Alley Art

Some neighbourhoods have recently been trying to brighten up their alleyways. Usually in areas where tourists are wandering away from the coffee shops and beaches to explore the narrow lanes. I often wander into the narrow streets and spaces between buildings to get away from the madding crowd.

Myeongju Neighbourhood

A downtown neighbourhood called Myeongju started its rejuvenation some years ago with the conversion of a church to a theatre and performance centre. Then came the remodelling of nearby old houses into coffee shops. Some private houses even tore down their high, crumbling garden walls and planted grass and flowers to brighten up the neighbourhood. Most recently, an area on the fringes of the neighbourhood painted parts of the alley walls in rainbow colours. The writing above says, “Myeongju Rainbow Covered Streets”. Out of frame are the names of the local residents who contributed to the project.

Myeongju Neighbourhood

This drain pipe is cleverly disguised as the centre of a flower. Loose stones around the alley are painted in bright colours.

I once joined a cult to paint walls in knackered neighbourhoods. Well, not exactly. I wrote it like that for fun and shock value. What happened was, I was in a supermarket trying to choose some tea when a lady approached me and asked if I spoke Korean. Then she asked if I would be interested in helping to brighten up some poorer neighbourhoods by painting alley walls. As a hater of the “grey is okay” city aesthetic, I certainly was interested and we exchanged contact information. Some time later the lady rang me and I met up with her and about a dozen other people in a neighbourhood not far from my house. It turned out that they were from the Shincheonji Church, a group previously mistrusted by the public and now reviled as the cult (a professor of religious studies at university once told our class that a cult is any group mainstream Christians don’t like) responsible for the first wave of covid infections in Korea. But I met them long before the covid business. Anyway, nobody mentioned God or Jesus to me and they were all very pleasant people. I enjoyed my time adding colour to the neighbourhood and I got a couple of free lunches out of it.

But I digress. Another neighbourhood dolling itself up for visitors to Gangneung is Anmok, probably the most famous tourist area in Gangneung because of its beaches and coffee shops that overlook the sea. Many of the alley walls were whitewashed and painted with scenes of fish several years ago, but in the last few months someone has painted the alley pavement.

Anmok

When I first came across these lines I thought that some businesses had put them there to lead customers to lodging houses or restaurants, but there were no signs explaining the colours and they didn’t seem to have any particular starting place or destination. I guess they are just there to look nice.

Downtown?

It’s great that some neighbourhoods are trying to spruce themselves up a bit. Even a simple coat of paint over breeze blocks and concrete can make alleys much nicer places to walk through. I can’t go around with a bucket of paint trying to beautify the city (unless I join another cult), but I try to make the lanes and ugly architecture at least pleasing to look at in photographs by careful framing. You might not think the curled wire photo above is interesting or good, but it’s probably not making you feel miserable like a walk through that alley might.

Alley

Car parked in alley, downtown Gangneung.
Downtown Gangneung

I’ve photographed this jumble of buildings from the entrance of this short alley a number of times. Some of the structures look commercial and the ones in the far back look residential. I can only imagine that there were no zoning laws at some point in the past. Or that they were ignored. The contrast between the old buildings and the shiny black car is interesting.

Downtown Gangneung

The second roll of film I put in my new Samsung Minolta X-700 was Ilford HP5+.

Garbage Forbidden sign painted on wall, downtown Gangneung.
This painted sign telling people not to put their trash next to the wall of this house is much nicer than the usual spray-painted scrawls.
Motorcycle in Alley, Gangneung.
This is a common sort of motorcycle in Korea. It has a 125cc engine, and in Korea you can drive any scooter or motorcycle up to that size if you have a regular car licence.
Motorcycle in alley next to empty lot, Gangneung.
The same motorcycle from another angle. I discovered this empty lot just a couple of weeks ago when I went through the back gate of a small downtown park.
Self-Portrait in Motorcycle Mirror.
The obligatory mirror self-portrait.
Empty Lot, Downtown Gangneung.
Downtown Gangneung’s backside
Air conditioner fan on building wall, downtown Gangneung.
The fan unit of a commercial building’s air conditioner. One of them, anyway. Each shop and office has its own air conditioner.
Outdoor clothes display and passing woman, downtown Gangneung.
A compose and wait photograph. I wanted someone with dark clothes to pass by the light wall so they would stand out in the photograph. I was there for a few minutes and the owner came out and pretended to go through her clothes, all the while keeping one eye on me. The woman in the photo was also looking at me with the camera to my face. Which worked out nicely for me.
20201106-001-033 amice licking my finger
I include this cat photo because, well, cats! And also to show the quality of the lens. If you click the photo and view it on Flickr, you’ll be able to see all the detail in the cat fur and my hand. I made this photo of my constantly moving friend one-handed with a manual focus camera. I’m very proud of myself! The shutter must have been flying at warp speed 9….. The HP5+ film did a very good job with the highlights and shadows as well. I’m getting a few rolls for Christmas!

Alley Building

Downtown Buildings, Gangneung

This was made just after coming out of the pork cutlet restaurant I mentioned in my last post. Again, I only had the slightly wide pancake lens on the camera so I couldn’t get the composition I saw using my mind’s eye. Using the 8×10 crop overlay in Lightroom solved the problem. Along with the levelling tool – my head must be screwed on slightly unevenly.

I’m not sure what’s in these buildings. The ground floors are shops and restaurants. The upper floors might have apartments or offices that don’t need window displays.

I got the print version of this photo in the mail today. Everything looks better on matte paper.

Downtown Gangneung

The fronts of buildings often get makeovers to please tourists or attract customers, but the spaces and alleys between buildings are neglected forever. Unless a restaurant or coffee shop somewhere down the alley gets noticed on social media and becomes famous . . .

Bicycle Parked Under Electrical Meters, Gangneung.

All four sides of the Homeplus/CGV building downtown are nice and neat with hedges, tile paving, benches (if you don’t mind smokers), and lampposts.

Homeplus Lamppost, Gangneung.

I think this is where I’m supposed to say something insightful about the modern urban landscape. But nope, I’m just an ignoramus with a camera.

Keep on snappin’ away!

Downtown, Midmorning

I don’t remember why I was downtown in the middle of a Monday morning, but I suspect I was heading to the supermarket and dallied to make a few photos.
It was a bright morning with no clouds around so contrast was quite high. Since everything was so bright and shiny, I decided to set the camera to vivid mode and get some strong colours.

Shopping area, Gangneung

Power, Internet, and cable lines are all buried on Gangneung’s main streets and tourist areas, but it will probably take some years before that sort of work gets done on side streets. With the clutter of shop signs, it probably won’t look much neater even after the poles are gone.

Shoe Shop Sign, Gangneung

Although brightly coloured, this sign is quite simple and neat against the brick wall.

Glowing Alley, Gangneung

A compose and wait photo. It took a few tries to adjust the exposure so that the sunlight on the ground was very bright but not overblown and the shadows were dark but not gone to black. I made about four photos of this woman and then chose the one that showed both her hand and her feet in stride.

All these were made on my Nikon D810 and 50mm 1.8G lens.

Walking and Running

Seeing Her Off to School, 2008

I don’t think that this dog belonged to the schoolgirl getting on the bus. He seemed to be a stray that was hanging around the bus stop that morning. Although it looks like he’s saying goodbye to his friend, he was probably wondering if he could sneak on to the bus.

Camera Shy, 2019

This was a lucky accident. I was wandering the downtown area looking for something to photograph and noticed this alley. My plan was to frame the street lamp and the apartment building with the grey walls of the foreground building, but this bank employee passed me and, seeing I had a camera, hurried to get in the building and out of my way. Click, click, she didn’t move fast enough. I stuck around after she went into the entrance on the left, but without the woman the scene is very dull.
This is a photo that can’t be printed large because it becomes very obvious the camera was focused on the lamp and not the woman. I’m not fast enough for action photography . . . .