The 1994 Blasphemy Hour

I attended the University of New Brunswick Fredericton campus for the 94/95 school year. I was preparing to enter graduate school but gave it up to come to Korea. The basement room I rented was just large enough for a bed, a desk, an armchair, and a chest of drawers. And the occasional bit of blasphemy.

My flatmate John took these photos with my compact camera. I have no idea what led to me dressing up as an antipope, but it was good for a few laughs. But also raises some questions now that I look at the photos again. Where did I get a Diet Coke box? I never drank Diet Coke. What was the stick in my hand? How old were those curtains? Why did I have a bottle of Newfie Screech when I didn’t drink? How dirty was that towel?

Always look on the bright side

I have four straight hours of class on Friday mornings, but then I have the whole afternoon to do what I like. And what I like to do is go for photo rides.

Unfortunately, the only photo I made was this mobile phone snapshot. I stopped to take a rest in a small park after a disappointing ride. My objective was to ride through Jebi Village and then the Gujeong area to see if I could make some landscapes or agricultural photos. Alas, the countryside around Gangneung is becoming an industrial zone. Lots of ugly aluminium workshops, warehouses, construction sites, and huge trucks flying along narrow country roads.

But I should think positively. Now I know not to bother going that way again. And I did get a nice ride out of it. And a decent snapshot for sharing.

A bicycle ride to and from Seongsan

I was going to post two photos of cars parked illegally on a cycling path and a sidewalk but changed my mind. I remember Sam Abell writing or saying something like, “There are many ugly things in the world, but there will never be enough beautiful things.” The photos of the bad parking just make me angry, and who needs more of that? So I am posting two photos that make me feel pleased with myself. And maybe they will please you as well.

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Yongbong Service Station and Yongbong Transport Limited, Seongsan.

I’ve posted photos of this gas station before, but I stood more to the right this time and included the yellow line in the road. The line nicely balances the orange-yellow in the gas station roof. And how nice that the taxis are orange as well.


Between Geumsan Village and the Neighbourhood of Hoesan.

I’m not sure if parking in front of a road sign is illegal or not, but at least it’s not on a sidewalk or cycling path. There is no deep meaning to this – I just liked the tilted sign and the way the arrows seem to give some sense of motion to a parked car.

Wetland Ferries

Gyeongpo Wetland Park
Gyeongpo Lake

I don’t know if the ferry in the first photo is being used or not. It’s floating, but there is a lot of water in the bottom. I saw it on the other side of the wetland one day, but it might have been blown over there by a storm that passed through the area.

The boat in the second photo is sitting on concrete supports at the end of a wharf. Until recently you could walk out on it to take pictures, but now it’s roped off. The city is probably worried someone is going to go down through the old wood.

Reed Barrier

Gyeongpo Wetlands Park

Some parts of the park have high reed barriers put up to protect nesting birds from noisy and invasive tourists. These little windows allow you to look inside the protected areas. I didn’t see any birds, but I did rather like this stand of trees.

Seongyojang and Point of Departure

I’ve been listening to a number of interviews with Ralph Gibson and several times he has talked about showing his photos to Dorothea Lange when he was her darkroom assistant. She looked at them and said, “You have no point of departure.” “This is true,” he replied. “What is a point of departure?” Basically, she explained, it’s having a purpose to your photography. This purpose will allow you to see things you might not otherwise if you are just wandering about.

Sometimes getting the perfect ‘shot’ is as difficult as tossing these sticks into the wooden jar.

My point of departure for a project I am working on is making black and white 1:1 photos of traditional Korean objects and scenes. And to do it in a minimalist or abstract way with, ideally, the frame split in two and each section filled with nothing unnecessary included. The photo above is something like I’m looking for, with a large section of grass in one section and a sliver of wall and the game in the other.

Two kinds of stone wall

This is closer to what I have in mind when I think about the project.

Various totem poles

This doesn’t exactly match the idea I have in my head, but it’s not a bad photo and the composition is quite simple. Even if it doesn’t make it into the final project, it’s still a picture I will print and enjoy.

Gate

This is close to the ideal again. Most of the photo is filled with the gatehouse wall and then a small amount of the frame is filled with the gate door. But, the two parts of the frame are perhaps too similar to be interesting to the project.

It’s good to have a point of departure and I think I can manage the technical side of it. The problem is the thematic point of departure. What is it I want to say with my photos? At the moment I’m making well-composed records of things I’ve seen, but I’m not sure that I’m making any sort of statement about the things I’ve seen. And this is what separates good photography from great photography. Maybe I’ll never get there. That’s okay, because I enjoy what I’m doing, but I want to take it just that little step further . . . .