Gwangju Blog

Higher Ground

WEEK 101 - higher ground


The days have flown by, and with them our sense of appreciation for those heady early spring days. Our inner skeptic might label this sensation as a multi-sensory forgetting. The once ubiquitous cherry blossoms framed in the image above have no doubt been carried out of sight on the yellow late spring winds. Yet, that this forgetting implies an impassioned remembrance of what was, is all the excuse necessary to revive the past within positive light. Last weeks photo blog post touched on the swiftness with which these changes occur. Remembering that image, it seemed easy to juxtapose recently barren trees with the smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and smells found around us just one week ago. The image above reminds us of a similar experience.

This image was taken using a sixteen second exposure time and a flashlight to highlight the central cluster of flowers and the branches which surround them. It was mid-night, and the residential backstreets and alleys across from Chosun University were without their usual commotion. The base of the tree rested several feet below from where I stood, perched upon a small rise next to a small officetel. Nestled, or rather recessed into the hill below, the building allowed a unique vantage point into the cherry tree planted next to it. For once, the activity within its branches could be viewed at eye-level rather than from below. Viewing the tree in this way felt almost voyeuristic, as if requiring permission to be viewed in such a naked state. I entered the scene slowly, aware of the new intimate world within which I was now immersing myself. It was the same, yet also not so. I waited several minutes, then opened the shutter.

Sixteen seconds of one night, at a location which both still exists, and is gone forever. Such a still evening ensured that the edges of the petals remain crisp despite the lengthy exposure time. This stillness is deceptive. For, while it can provide the illusion of a moment being trapped forever on this film, it is the culmination of many moments. In photography, the longest moment usually caught during our days are usually one sixtieth of a second. However, multiply that by about a thousand, and is this moment still purely visual, or does it contain much more sensory information? If you have sixteen seconds free now, please give it a try. In this photographer’s case, the mixture of sounds, smells, and of course sights contained within that period of time allow for a much deeper appreciation of the prolonged moment. To me, this experience inches the photographer ever closer towards that space where active remembering can occur. Where the image can produce a lived remembrance in the present moment. Often this comes from us having taken the image within a sense of wonder at what is in front of both our eyes and the lens. On this day last month, the tree and blossoms were waiting to be viewed from higher ground.


[Photo taken on a tripod with a Hasselblad 503cxi using a 180mm f4 lens and shooting Ilford FP4.]


Photo & Text by Marty Miller