Gwangju Blog




If you haven’t yet noticed, this is not a monday. So, why, pray tell are you enduring another installment of the photography blog on such an inauspicious primer to the weekend, which for many of you, is already among us? Well, to keep it simple, the deck of time has been reschuffed, and thus we land on this blog’s new day. While it might seem prudent to supply you, dear readers, with an occurrence of the weekend-to-be, future posts will still concentrate on tweezing out those often unseen, yet endearing visual elements of life here in Gwangju.

If you are new to the blog, you may be expecting a certain amount of bells or perhaps even the odd whistle to accompany the photo(s) above. And, while I could do my personal best to give you that, the photography gods would in all certainty cry themselves to sleep, leaving me with the kind of soul-abandoned guilt that you feel when you’ve chased the pink dragon one level too far. Therefore, without further ado, let us adjourn this foray into self-reflective blah-blahs, and begin our ponderings of the photo above.

This week’s photo was taken several weeks ago at the base of a newly finished set of stairs outside a somewhat older shopping complex in Buk-gu. Initially, there is little of interest to capture the eye. No discarded winning lottery ticket on the foreground stairs, nor errant balloon with toddler attached drifting lazily across the frame. In fact, there is very little which craves a hastily given “wow” from the viewer. In fact, if you, in this moment, desire to be wowed, please enjoy this virtual culdesac for as long as you need.

Now that we have found our way back to some semblance of normality, let us look with renewed eyes onto the photo above. This image is meant to speak to those of us who have called Gwangju, amongst many other labels, “home” for a time. For, if you are like me, a reckoning often occurs when the “wow” factor of being in a new city, country, or even continent wears off. After spending our first late weekends exploring the lush hills to the north of town, or our first week-long bender at one of many underrated dive bars scattered throughout downtown, or even after catching our first Kia Tigers game, or yes, EVEN, after sharing a quiet smoke and downing a simple cup of Maxim (instant coffee) with an anonymous adjushi (middle-aged married dude) finishing his lunch break, we may begin to notice those smaller aspects of life here which provide us with a sense of peace, and of place. Such was my feeling when snapping the shutter within the scene above. At top, two sets of legs hop playfully down the stairs, unburdened by the setting sun. Perhaps they, as I did, felt an unacknowledged moment of serenity within that spring moment.

The photo above is notable for the patterned contrasty shapes which recede into the background. For this, it holds a certain allure. Yet, its greater purpose is given the context within which it was taken. By not needing to ‘wow’, it reflects a state of contentment, yet also of wonder at the way things are. It reveals just one of a seemingly infinite number of subtle sights which contain their own wonder, a beauty revealed to those with contented eyes. This is the experience which the photo blog hopes to promote about our city, and the visual culture within which we live these lengthening days.

Enjoy the weekend, friends.



[Photo taken with my new-to-me Contax T2. If you have been following my semi-redundant compact camera drama of the past few months, you already know that my much-loved, yet eternally temperamental Ricoh GR1 finally bit the dust this past winter. As such, a new model has entered the stable of 90’s-era premium and semi-premium compact 35mm point-n-shoot cameras. Enter Ziess glass, in all of its ultra-sharp, contrasty, yet often unforgiving glory. May these eyes be up to the challenge such a machine represents.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)