Obong Seowon

On the left is a traditional building that might be a part of the Obong Confucian school (seowon is a kind of Confucian academy from long ago) even though it is outside the walls. On the right is a farmer’s house. Or was a farmer’s house. When I first started visiting the seowon there were greenhouses, a garden, and a shed with a cow inside. Last year (two years ago?) the cow disappeared and a while later the shed disappeared. And on my last trip there last month everything was gone. Including the farmer and his missus. I hope they’ve just retired and nothing bad has happened.
Most street lamps these days are the ‘hanging head’ type, but this one is just a globe on top of a pole.
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In 2005 a very old Buddhist temple burned to the ground up around Yangyang and there was then a mad rush to get firefighting equipment installed at any and all historical sites.
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The courtyard inside the walls of the seowon.

Gangmun

Gangmun is within Gangneung city limits and not far from two major tourist areas, but it’s not so easy to get there if you don’t have a car. There are few local buses, it’s a bit far to walk from frequent bus routes, and getting a taxi there is expensive. But it’s a good place to go now and then for some photography. It’s less crowded than many other tourist spots (at least in the morning) and there are a few interesting things to photograph.
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This couple passed me as I was making photos of a bridge and then later nicely completed this composition.
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Gyeongpo Lake and Gangmun Beach are only separated by a narrow stretch of land. You would have a nice view of both places if you were in one of these buildings. The building on the right looks like it’s under construction. There seems to be a caravan park next to the river, but I haven’t been over to see.
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This is the Seamark Hotel, also known as the Hyundai Hotel. One of Hyundai’s divisions owns it. Hyundai Construction, maybe? It was built not too long ago and replaced the earlier Hyundai Hotel which was built in the sixties.
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I posted a similar colour version of this photo last(?) year. It’s a hotel. The room rates are probably reasonable in the off season but skyrocket in the summer and on New Year’s, when everyone and their dog shows up to watch the sun rise out of the sea.
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I can’t remember what building this is. I think it’s a coffee shop or something. I like the bundle of wires rising up into the sky like lightning. They don’t go into the sky, obviously. I was standing close to the wall and looking up. I’d like to get this one printed.
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And there you are – more photos of Gangmun. And I’ll probably post more in the future when I save up enough money to get a taxi. Every time I go to Gangmun I make the usual photos of things like the rails and the thin hotel. Sometimes it’s the same photos I’ve made a dozen times and sometimes I get to see the usual subjects in a new way. So it’s rarely a wasted trip.

On the way to work

The field in the foreground belongs to another house, but it isn’t as photogenic as this place. Or as well placed for a photograph. You can’t see it in this photo, but behind the break in the hedges is a doghouse where a small dog lives. When I first started using this road the dog would come out of its house and look at me while wagging its tail. If no one was around. If the home owner was about, it would bark at me a few times. Very human in that regard. When the boss is around you have to look like you’re working, right? Lately the dog has started barking at me even when alone. I wonder if it has anything to do with the disppearance of Baduki, a neighbourhood dog that used to roam freely, visiting his chained friends and greeting me enthusiastically every time I passed his home. Last year his owner started chaining him up and keeping him inside. That seems to be about the time the dog at the house above became less friendly. Maybe the dog is just getting old and crusty.

Doggy Update!: I went for a walk today up over the hill and on the way back I met a chainless Baduki wagging his tail at a very nervous woman and her little black dog with their backs up against a tree. Poor Baduki. He just wants to be friends but he’s misunderstood. I stopped to say hello to him but he was only interested in a potential new doggy friend. So I walked down the hill. By the time I got to his house he was running down the road after me. So we had a nice little time with much head scratching, rubbing, and wagging of tail. Nice to see him again.

Cat, Church, and Cat Again

It’s a cat

For every relatively in-focus photograph of my cat, there are five or six pictures with blurred turning heads, flicking tails, massive yawns, or his rear end exiting the frame at warp 5.

In my last post I joked about joining a cult to paint alleyways. It later reminded me of another experience I had with a church member. I was exploring the city of Anyang one day in 1996/97 when a smiling woman approached me. Our conversation went something like this….

W: Hello.
M: Hi.
W: Where are you from?
M: Canada.
W: Oh, that’s very nice! What are you doing here?
M: I work at an English academy here in Anyang.
W: That’s nice. Do you have many friends here?
M: No, not really. One of my co-workers.
W: Oh, you should come to our church. You can meet lots of people.
M: Well, I’m not a Christian, so I don’t think I would fit in.
W: No, no! It doesn’t matter if you’re not Christian. You can come to our church!
M: I’m not really interested.
W: You know, two of my brothers-in-law are American. They weren’t Christian, but they started coming to our
church and now they are Christian!
M: Well, that’s very nice for them and their wives, but I’m not interested in attending church services.
W: We have lots of foreigners at our church so there are English church services and you can meet other
people.
M: Yes, that’s very nice for foreign Christians, but I’m really not interested in going to church. I’m not
a Christian.
W: (pause) There are lots of girls at our church . . . .

She almost had me, haha. The encounter was weird, annoying, funny (in hindsight), and uncomfortable all at the same time.

She definitely would have had me if she had mentioned the church was full of cats.

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.

Stay Here

Or else . . . ?

The name would suggest this is a hotel, but it’s a coffee shop that’s just opened next to Wolhwa Park in downtown Gangneung. I made this photo before the interior was completely finished, which is why the curtains are drawn. The sign, the curtains, and the colour of the wall reminds me of something you might see in a Fred Herzog photo of 1960s’ Vancouver.

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!

From the Archive: Pots and Cloths

20150708-003-005_soy-paste-pots_drying-rags.jpg
Pots for fermenting foods, 2015.

My wife thought this photo was boring, but I like it for some reason. I suppose because it’s reasonably well composed and the light is pleasantly soft.
The pots are used to ferment bean paste and chilli paste. The modern lids allow more air flow than the traditional covers.
I’m pretty sure I made this photo with the Contax N1 and the Zeiss zoom lens that came with it, but I can’t remember the film.

Seongyojang

I cut my camera collection down to one digital camera and a zoom lens, but a few weeks ago I had the urge to use some film. I had a number of rolls sitting in the fridge just soaking up cosmic and background radiation but nothing to put them in. I didn’t want to buy anything expensive because I had just sold all my expensive film gear and I wanted something small. Which lead me to the Minolta X-700 and a 50mm F1.4 lens.
Or, I should say, a Samsung Minolta X-700 with a Samsung F1.4 lens. From the late seventies onwards, luxury items were not allowed to be imported into Korea. This included cameras, unless one of the big Korean companies like Samsung or Hyundai stuck their name on it. Then it was fine. My camera has the old Samsung symbol of three stars on the front (Samsung means ‘three stars’) and on the back where most Minolta cameras say “Japan” this camera has “Samsung Aerospace Industries Corporation” written in Chinese characters. I’m not sure if that means the camera was assembled in Korea or not. The lens has Korea written on the front, so possibly it was assembled here.

I put in a roll of Kodak Ultramax 400 and went to Seongyojang. Where I discovered that citizens of Gangneung can get free admission instead of paying the usual price of 5,000 Won. That was a nice surprise. I thought about bringing my digital camera to ensure proper exposure, but decided I wanted to see how good the Minolta’s light meter is. Very good, as it turns out. Later testing showed it to give the same results or near enough as damn it as my digital.

Manhole and Rice Straw, Seongyojang.
Roof thatching season at Seongyojang. The estate had piles of rice straw everywhere. I was worried that the rather loud mirror slap would give me blurred photos, but they were as sharp as you could expect from this film.
View of houses across pavement, Seongyojang.
I’ve made photos of this scene before, but never included the stones in the foreground. It’s amazing how you can visit a place dozens of times and see something new each time.
Man climbing ladder to thatch house, Seongyojang.
Roof thatching
Man thatching roof watches passing woman, Seongyojang.
Please pay attention to your work . . . .

I was pleased with the results I got from the camera, and I’m sure I will get better results with the Portra 400 and Ektar colour films I still have in the fridge. Soon I’ll post some black and white photos I made with the camera on the same day I made these.

New Traditional Buildings

Gangneung built a new city hall on top of a hill and tore down the old one which was situated in the downtown area. Some years later they got rid of the big Central Post Office which was right next door to the old city hall and built new traditional-style buildings on the vacant lots. These buildings are used for festivals and events pretty much all through the year. There is even a very small library in one of the buildings. I think it’s great that the city turned a piece of prime business real estate into something that everyone in the city can enjoy. And, even better, they built traditional Korean buildings instead of the usual concrete, steel, and glass rectangles that pop up all around the city.

Traditional Gatehouse, Gangneung.
The latest addition to the grounds was this gatehouse.
Traditional Building, Gangneung
This building gets opened up during festivals to display exhibitions and hold traditional events. When nothing is going on, it’s nice to sit on the veranda (called a maru in Korean) and relax.