Gwangju Blog

Winter Abstract

Winter Abstract


It has been a year or so since the last time an abstract was written about here on the blog. And, as the buds of spring have yet to emerge upon an otherwise predictably brown and gray cityscape, what better time to respond do so. The image above is a multiple exposure on Ilford FP4 film. This film has wonderful latitude, enabling it to retain a relatively deep dynamic range of range even after being pushed one stop and being exposed to light several times. This image is the result of three exposures of differing distances and textures. Together, they work to hint, not to readily reveal.

Containing shapes and textures simultaneously familiar and alien, the image pulls at the part of us which wants to feel rather than see. Like the still suburban winter afternoon during which it was taken, the image eludes to movement underfoot. For, when viewing this negative and still image for the first time, I could not help but recall the questions that arose during the taking-process. Barron fields to my right, aging apartment blocks to my left, mountain in front of me and Nam-gu (Gwangju City) to my rear, I was left largely alone on the roadside. However, I could see steam rising from vents that emerged from the green plexiglass panels of the verandas to my left. Behind them, the now green, yet somehow still sterile glow of white fluorescent lights became gradually more perceptible as dusk approached. Semi-frozen fragments of black plastic fluttered and flapped in the field opposite my vision. While content to wait out of sight, there was life here. I could feel it. In such moments, what does a photographer do? How she or he visualizes their feeling reveals both their practiced artistry yet also luck. For, as many artists/photographers may attest, for every work that succeeds in providing an experience of what cannot be readily seen, hundreds more attempts simply miss the mark. While the verdict may be out on the image above, the simple conclusion is that on a solitary winter day in Gwangju, it is the feeling that counts.


[Photo taken with my Nikon FE2 shooting Ilford FP4, a 125iso film which as noted above, can easily be pushed one stop, therefore being shot at 250, thereby increasing contrast yet still preserving a reasonable range of gray tones. This was not necessarily the case in the image above, yet one reason it was chosen was that the lack of many tones mirrored the environment around which the photo was taken. Thereby, hopefully, preserving that feeling of life unseen within overwise bland exteriors.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)

What to Do This Weekend: Open Mic, Figure Drawing, and Live Music!

Hello Gwangju!

We’re half way through February already? Let’s see what fun events are happening this weekend in our city.

Friday, February 17th

Courtesy of Loft 28

Courtesy of Loft 28

We’ve got some amazing local music talent in Gwangju, and open mic nights are a great place to see this talent. Every Friday night Loft 28 holds their Open Mic Night. If you are a local musician, or singer who would like to perform, just head over to Loft with your instrument. They have their own mic and sound system so you won’t have to worry about that. Open Mic starts at 10 p.m., but make sure to get there earlier so you can try some of the delicious food on their menu. Seems like the jerk chicken was so popular last week that it sold out! For more info, please go to Loft’s Facebook page.

Saturday, February 18th

Courtesy of the GIC Art Class

Courtesy of the GIC Art Class

After a very successful special event last weekend, the Saturday Art Class at the GIC is back! This weekend will feature a class about figure drawing (female). There’ll be some free drawing when the class starts at 12:30 p.m., and the model arrives at 1. Once the model begins, the door will be locked for their privacy. The cost for the class is 10,000 won, and materials will be provided (you can bring your own if you wish). For directions to the GIC, please check out their website. For more details about the class itself, please check out their Facebook event page. This weekend’s class will be led by Áine Byrne.

After the art class is over stick around at the GIC for their Saturday Talk series. A variety of topics is covered each month in this informative series. This weekend the topic will be the African country of Rwanda. Emmanuel Ntegamaherezo, a Rawandan citizen, will talk about the history and culture of this country. The talk will begin at 4 p.m., and it is free to attend. For more info and details about the talks, just click on the link in the above post for the GIC. You can also check out their Facebook page here.

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Courtesy of Speakeasy

A great way to end Saturday night is by enjoying live music at Speakeasy. Tonight, two bands will be rocking the house for the Gwangju audience. First, Mohana will bring surf rock (possibly for the first time) to the stage at Speaks. They’ll be followed by Wasted Johnny’s, a band who plays of combo of blues and rock. The show begins at 10:30, and cover is only 5,000 won. So get down to Speakeasy on Saturday night and enjoy some great music, and of course some great drinks as well! For more info, please check out the Facebook event page.

Coming Soon!

The fourth Synergy show takes place next Saturday night at the GIC. Do you want to perform, or help out during the show? Follow this link to the Facebook event page for more details on how you can be a part of the latest Synergy show!

Where to Eat Wednesday: Yangin Bake Shop

If there’s one thing there is no shortage of in Gwangju, it’s bakeries. While coffee and pork may take up a lot of commercial real estate, it’s hard to go too far before running into one of many shops that come with the promise of bread, cake, and other baked goods. The hard part, in my opinion, is finding a good bakery. Now, I’m not one to turn down a baguette or red bean bun from one of the more popular franchises, but when I’m hungry for good bread, there are only a few spots in the city that can satisfy my craving.


I feel like I should start by saying what my requirements for “good bread” are, especially since this is often a very subjective and personal topic. First off, I don’t like my bread sweet unless it’s meant to be sweet. I tend to prefer my carbs edging closer to savory and generally avoid the sugary stuff unless I’m in the mood for dessert. Second, I like my bread baked fresh and for the softness of the inside to balance well with a harder, richer crust. This preference can be a little harder to achieve, as good bread isn’t known for having the best shelf life. Due to circumstances, I have no choice but to go easier on this requirement. Finally, as much as I love the fancy stuff, my favorites will always be simple and to the point. Bread that has been jazzed up with fancy ingredients is always good, but I will always come back to the stuff that was most likely made with less than five ingredients, a fair amount of skill, and some time to let those simple flavors mature. Though finding a place that delivers on all of this can be a little difficult, the Yangin Bake Shop has provided a great pit stop on this journey.

Cheese BreadLoaves

Located in the still growing Yanglim-dong, this small, but popular bakery arrived as a bit of a surprise to everyone. Due to some advertising on social media, this place was popular before it even opened. I had actually attempted to visit shortly after learning about it, only to find that everything was gone. This wasn’t the first time this happened, as each visit after that left me feeling anxious whenever I saw empty shelves through those giant windows. Despite not always being able to get what I wanted, my many trips made it possible to sample a decent amount of what was available.

As this was a bakery in the middle of Gwangju, more Korean options containing red bean, roasted sesame seeds, and sweeter choices were to be expected. What I was pleasantly surprised to see were choices like ciabatta, baguettes, and even sourdough. For those seeking more flavor, there was no shortage of bread stuffed with cheese. While this was indeed a bakery, it was nice to see other options likes handmade chocolate and candy available for sale. There was also popcorn, milk tea, and random swag to represent the city of Gwangju. Though some of these items were indeed tempting, they appeared to have been made by other local businesses in and around the city. I chose to focus on the bread.


I ended up trying a lot of what I got on different days, mostly due to a combination of my weird schedule and the bakery’s tendency to sell out early. I also realized that it probably wasn’t ideal for me to eat so much bread in one day, so some of the stuff I purchased was consumed throughout the week. That being said, everything I got was quite nice. The first thing I tried was the Baguette, which came in two different sizes and two different prices. I opted for the smaller option, as it’s generally frowned upon to eat a loaf as long as my leg by myself in one sitting. Not only was this length of bread mildly savory and baked to perfection, but it was also cheaper than some of the franchises.

The Egg Bacon Bread I had was quite dense and eggy. I probably should have heated it up to soften it, but I was too busy being excited at the lack of sweetness with each bite. I only wish they would have used something other than processed sliced cheese on top, as I felt like it took away from an otherwise solid breakfast pastry. The Cheese Herb Bread was also a tasty, savory treat that packed quite a punch with the amount of garlic on it. It was like a softer take on cheesy garlic bread, but with a bunch of extra herbs in the mix.

The sweeter choices I got to try were also nice, offering interesting twists to separate them from the usual stuff. One of the Red Bean Buns I got, which looked like a take on hot cross buns, had red bean paste mixed seeds, adding a contrasting texture to the otherwise overly soft treat. The Chocolate Soboro, which was basically a firmer pastry that had been dipped in chocolate, was so much tastier than I imagined it would be. There was something addictive about the chocolate that was used. It left me regretting not purchasing a loaf of the Chocolate Bread, which seemed to be selling out quickly when I last went.


No matter when I went, I ended up walking away from the Yangin Bake Shop with something new and tasty. There are still so many choices I wish I could try, but will have to wait for future visits to actually give them a taste. That being said, the fact that this place is still popular is a pretty good sign that it has a lot of satisfied customers. Due to there being no places to sit or relax, this is definitely a place where you just go in, buy stuff, and leave. It’s definitely worth a visit, but try not to stock up like I did. As delicious as the bread here tastes the next day or even the day after, nothing really beats having it fresh on the day it was baked.

Address: 광주광역시 남구 양림동 103-15 (across the street from the Sajik Library)
Phone: 062-651-8241
Hours: 8:00AM to 9:00PM (closed Mondays)
Average Price Range: 800 to 5,500 for bread (loaves included)

Essentials with JD # 271 **YANGRIM DONG CAFES**

In last weeks edition we took a quick glance around Yangrim dong which has become the new “Hot-Peul” (Hot Place) in Gwangju. (Gwangju/광주, 503-040 Yangrim-dong/양림동, Nam-gu/남구, GPS coordinates: 35.13869,126.91518)


Tons of new cafes have opened and many are still under construction. While exploring the area and its rich historical missionary heritage the cafes are a welcome place to sit down, have a hot drink and chat.


Most of them can be found in the area near the community centre and around the roundabout / traffic circle.


Locate the mural of Yangrim dong on the wall and follow the direction to the Visitor centre and you can find Yangrim 148 a converted two jutaek home for a peaceful cup of coffee. Outside seating is also available which will be amazing in spring time.


At the head of the traffic circle is Tao – offers coffees and a quaint and cosy atmosphere with tons of quirky objet d’art and is a perfect place for people watching.


Across the road from Tao is Puul which is a coffee shop and restaurant which offers Scandinavian treats.


Venture down the road and across from the redbrick church there is Cafe Du Ciel – offering coffee and cake as well as perfumed diffusers. The store also offers live monthly classical music performances.

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Turn left at Du Ciel and make ur way up the street to Puralin house with coffee and chocolates.


And at the top of the street is Yangrim Bakeshop offering fresh baked bread and pastries – make sure to get there early as they sell out fast.


Take care and stay warm,







Photography can be a curious art. Both the picture taker and viewer enter into a commitment to eschew volume or depth and for a time at least, commit to experiencing a two-dimensional representation of the world. Perhaps the latter part of that sentence also contains an assumption prescribed to us since early childhood. For, why should we assume that a photo is an accurate, unbiased representation of what the image ‘realistically’ represents? As most people with a Facebook account could attest, the image IS presentation; IS inseparable from the intention of the taker or curator. However, perhaps this assumption, and simplification of the world into a manageable plane can allow for the unearthing of simple truths. If so, then the photo can reveal an element of our world in a way which we could not precisely open to in our daily lives. Perhaps Picasso had a point when saying that it is “what one does is what counts. Not what one the intention of doing.”

With that quote in mind, the photo above reveals not only what is unseen, but also a direct reaction to that event. The direction of the trees and the relative nudity of their eastward facing branches elude not only to what has been, but what has continued for some time. We cannot see the wind, only its symptoms. And, some might argue that this is all that photography, social media (or perhaps even “virtual reality” are); just a response to a previous event, the impetus of which can never be attained in the moment. However, I might argue that if we, the viewers are trained to suspend our resulting disbelief for just long enough, we may experience more than mere self-delusion. We may find value in what is implied, in the experience it is giving us in this moment, all-the-while knowing that we really do not know. Such has been my experience when looking over recent photos taken this past month. The weather (and lack of Gore-tex) forced me indoors when I would normally have been outside with a camera. Photos confirmed and validated the past, the mundane details of which had long since been forgotten. However, in this particular case, the above-pictured photo’s role in this co-construction of events was fine. Actually, it had to be. If not, what else is there. Just windswept memories.


[Photo taken with my Nikon FE2 and a vintage 80-200 f4 AIS lens. It was shot on….I believe….Kodak Tmax 100 film. While that was probably the film used, who knows for sure. Because, like, for real, that was something like a month ago already right?^^]


Photo & Text by Marty Miller