Gwangju Blog


Hyper Jump


There are times when the ordinary jumps out and transports the viewer into an unexpected, exaggerated reality. Sure Virtual Reality headsets or chemical intoxicants will get you there eventually. However, in both of those cases, you, the experiencer, most likely have prepped yourself for an altered visual experience. In such cases, your own expectations serve to prime the visual cortex for something unexpected. It is a bit like going to a comedy club for the food alone. No-one does it. You go expecting to be at least slightly amused, thus increasing your chances that you will find something funny. However, in the process, the chance for a true hyperreal moment just might be lost.

Pretty much all dictionaries prescribe two meanings to the word hyperreal.

1. extremely realistic in detail

2. exaggerated in comparison to reality

Negotiating these two meanings into some coherent visual combination has been of personal interest these past few years. During this time, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of hyperreal art the past decade or so. However, while these works tend to stress the absolute realism in the portrayal of subject-matter (definition #1), it is the second definition which this week’s photo both belongs to and challenges.

One aspect of visual culture which I have grown to love about Jeollanam-do is the ardent proliferation of adhoc banners, posters, and decals which still grace small towns throughout the countryside. Pieced together from sources of various mental and pixal-based resolution, they are a variable bo-day-chi-gay (trash soup) of signage. On this day in Namwon, I happened to be minding my own business at an intersection heading towards the nearest public toilet. However, at just that moment of malaise, the image above jumped into my field of vision. Upon second glance, it was all over. The creature adorning the door of a raw fish restaurant to my right had me in its grasp. It was as if I had no choice but to abandon my quest and attune myself to the vibes the two-dimensional fillet-to-be was exuding.

The fish above was caught in mid-flight. Free as a bird, he (grant me this presumption of gender, just this once) now gracefully joins his winged friends as he soars above the rocks below. A fish out of water you say? On the contrary, he begs us not to keep him down, to put him in a box of prescribed beliefs concerning authentic verses non-authentic fish behavior. If he had eyelids, I have no doubt indeed that he would offer a knowing wink. I dig his vibe. It was as if he was looking through me, imprinting a message onto my very soul.

At just that moment, the crosswalk lit up in a greenish glow, and I resumed my mission (not before quickly composing a shot with my Sigma DP3 Merrill of course). However, it was not until I had answered natures call that I head a deeper message whispered from the fish, still frozen in mid-air on the door across the road. This hyperreal design had done what few other local methods had been able. It, or rather, he, the fish, woke me up. Without warning, he hyperjumped my consciousness from one place to the unexpected other. He showed me that, like the Van Halen brothers before him, when all else fails, we might as well jump.


[Photo taken with my Sigma DP3 Merrill, which sports a 50mm f2.8 lens, which has a 75mm equivlant focal distance on this cameras APS-C Foven X3 sensor. No other camera continues to give me as many headaches, or “dear lord that’s gorgeous” moments as the Sigma. If you have a chance, find some good light and a Foven sensor, and prepare to be amazed.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)


What to Do This Weekend: Professional Development, A Photo Walk, and a Birthday Bash!

Hello Gwangju!

Looking for something to do this weekend? You’ve come to the right place! Let’s see what’s going on in town this weekend.

Thursday, January 12th

Ice skating at City Hall will be going on until the end of this month!  The rink is open from 10: a.m. to 5:40 p.m. on the weekdays, and open until 8:20 p.m. on the weekends and holidays. It’s a great way to spend some time with friends, and also a good idea for the family.  You can get to City Hall by taking buses 01, 16, 22, 25, 38, 45, 46, 50, 62, 63, 64, and 518. You can also go to the Gwangju City website for more details as well. So head on out to City Hall and enjoy some skating today!

Saturday, January 14th

Courtesy of Gwangju KOTESOL

Courtesy of Gwangju KOTESOL

The Gwangju-Jeonnam Chapter of KOTESOL will be having their first meeting of the year this Saturday. The meeting are always held at Gwangju National University of Education. There will informative presentations, chances to share ideas with other teachers, and meet some new people as well. Start the new year off right by focusing on your professional development at this month’s meeting. For more information, and directions to the venue, please follow this link. You can also find more details by visiting the group’s Facebook page. The meeting will begin at 1:45 p.m.

Even though the regular Saturday Art Classes at the GIC are taking a winter break, doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything artistic going on in Gwangju. This Saturday there will be a Winter Photo Walk happening. This activity is open to all levels of photographers, and will begin with a short, introductory class on photo composition. Then, you’ll be able to take photos of some favorite spots in the city, and then upload for all to see! The introduction will begin at the GIC at 12:30 p.m. For more details about the photo walk, please check out the Facebook event page. For directions on how to get to the GIC, please follow this link to their website. The cost for the photo walk is only 5,000 won.

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Now that you’ve had enough time to recover from New Year’s, it’s time to party again because tonight it’s Speakeasy’s 11th birthday party (almost a teenager!). For the birthday bash The Man Wons will be making a return appearance to help celebrate.  Even though it’s the bar’s birthday, they will be giving you gifts of fantastic drink specials. This is always one of Speakeasy’s biggest events, so come on down and party with the terrific staff, who you know will take care of you. It all starts at 9 p.m., so get there and start celebrating early! For more details, go and check out the Facebook event page here. Happy birthday Speakeasy!



Sunday, January 15th

Courtesy of Gwangju Animal Shelter Volunteering

Courtesy of Gwangju Animal Shelter Volunteering

Every Sunday a dedicated group of volunteers heads to a local shelter so dogs can be walked and played with. If you are interested and would like to go, then go to the Facebook event page for more information.

Where to Eat Wednesday: 맛을 전하는 집

Since the moment I started eating Korean food, my mother has always teased me and my tastes when it came to the cuisine she grew up with. She still jokes about my preference for what she considers junk food that’s “cheap” and “low class”. Back when I was a kid, if you took me to a classy, expensive Korean restaurant, I would still find the cheapest, unhealthiest thing on the table and focus on that instead of enjoying the finer options. Many years later, it seems that not much has changed, especially when it comes to comfort dishes that are questionably healthy, like 전 (jeon).


I went to 맛을 전하는 집 (Mateul Jeonhaneun Jip) with a friend of mine on a Friday evening. It was quite cold outside, and due to how late it was, many of the places we wanted to go for dinner had already started shutting down. Considering my love for this all things 전, which is often referred to as a savory pancake (I don’t quite agree, but I guess that’s the closest comparison), I certainly had no complaints. I had actually been wanting to review it for quite some time, but they closed for a while before opening up their newest location. It definitely helped that this place in particular had been described to me as one of the best in the city by multiple people.

Upon arrival, there was a moment of sadness as I realized that the restaurant only offered floor seating and Korean menus without pictures. Luckily, my ability to read Korean coupled with my friend’s previous visits to this establishments made it easy to make a selection from the large, varied menu. As expected, the main feature was 전, and there were certainly enough varieties offered to satisfy any craving for this classic dish. Some of the options included 육전 (yuk jeon/beef), 새우전 (saewoo jeon/shrimp), 돼지등심전 (dwaeji deungshim jeon/pork), 파전 (pa jeon/green onions), 김치전 (kimchi jeon), and even 홍어전 (hongeo jeon/fermented skate). For anyone not in the mood to eat something fried or in pancake form, there were other entree choices like 제육볶음 (jaeyook bokkeum/stir fried pork), 오리탕 (oritang/spicy duck soup), and 뼈해장국 (ppyeo haejangguk/bone hangover soup). Since I’m a sampler who likes to try everything, we ordered the 모둠전 (modeum jeon/assorted) to share.


After we placed our order, we received a small salad and an assortment of sides. We were also given a small plate of 김치전, which I’m still not quite sure was service or just a regular part of our meal. Either way, I was excited to try it, as our order didn’t come with what is pretty much my absolute favorite 전. Though I’m not the biggest fan of squid, I enjoyed every bite of this warm pancake that was slightly crisp on the outside while being ever so chewy on the inside. I’ve come to learn that there can be a lot of variety in how 전 is cooked depending on where one goes. Some places use a thick batter that can make things a little cakey. Some places like their pancakes floppy while others like them crispy and almost cracker-like. Me? I prefer something a little more balanced. I love crispy edges, but I don’t really want something deep-fried. I prefer my pancake flexible, but don’t want it to be soggy. I imagine there are others who have their own preferences, but for someone with my standards, the 김치전 I ate way too quickly was a good sign of what was to come.


As our food was made to order, it took a little while for it to come out. When our dish was ready, I was surprised to see such a large amount of food hitting our table. Considering the prices I had seen at other similar restaurants around the city, I was had made the mistake of underestimating what we’d be getting. It was a good thing we didn’t order anything else. The massive plate of fried goodness included different types of 전 like beef, pork, fish, mushrooms, peppers, perilla leaves, and even that pink fake sausage that I have a weird love/hate relationship with. It should be noted that this 전 was a little different from the flour batter pancake type that is often seen with more popular varieties. Instead, a lot of these were dipped in more of an egg mixture before being fried to perfection. There wasn’t anything on the plate I didn’t like, and it was interesting to see how this treatment handled so many different flavors, highlighting each ingredient while adding a nice richness to them.

At the end of the night, what was supposed to be a quick bite to eat turned into a rather filling meal at 맛을 전하는 집. It was a good thing a third person came to meet us at the restaurant, as my friend and I would not have been able to finish everything on our own. We all walked away rather satisfied, and the sweet owners who took such good care of us and kindly requested for us to return soon only helped with that. Though it was a little slow when I went, I’ve been told that this place can get a little busy. The owners informed me that big parties are more than welcome, but a reservation would be very much appreciated beforehand. Whether it’s for a snack or a full meal, I recommend this spot to anyone with a hankering for one of my favorite Korean comfort dishes. Be warned, this stuff is deceptively filling.

Address: 광주 북구 중흥동 278-16 (located near the Bukgu District Office intersection)
Phone: 010-9600-5285 / 010-3681-4917
Hours: 10:00AM to 11:00PM, Closed Sundays
Average Price Range: 8,000 to 10,000 per person


img_9199 img_9200

With the Lunar New Year or Sollal approaching planning is essential if you wish to travel within Korea. For many who are still in Korea and plan on leaving Gwangju, traffic is usually not that bad as the inflow into the city is usually at higher volumes than the outflow. However it is always better to plan ahead.

There are tons of applications out there and make sure to download the Kobus Application as well as the KTX app for easy booking from your mobile phone which saves you a trip to bus or train station.

Ticket reservations start tomorrow and according to GFN news :

Tickets for rail and air travel across the nation during the lunar New Year holiday of Seollal will be sold both online and in person today and tomorrow.

According to the Korea Railroad Corporation, tickets to destinations in the capital region, Chungcheong, Gyeongsang and the eastern coastal regions will be sold on the 10th while the rest, for destinations in the Honam, Jeolla and Gangwon areas, will be sold on the 11th.

On the official webpage of Korail, tickets can be purchased from 6am to 3pm while nationwide designated stations will sell tickets from 9 am for two hours.

Meanwhile, Asiana Airlines will also boost convenience for home-comer by offering 13 additional temporary flights to those travelling on the routes to and from Gimpo, Incheon and Jeju as well as Gimpo and Gwangju from the 26th to the 30th, those tickets will start their reservations tomorrow.


Stay healthy.






It is difficult to believe that the photo blog has yet to cover the topic of fermentation. After all, this is the Korean peninsula, where fermentation is a state of mind. Yet, either I am a slow learner, or the topic had not yet ripened within. Perhaps a bit of both. For the past couple of weeks, it could be fair to say that the photo blog has been phoning it in. In doing so, I have likely not been the only one. Indeed, the holiday festivities have been noteworthy for their social and caloric excess, but also for a gratefulness. In my case, this latter, subtler feeling seems to emerge as a byproduct of lived experience. It is rarely sought, yet has seemed to grow like a fine mold in the runoff of last week’s revelry. Following this moldy theme (bare with me now, this is indeed going somewhere), this satisfaction comes with a certain degree of objectivity. Last year was enough. It was what it was, often for far worse than for better. That being said, it was with some degree of naive optimism that I ventured out into a local orchard last week. Through the bare branches and discarded bags ran a brook. As the sun began to set, my eyes were drawn to a small still-life of apples and garbage resting amid the muddy current. They had let gravity set their course, and were now left to stew in their own juices for the winter. As they rested, rotting in the stream below, I could not help but feel a degree of gratitude. Perhaps this sensation merely resulted from the knowledge that with a red filter on Kodak T-max 400, their crimson skin would appear as white against the darkened water below. I suppose such knowledge allows the photographer to feel the scene before it is physically seen. It may allow her/him to trust yet again that beauty can be coaxed out of the most unlikely of spaces. However, this image may also remind those of us who are now stationary, left to digest the recent past, that from a slightly more objective point of view, there is beauty within this inaction. That what ferments seems to rest, yet it is fully the process of becoming. At the dawn of this year year, I can think of no better image to represent my hopes for the coming months. Of course, a healthy dose of apple cider could only help grease those metaphysical wheels.


[Image taken with a Bronica Sq-ai using a 150mm PS f3.5 lens, and a Kenko red 32 filter.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)