The photo above is striking for the simplicity in which it renders its subject. A lone television, rusting and encrusted with mud sits alone in a vast expanse of intense green sprouts. What offsets the tube from its surroundings is not just the difference in shape and color, but what each of these disparate elements symbolize. How often can we see a touch of decay amid such new, unrestrained growth? Living in South or North Jeolla province, we are sometimes privy to such seeming contradictions. In fact, some longer-term ex-patriot residents to the region could likely react little to such juxtapositions. This makes sense, as even locals often react with amused perplexity when asked their take on the rapidity of change and decay of local landmarks and other once familiar elements of Gwangju’s visual culture. Personally, while a relative new-comer to the Gwangju area, I too have been guilty of such a laze-faire attitude towards the unexpected. While driving south of Gwangju, a variety of once unusual sights now warrant nary a look as I speed by.
Junked car painted hot pink to advertise already defunct bicycle shop?
Life-size plastic cut-out of a horse perched gently on the roof of minivan hurtling down the expressway at twice the speed limit?
(puh-lease, what else you got?)
Yet, when we stop not-looking, yet also hold off from the instinctual (yet depressing) search for new photographic inspiration, sometimes the universe kicks one our way. Such was the case with the dry reservoir bed pictured above. When exiting the city this week for calmer climes, it becomes readily apparent that the summer drought has demanded more than its usual share of local water reserves. In this case, the waters in the small, man-made lake had receded to the point of revealing treasures once lost to the naked eye. Out of several hidden gems, the television beckoned the most. The result of recent rains, the fresh growth which surrounded it exploded into the frame with a green rivaled only by the rice-patties of rural Cambodia. Amidst this fluffy expression of new life sat an object which had the power to snap me out of my malaise. This poor, once-forgotten appliance reminded me yet again that each place does indeed carry its secrets. And, while such mysteries may be temporarily out of view, it does not mean that they are lost.
[Photo taken using my Nikon d600 while shooting with a 60mm f2.8d lens. One very few nice ‘d’ lenses in my opinion.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)