South Korea was the first Asian country I got in touch personally with when I was still living in Spain, thanks to a good friend that had been born in that faraway country yet whose family had emigrated to Spain when he was still a toddler so, despite his looks, for all intents and purposes he was, and is, Spanish. After him I met a few other Koreans that were in Spain for different reasons and my interest and appreciation of their country never kept on growing. Strangely enough, however, once I had the chance to finally move to Asia (and that was already 8 years ago) I never visited South Korea to pay a visit to the culture that, very probably, started it all. But finally, in my last holidays, I put an end to that unfair delay and I flew to South Korea for a 2 weeks trip that would let me see first hand if all my imagination had been accumulating these years had any resemblance to the real deal or not.
|Walking on red, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|No way out, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Passing through, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Music for everyone, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
Probably, the main source of the mental image I had of South Korea didn't come directly from the Korean people I have met throughout my life, but from the cinema, since I'm a big follower of South Korean cinematography, so it was only natural that the first thing that caught my attention when I landed in the country, more than the landscapes or monuments, was the people; during the 2 weeks I spent in different cities of the country, from North to South, I kept walking the streets, letting the vibe of every place fill me and fill my camera. People of all sorts and conditions, walking or working, aware or unaware of me, in full color or in black and white.
|Straight ahead, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Subway jaws I, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Subway jaws II, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Intermittent shadows, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Lost, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
Despite my preconceived and cinematographic image of the country, I didn't shoot in a wide aspect ratio and I stuck to my camera's native 4:3, both horizontally and vertically, which may indicate that I primarily saw things with my own eyes, later translating those images to my camera, and not the other way around, which is the way that the cinema works, imposing its rules and formats to create stories built around them. In a sense, I could say that this was more a realistic portray of the things I encountered than a creation of an idea of my own.
|A message of steam and aroma, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Robot body, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|The mender, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|A world of her own, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Sunset ascent, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|In & out, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
I won't try to make a study on Korean people here, because 2 weeks (or even 2 years for that matter) are not enough to comprehend the diversity and complexity of any society, so there won't be statements or analysis here; rather, I'm happy to present a humble recollection of captures of people of different sorts in different arrangements and environments, each one of them totally individual and idiosyncratic. I believe photography is not about generalizations but the total opposite: every frame is an independent slice of life, and the associations that may arise from the order of captures that I follow in this post don't intent to extract any conclusions or deeper meanings; the only grouping factors I have followed are two: color vs. monochrome, and single people vs. groups of them.
|Before mass, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Crossing, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Flows, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Out of the darkness, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
The bride, the couple, the photographers, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Avoiding stereotypes is, nevertheless, very difficult, and some common places always find their way into any travel album. I'm not exception, and since stereotypes are, for better or worse, part of any culture and society, it's futile to try fighting against them, so whenever I encountered myself in a situation where I had to shoot one of those talked-about places, I just tried my best to show them in a different light rather than avoiding them completely. Landmarks and traditional costumes ended up in my camera, but with a bit of creativity, even the most repeated cliches can be turned around and shown in a slightly different way.
|Evening romance, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Hanbok couple, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|The model in the palace, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Modern anachronism, Lumix GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
But faces are not all that a traveller sees during his trips, so in order to see the landscapes and monuments I encountered during this trip, head to this post here. But today, the faces and bodies remain the only participants of our little conversation.