This month’s installment of local street photography was actually taken not on the street, but within the confines of an aging urban shopping center in downtown Gwangju. Within its walls, dozens of small shopfronts and kiosks sit between mostly deserted aisles. Overhead, bare fluorescent bulbs provide the only illumination to an otherwise darkened interior. There are few sounds within this space apart from a random telephone conversation which seems expectantly intimate within this otherwise quiet place.
There is one shop in this department store though which has seemed to buck the trend of quaint and slightly depressing urban decay. It sits as an oddity within this space. For, while it uses the technology of old just as the shops around it, it has fully embodied its hipster-tech niche within a techno-scape otherwise full of cheap Chinese AM radios and second hand CD players. This space exudes a warmth in both in light and sound. The former from shaded incandescent bulbs and the latter from the shops main attraction, a plethora of tube amps; one of which inevitably giving voice to one of many jazz or folk LPs which line the walls of the shops interior. Such was the case on the day I stopped in to ask about repairing an old reel-to-reel.
This shop in particular was the first of its kind in this space, and hopefully will be the first of many. I may always enjoy sifting through the visual dustbins left behind by changing macro-economic trends. However, the ease with which this store fit into the area around it provides a vision for how such spaces, and streets themselves can be of continuing value without resorting to 5kWON lattes, and a sensorily-sanitized vision of yesterday.
[Image taken with a gnarly old Iphone SE.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)