Gwangju Blog

This is…

For You.


This week denotes a small milestone in the long life of the photography blog. Today marks my one hundredth post since taking over on Mondays two years ago. Since the spring of 2015, so many Sundays have been spent in part reflecting on noteworthy aspects on a visual-cultural experience of Gwangju, and Jeolla-do on the whole. While I have had several blogs in the past, this two year stretch marks the first time when I have done the deed ritually on a weekly basis.

I have always been an avid note-taker and journaler, writing down impressions and other thoughts as they came, or using writing as a nightly exercise to synthesize the days’ experiences. However, the ninety-nine posts prior to this one have rekindled that unique sensation that comes from organizing your thoughts for an audience. To be frank, that feeling can best currently be described as both emotionally taxing, yet also through mere repetition, comforting. I have been reminded of the wisdom of no escape. That there is indeed something to be gained from showing up, ready or not, to write once a week because well, I said I would. As such, this weekly photo blog has helped me to make sense of what life in Gwangju feeds to me on a day-to-day basis. Using photography as both a documentary and figurative medium seems an appropriate tool with which to respond to what this city often thrusts upon us. For while we are reminded of what sensations initially permeated the scene the moment we captured an image, we also look at these same emotions in the light of how we feel, at the time of looking again on our computers. I feel that the gap between these two is where our deeper impressions of life here can grow.

I took the photo above when walking down a small side-street just south of the train station. The sun was cascading down the alley, alighting rows of old, shuttered stores. I love these neighborhoods. They allow for such relative predictable silence. As these streets are usually devoid of foot-traffic, they allow a degree of physical space to accompany their sonic solitude. If these moments would occur more often, the would no-doubt loose their magic. Yet, on this day, there was no shortage. For as I rounded the corner, and looked to the right, the simple sign above affirmed what I my bones already knew, that I could trust in seeing beauty when it needed to be seen. That my feet would take me where I didn’t yet know I needed to go. And, perhaps most importantly, that there were others out there feeling the same.

While I am unsure how many of you might be reading this post today, please know that the thought that you might be has been integral for the maturation of my appreciation of this town. It has humbled me to the role that photography can play in affirming a life, transplanted, from one continent to the next. If you happen to have camera-in-hand, I hope you feel the same.


[Photo taken with my Sigma DP3 Merrill with its fixed 50mm full-frame lens, equivalent to 75mm on this particular camera.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)


What to Do This Weekend: Gwangju Live, A Lantern Festival, and an Annual Performance!

Hello Gwangju!

It’s the final weekend in April, and for some it’s a long one! Let’s see what’s happening in Gwangju!

Friday, April 28th

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Gwangju Live is back at Speakeasy this Friday night! Is it Jazz? Is it rock? No, it’s Irish music played by Koreans! Some of the best Irish music I’ve heard here in this country has been performed by Koreans. The name of the group playing tonight is Garuseebong, and I’ve been told that they’re great craic! (good fun in Gaelic) The show begins at 10:30, and you’ll still have enough time to take advantage of happy hour, which runs until 11. For more details about this show, and other Gwangju Live gigs, please check out Speakeasy’s Facebook page.

Saturday, April 29th

Courtesy of the Gwangju Art Class

Courtesy of the Gwangju Art Class

Have you been missing the Saturday art class at the GIC? Well don’t worry budding artists because it’s back this weekend! Today’s class will focus on female figure drawing. The class is open to all levels, so don’t worry about your artistic talent. The class will begin at 12:45 p.m., and the model will arrive at 1 p.m. Once the model arrives, the doors will be locked for her privacy (the model will be nude). The fee for the class is only 10,000 won, and materials will be provided (you can bring your own if you want to). The class will run unto 3:00 p.m. For more details about the class, please go to their Facebook event page. For directions to the GIC, please go to their homepage. The class will be led by local artist Jen Lee.

Courtesy of the Bitgoeul Lantern Festival

Courtesy of the Bitgoeul Lantern Festival

The Bitgoeul Lantern Festival will be taking place all day today in front of the Asia Culture Center (ACC). There will be traditional cultural experiences, food, musical performances, and a lantern parade. The festivities begin at 10:00 a.m., and go until the evening. For more information about what is going on, you can check out the Facebook event page here (info is in Korean, but there are details translated in English on the Facebook Gwangju page).

Courtesy of V-Day Gwangju

Courtesy of V-Day Gwangju

For the past six years now the V-Day Gwangju group has been working to help stop violence against women. Every year they put on a production of Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, and this year’s performances are happening this weekend. A wonderful cast of international actresses will be performing in what has become an annual showcase here in Gwangju. This year’s performance is also a first for V-Day Gwangju-they’re raising money for a single women’s shelter here in town. Please support a great cause by watching any of the three performances happening this weekend: Saturday at 3 p.m., and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. The play will take place at 궁동예술 극장, which is located on art street. For more details about the play, please go to their Facebook event page.

Courtesy of Loft 28

Courtesy of Loft 28

This Saturday is ladies night at Loft 28, but it’s a special one happening tonight. In conjunction with V-Day Gwangju, Loft will be raising money for the single women’s shelter mentioned above. Saturday night is always great at Loft, and now it’s for a terrific cause as well. Do ladies still get a free bottle when they make a reservation of three or more? Of course they do! So after seeing The Vagina Monologues downtown, head out to Loft 28! Ladies night begins at 11 p.m., and if you need more info then you can go to their Facebook page here.

Enjoy your weekend Gwangju!


Essentials with JD # 281 ** LANTERN FESTIVAL/ 부처님 오신날 봉축기념 – 빛고을 관등회**


[The 2017 Bitgoeul Lantern Festival ]


For those wondering about the official ceremony of Buddha’s birthday, The 2017 Bitgoeul Lantern Festival will be taking place on April 29th in front of Asia Culture Center.


This event is organized by Buddhist Association of Gwangju:

Cultural Activities for general public


– Korean traditional cultural experience and Asian food booth / 10 am – 5 pm


  1. Gathering

Performances by temples and collaborating organizations / 5 pm


  1. Buddhist Ceremony / 6:30PM


  1. Lantern Parade (of ten thousand traditional paper lanterns) / 7 pm

ACC – Gwangju River – Gumnam Park – ACC


  1. Concert and Ganggangsullae – Korean traditional Circle Dance / 8 pm


*Paper Lantern exhibition will go on until May 8th at the Gwangju river(광주천)




불기 2561년 부처님 오신날 맞이 광주아시아문화전당 앞에서 “빛고을 관등회”를 진행 합니다. 불자 및 일반인 모두 참여하시여 함께 하셨으면 합니다.


– 행사 순서 –

오전 오후 나뉘어 진행 됩니다.


– 식전 행사

전통문화한마당(전통문화체험 및 아시아음식문화체험)

오전 10시~ 오수 5시


– 본행사

1.어울림마당(사찰 및 단체 연희단공연)

오후 5시



오후 6시 30분


3.제등행진(1만개의 전통등 행진)

오후 7시

문화전당->광주천변-> 금남공원->문화의전당앞


4.대동한마당(가수 박상철,강강수월래)

오후 8시~


(For more info about Gwangju you can listen to The Afternoon Show with JD everyday at 2-4pm on )

People You Should Know in Gwangju…A Look Back

We have once again seen an influx into and out of our grand city. What better way to say hello and goodbye than by making sure that we are able to recognize outstanding members of our community. If you’ll recall from last week we talked about the Michael Simning Community Builders Award, which it is not too late to nominate someone for by clicking here.  So this week I thought we could look back at those that are on the committee.

2016 Community Builders Award Finalists

2016 Community Builders Award Finalists

2015 Community Builders Award nominees

2015 Community Builders Award nominees


First up we have Dr. Shin, the Executive Director of Gwangju International Center, or the GIC. His devotion to Gwangju and the GIC is truly spectacular, and we wouldn’t be able to do near the things that we can here without his unwavering support and assistance. He was interviewed back in October of 2015 just before the 2015 GIC Day. You can read that article here.

A previous Gwangju International Community Day

A previous Gwangju International Community Day

Next up is Tim Whitman. I’m not even sure what to say about him. He means so much to so many people here and around the world. His efforts with supporting the different organizations around Gwangju,  running The First Alleyway and teaching. Also, helping to ensure that we have International Tabletop Day here in Gwangju. Tim was a person you should know back in April of 2015, and you can check it out here.



Last is me. I’m honored to be among two such outstanding members of the Gwangju community, I myself was in the blog in August 0f 2015 and it can be found here.




If you haven’t yet noticed, this is not a monday. So, why, pray tell are you enduring another installment of the photography blog on such an inauspicious primer to the weekend, which for many of you, is already among us? Well, to keep it simple, the deck of time has been reschuffed, and thus we land on this blog’s new day. While it might seem prudent to supply you, dear readers, with an occurrence of the weekend-to-be, future posts will still concentrate on tweezing out those often unseen, yet endearing visual elements of life here in Gwangju.

If you are new to the blog, you may be expecting a certain amount of bells or perhaps even the odd whistle to accompany the photo(s) above. And, while I could do my personal best to give you that, the photography gods would in all certainty cry themselves to sleep, leaving me with the kind of soul-abandoned guilt that you feel when you’ve chased the pink dragon one level too far. Therefore, without further ado, let us adjourn this foray into self-reflective blah-blahs, and begin our ponderings of the photo above.

This week’s photo was taken several weeks ago at the base of a newly finished set of stairs outside a somewhat older shopping complex in Buk-gu. Initially, there is little of interest to capture the eye. No discarded winning lottery ticket on the foreground stairs, nor errant balloon with toddler attached drifting lazily across the frame. In fact, there is very little which craves a hastily given “wow” from the viewer. In fact, if you, in this moment, desire to be wowed, please enjoy this virtual culdesac for as long as you need.

Now that we have found our way back to some semblance of normality, let us look with renewed eyes onto the photo above. This image is meant to speak to those of us who have called Gwangju, amongst many other labels, “home” for a time. For, if you are like me, a reckoning often occurs when the “wow” factor of being in a new city, country, or even continent wears off. After spending our first late weekends exploring the lush hills to the north of town, or our first week-long bender at one of many underrated dive bars scattered throughout downtown, or even after catching our first Kia Tigers game, or yes, EVEN, after sharing a quiet smoke and downing a simple cup of Maxim (instant coffee) with an anonymous adjushi (middle-aged married dude) finishing his lunch break, we may begin to notice those smaller aspects of life here which provide us with a sense of peace, and of place. Such was my feeling when snapping the shutter within the scene above. At top, two sets of legs hop playfully down the stairs, unburdened by the setting sun. Perhaps they, as I did, felt an unacknowledged moment of serenity within that spring moment.

The photo above is notable for the patterned contrasty shapes which recede into the background. For this, it holds a certain allure. Yet, its greater purpose is given the context within which it was taken. By not needing to ‘wow’, it reflects a state of contentment, yet also of wonder at the way things are. It reveals just one of a seemingly infinite number of subtle sights which contain their own wonder, a beauty revealed to those with contented eyes. This is the experience which the photo blog hopes to promote about our city, and the visual culture within which we live these lengthening days.

Enjoy the weekend, friends.



[Photo taken with my new-to-me Contax T2. If you have been following my semi-redundant compact camera drama of the past few months, you already know that my much-loved, yet eternally temperamental Ricoh GR1 finally bit the dust this past winter. As such, a new model has entered the stable of 90’s-era premium and semi-premium compact 35mm point-n-shoot cameras. Enter Ziess glass, in all of its ultra-sharp, contrasty, yet often unforgiving glory. May these eyes be up to the challenge such a machine represents.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)