Sometimes we find ourselves living in a shotgun shack, in another part of the world, behind the wheel of a large automobile, in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and we may ask ourselves, “how did I get here?” Such thoughts often accompany the day-to-day life of an expat in Gwangju. Often springing from a deeper questioning of our place in the world, we may find solace and comradely when hearing these feelings verbalized. However, even if never encountering David Byrne’s thoughts on the matter, we may still find ways to visual express paradoxical sentiments of feeling both placed yet out of place in the city we for now, call home.
Pictural expressions of being both comforted and alienated by our surroundings is a common theme for popular street photographers. Classic work by the likes of Robert Frank, Mary Ellen Mark or Daido Moriyama shows that photography is both a readiness to see the familiar with newly expectant eyes, yet also being at the right place at the right time. Many artists, poets, or cultural observers are likely scoff at this statement, and rightly so. For, they have learned from experience that the word “right” here is misleading. There is no “right” time which stands apart from other, less right moments of our day. In fact, the “rightness” of a moment is rather defined by our willingness to accept where we are, at this time and place. In doing so, the “right” time finds us where we stand. In such moments, we only do what we know how. For David Byrne, it was to put these curiosities to music and pen. For others, it may be to make the perfect omelet, or in the case of this photographer, to capture an unexpected moment on a nearby flower.
Having photography be my personal method of creative expression, I was glad to find the lil’ bugger in the flower above. His efforts were great as he (or she, if you prefer) navigated the landscape of monstrous petals and pollen around him. As I stood there with my medium format camera with macro lens and extension tube extended down towards the flower, I could not help be anthropomorphize the insect’s predicament. In short, the simple act of traversing the width of this flower seemed both alien, and as it should be. As David Byrne put it, despite where we find ourselves, there is indeed “water flowing underground.” As such, it is out of sight, yet always moving, going towards its preordained destination. Above ground, this city moves, and on my best days, me with it. It’s the same as it ever was. I can have comfort in that.
[Photo taken on Velvia 100 using a Bronica Sq-ai stacked with several extension tubes.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)