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.

Fishing Boat

Fishing Boat Anchored in Anmok Harbour, Gangneung.
Fishing Boat, Anmok Harbour

I’m not sure how people get on this small fishing boat. It’s not tied up at the dock. It’s anchored next to the breakwater and difficult to get to from land. Maybe someone drops the fisherperson off every morning in another boat.

Lighthouse

Breakwater Lighthouse and Clouds, Anmok Harbour
Lighthouse, Anmok Harbour.

This red lighthouse is a popular stop for tourists visiting Gangneung and Anmok Harbour. It’s no different than hundreds of other lighthouses of the same design around the coast, so I don’t see the attraction. Maybe people just like being out on the breakwater to enjoy the sea air.

A day at the beach

You may notice a distinct lack of beach in these photographs. I am usually more interested in the things you find around the beach rather than the beach itself. I don’t think I went out to Anmok Beach with any photographic goal in mind, which is why there’s no connection between these two photos. Other than the fact they are both black and white.

Coffee Bean Statue, Anmok.

This is the top section of a statue built from metal strips. The bottom is a white coffee cup and stacked on top of that are three giant coffee beans. The statue is about twice my height. There is a steady stream of tourists who come to stand in front of it for pictures.

Pine Tree, Anmok.

This is a photo Edward Weston might have done if he were much less talented. I like it. I can’t find any glaring errors in composition and the twisted branches are attractive. Bystanders kept looking from me to the tree while I was making this, trying to figure out what I might be photographing.

Two Women Near Water

Nadae River Stepping Stone Bridge
Anmok Beach

I have a little bit of a pileup in the ‘Website Photos’ folder on my desktop, so I was thinking of ways to upload more than one photo at a time without seeming too random. Ta-da! Things that begin with W! Oh ho ho . . .

I made the first photo because I thought the woman’s pink jacket would make a nice contrast with and spot of interest in a bare landscape. Korean winters are visually bleak because everything is dead and brown but there’s no snow to cover it up. And most people wear black or dark jackets. So the bright pink jacket of this lady was a welcome sight.

The second photo was a compose and wait situation. I filled most of the frame with this dark brown building (a public washroom. Another W!) and waited for something interesting to fill the bit of space on the left. I didn’t have a tripod with me so my arms got quite tired. I missed a cyclist passing by when I brought the camera down for a second to rest my arms and cursed about it, but I think this young woman in a long black jacket is better suited for the scene because she matches the building. The building looks like something out of a drab dystopian future that creates and releases drably-dressed humans into the landscape. Her shoes are a bit fancy, though, so that image doesn’t really hold up . . . .

Phone Box and Pine

Phone Box and Pine, Anmok Beach

I don’t know if this tree was trimmed to get rid of damaged branches or if the branches had stretched into the way of wires and needed to be cut. It’s an interesting natural sculpture, maybe the kind of prop that Beckett imagined Estragon hanging himself from while waiting for Godot.
I got a number of odd stares while framing and photographing this scene. People looked at me, then the tree, and then the sky beyond, to see if maybe there was an interesting bird or a plane or a superman coming out of the clouds. Nope. Nothing but a much-ignored phone box and a philosophical pine.

Horizons

Some time ago I decided in the name of minimalism to not print any more photos and to only look at them on digital devices. But I quickly discarded that decision after decluttering my binders and gathering together my favourite photograph prints. There is really no comparison between a photograph seen on a screen and one held in the hand. A well-exposed photograph looks very good on a website or a tablet, but a photograph printed on good paper by an expert lab loses some of the harshness of the backlit pixel and bring out a photo’s beauty. Is it because pixels on a display are discrete units but dots from a printer run into each other a bit, resulting in a more organic look? I don’t know, and I’m sure others have written about this more knowledgeably than me.

In the interest of maybe showing better photographs here, I recently made it a rule not to post new photographs until I had prints in hand to see which of my pictures really make me happy after going through the complete editing process from camera-to-computer transfer to selecting in an image viewer to getting the prints back from the lab and looking them over again.

But enough about that. Here are four photographs I made at Anmok Beach last month. I used a 16:9 aspect ratio because I thought it matched the wide scenes of the beach. The prints, of course, look nicer than what you see here, but enjoy.

Orange Umbrella, Anmok Beach.
Green Bench, Anmok Beach
Yellow Digger, Anmok Beach
Red Trailer, Anmok Beach

From the Archive: Standing Tall

The organising of my photo archive continues, and I’ve recently finished the 2009 folders. These two photos are similar in composition so I’m posting them at the same time.

Anmok, 2009.

This fellow paused in his walk along the river to stand on a hill and watch the river mouth.

Near Hapyeong Fields, Gangneung, 2009.

I’m not sure three pine trees constitute a copse or a bluff, but some years ago the city planted a number of these near the seaside where most of the tourists come.

I’m ready to start going through my 2010 folders, but the first folder contains hundreds of pictures I made at an English camp for children. It’s going to take hours . . . .