clicks? What comes first, internal desire and recognition or external beauty? These questions usually occur after the shutter is released, and one views their own work on printed paper or computer screen. In the final moments of the photo-taking process, the camera may be at eye level. The finger may be at on a slightly depressed shutter button. The breath may be slow, drowned out by an amplified heartbeat. All of these happen in that moment when past meets that present memory-to-be. In such a moment, memories collide and break apart in a fission where no thought exists distinct from its thinker. At such times, the photographer is left with one simple task; to wait for that shutter’s inevitable ‘click.’ With that, my eyes return to the simple scene above. A parent and child approach a ride, a memory which if we are luckily, will grace their lives as it has mine.
[Photo taken using a Ricoh GR1 shooting Kodak Portra 160]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)