If you have been local long enough, chances are that the image above would not strike you as out of the ordinary. There are a plethora of similarly-shaped and positioned buildings which dot the landscapes of Jeolla-do. These apartments seem to rise vertically when the land around them would seem to prefer a horizontal position for local residents. The high-rises in this images affirm this stereotype. The buildings sit, clustered in the crux of two small hills. The terraced hill to the right sits in waiting. Whether it receives a cemetery, a block of quad-level ‘mansion’ blocks, or perhaps even community gardens will soon be known. For, if there is one law to live by when photographing construction sites in Jeolla-do, it is that things change fast. Where lazy rolling hills recently stood, one can expect a city to have quickly risen to replace them.
Yes, this image speaks to ubiquitous nature of one particular type of urban planning in the region. However, the composition of this photo also points towards the inevitable smallness of the build world amid the ecosystem which surrounds it. The dark green hills seem just as likely to swallow these buildings whole as they do to shelter them from monsoon runoff. The expanse of sky in the top four-fifths of the picture also point the eye towards a world which dwarfs the diminutive concrete columns.
When driving, biking, or hiking around the areas where we call ‘home’ for now, this sight may both remind us that we are not alone, yet also very small. This may seem a difficult rope on which to balance our day to day insights of the visual culture around us. However, I can think of no better medium than photography to express just that.
[The image above was taken looking northward from a community outside Wando several weeks ago. I was using a Hasselblad 503cxi with a 180mm f4 CF lens loaded with Kodak Ektar 100. If the light cooperates and you find your focus, a better combination is hard to find.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)