This is a photo of my mom. My mom came to Korea for the first time in 2018. I cherished that time with her. We didn’t have a great relationship when I was young. She’s a bit like Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter. Tons of heart but extremely strict and can be borderline scary. She was a high school teacher and the type that you’d imagine still might have a belt lying around. That said, she has softened much in her old age. I took this after my wedding reception. She was hungover. My mom literally never drinks. Well, Junku bro and friends had her drinking at my reception and she was feeling the effects. She stayed like this for a whole day. She’s coming back this may. I can’t wait.
I shared this in my last post as well. I absolutely love this photo. When my wife cleans the floors she dances like a ballerina. It is one of the most beautiful and graceful things I’ve ever seen. She clears the floors of obstructions, plays a classical piano arrangement and floats through the rooms with a cloth and some water. I’d never been able to get a very good photo during the routine. She’s embarrassed by it. I haven’t a clue why.
This was also taken during the unusual snow storms that plagued Iksan for a couple of days in 2018. I was on my way to class when I saw this loan man just kind of standing there contemplating his plight. I took this without much care to be honest. I was cold and had no gloves so I wasn’t much in the mood to be taking photos. I’m glad I did. Prints of this now hang in many countries throughout the world. It was my most requested photo from this year. Generally I don’t agree with those numbers but in this case, I love this photo.
So the last two photos were taken one right after the other with the above having been taken second.
I took this photo of my wife on our wedding day. I didn’t take many photos during the day, perhaps 10. Every time I see this photo I am filled with happiness. She was talking to a friend or something but I couldn’t see anything but her.
This is my favourite photo of 2018. It isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken technically. It is a photo that I would describe as an amalgamation of compromises. I took the photo in our then unfinished living room. The lighting was a simple placeholder light that struggled to light the entire room. I had 400 speed Ilford film loaded in my camera and no flash. I’d shot the previous 15 photos on the roll at 400 because I’d dreamed of my wedding photos being “clean.” Realizing this wasn’t going to work I just said f%$k it and decided to shoot this at what I’d thought to be 3200 (no meter on my camera). I think continued to take 6 photos of her during the next 3-5 minutes (number 2 on this list being also taken during that time) at what I judged to be 3200. I developed the film as such and just threw out the rest of the negatives. I only wanted these photos. They are grainy, and show the lack of dynamic range in the film at 3200. I don’t care. I wanted to get those photos. Do I wish they were digital? Not at all. I can’t tell you how much happier it makes me to look through my book of negatives and see these photos. Those pieces of film were there with me at that moment. Cheesy? Maybe.
I could give a f%$k.
Hope you enjoyed this year’s top 10. I didn’t take many photos this year. Around 500 in total. That’s okay. I love the photos I did get. Nowadays I’m more than happy to get 2-3 photos a year I consider to be good.
I’ve been busy. Busy getting married, finishing my house. I had guests in the house until yesterday. Not much time for anything. That doesn’t even include dodging the construction dust long enough to write a post.
I don’t do this often. Post in colour I mean. This is my darkroom light. My wife said she chose it because it reminded her of Eggleston. Only the opposite. Slightly confused, I asked where she’d heard of Eggleston. She told me after we had met she’d spent several weekends reading about the masters. She’s as cool they come.
This is her. I took this on our wedding day. She was certainly a site for sore eyes. She’s wearing a traditional Korean dress called a hanbok. I wore one as well, ha.
I want to make a longer post about the wedding when I have time. Hopefully I will have some now that things from the wedding are winding down. We had lots of guests. Junku Nishimura was here, Matt Martin, Aikbeng Chia. We had a blast. Lots of drinking. Lots and lots of drinking.
Anyway, that’s it for the update. On a side note, anyone have any suggestions for an enlarger? 😉
I was surprised by the overwhelming response to my first blog post in a while earlier today. Because of some things happening lately, I should have a little bit more time to blog in the months to come. I am going to try really hard to blog at least once a week. That is my goal.
This morning I was packing for a shoot I have this weekend in Gwangju. I usually lay my gear out like this before I pack it to make sure I have everything I intend to bring. I don’t want to say too much about the shoot yet but it is mostly portraits in both film and digital. The obligatory top down photo always follows my pre-packing.
So, most of you know I change cameras pretty often. I don’t make any excuses for that anymore. That being said, it is something that has slowed down quite a bit of late.
Why? Well, first it was the M3 in the picture. When I bought the M3 I did so on a whim. It has now become like part of me. I can’t remember the last time I felt like this about a camera. Several years into owning it I don’t feel any desire to have anything else. It’s just that camera for me. The lens is a v2 50mm Summilux that once belonged to one of my closest friends, Nicholas Dominic Talvola. Again, a lifer will this lens be.
Some time ago I started to think about taking photography more seriously. Weirdly since my epiphany with the M3 I’ve stopped lusting after cameras like I had once done. I don’t even really read reviews or look at them online much anymore. Interesting, that.
So, with that, I decided I needed a kit that I could use for work. After much thought, I realized the cameras I went to most often when I needed to do serious stuff were Olympus M4/3s cameras. When I was shooting only digital I’d often shoot a Fuji or Leica for personal stuff and an Olympus for stuff that “needed” doing. I guess I just felt like they were faster, more reliable, and generally more flexible.
After deciding to take on more photography work this year I picked up a couple Olympus bodies to do so with. The first, the Pen-F, happened kind of by accident. I had tried one before and liked it quite a lot. Using it with the Summilux at 100mm is great for portraits. I love it. The second is an OM-D EM-1 (original) with the 17mm f1.8 (thanks Pierre ;)). Both great cameras. As I mentioned in the short post earlier today, I plan to have a full review on the Pen-F here sometime this week. In the photo you can also see the iPhone X which I also plan on reviewing in the next couple of weeks.
That about does it for the second post of the day (haven’t said that for a while). Among other things that are coming up: finally launching my Youtube channel properly. One video is done and just about ready to go. Also, my first solo zine titled “Neverland” is just ready to announce this week. Considering I am about to start properly renovating my house I think lots of exciting things are on the horizon!
If you have any questions about the stuff from my bag or anything at all feel free to ask in the questions or shoot me an email 🙂
PS, I’m not as depressed as I always seem to look in my photos. Thanks to some for the concern, haha. I’ll try and smile more often.
I had a GRII at the same time as I was starting to shoot film again. I really, really love shooting film. As you could probably see from my last post film is the part of photography that appeals to my soul.
The Ricoh part of photography – on the other hand – is the one that appeals to my brain.
It is an interesting thing and one that is tough to quantify. I don’t know what it is about using a Ricoh but it makes digital feel right to me. Admittedly, I feel somewhat similar about Fuji’s X100 (the original one). The Ricoh though, is the one that really “sings” to me.
So, to continue. I had sold this one to a friend. She used it for several months travelling through Asia, America, and Europe.
I originally sold it for two reasons:
1. I wanted to sell it before it broke my heart..
Ricoh’s were never known to be reliable. I have had several Ricoh GRs that all had some issue or another. I have had nearly 15 Ricoh digital cameras most of which ended up with lens problems or dust f$5kery. There is a meantime to failure about them that scares me. My Leica M3 on the other hand is from 1961 and still works like new. I know it won’t let me down.
Did I mention I have TWO Ricoh GR21s at home in a box because they are both broken.
Ricohs almost always break my heart. I love them to death.
It is a tough thing. I always feel I have a relationship with a Ricoh camera in the same way I do with an old car. Someday, it will invariably let me down but yet somehow I can’t help but love it just the same.
After re-buying my GRII from my friend after her trip I was worried about dust being on the sensor so I took the photo above (the one of the sky). On first glance I almost cried at seeing the two spots. Luckily upon closer inspection they are just fighter jets from the nearby Gunsan Airforce base. Thank the f%$k.
After all those countries there was no dust. I was shocked. The outside of the camera was fairly worn. So why no ill effects?
I think the key is the hood. Most of the dust seems to come in through the lens as it opens and retracts. Basically, when I originally got this one I cleaned the lens of dust and then put on the hood / filter kit (GH-3). The hood, stops most of the dust that might otherwise enter the lens from entering. I will always use one of these on any Ricoh GR from now on.
2. I end up not shooting with anything else..
Whenever I have a Ricoh I almost never use anything else. I don’t finish rolls of film because I don’t pick up my film camera as much. It isn’t a conscious thing as if I had to take one camera to my grave it would be the M3. It is the simplicity, I suppose. It is the fact that it takes no effort to carry, use, or store. It doesn’t become part of conversations like the Leica does.
It is kinda just there.
This might not seem a problem. Why not just shoot with the Ricoh? Well, the weird thing is I never feel like shooting with the Ricoh is intrinsically “fun.” As a photographic tool, it is probably the best out there for most of what I do but I never really feel anything when I’m using it.
It just sort of melts into the periphery.
Again, not really a negative. Actually, for sure this is more a positive. That being said, when shooting with my M3 I really enjoy myself. I feel happy even if the photos don’t turn out as well. It is a different sort of feeling. I feel involved in the process. I feel like my decisions matter a little more. I enjoy going home with a full roll and developing it with a beer or a glass of wine. It is certainly a different feeling.
All that aside, picking up the Ricoh from the table at dinner with my friend felt like picking up an old friend. It is extremely strange, in that, whenever I pick up any Leica M3 that isn’t my own beaten and battered one I don’t really feel anything. They AREN’T my camera. With a Ricoh, no matter who owns said camera or in what context I may be in every single one I pick up feels like a friend.
I suppose you’d call that an affinity. An affinity for a particular camera?
An affinity for a brand?
For a series?
This one will probably break my heart just like they all have done. Then, so will the next one.
I haven’t been here for a while. Truth be told I have been super busy of late. In June and July I hosted friends for nearly both months. I taught two workshops in July with Wearethestreet and Leica Korea.
Needless to say, it has been a wild ride.
The whole thing started with Matt.
Matt “Endlessproof” Martin came to stay with me in June. We have been close friends for quite a long time and it was his first time coming to Korea.
He brought me a gift when he came.
An old film camera.
Truth further being told, I had been in a bit of a rut. For the couple of months leading up to Matt’s arrival we had talked constantly about how both of us felt a lull. I was using a digital Leica that was part of a deal I was doing with them and I felt like I had lost a lot of my photographic “soul..” I didn’t see anything I wanted to take pictures of.
It had been several months since I had shot any film. My M3 was sitting at my friend’s shop in Seoul where I had left it and never had bothered retrieving. I was barely taking any photos. Barely wanted to take any.
After getting the film camera (Pentax MX) I shot a roll kind of quickly. I developed it right away. It was mostly photos of Matt. When I was putting the negatives in a binder I was reminded of something.
Flash forward a week.
At this point, the other members of Wearethestreet started arriving in Seoul. Of the members, Nicholas Dominic Talvola and I are closest. Matt and I took a train to Seoul to spend the first weekend together with the gents and teach the first workshop with Leica.
Much like you’d imagine the first several nights looked like above. We partied hard. The funny thing about all the alcohol was I realized the drunker I got the more likely I was to reach for the film camera. Seems counter intuitive considering the “risk.” I don’t mean the risk of ruining my camera but the risk of “wasting” a frame.
It is interesting, that. The idea of wasting a frame. I often hear people say things like that.
“Why waste a frame on a picture of me?”
The irony is, I think the wasted frames for me are the ones I take on the street.
Photos like the one above, for example, are the opposite. During the month Nick lived with me we spent half of our time watching Trailer Park Boys and drinking at home. It was even weird to me that I’d reach for a film camera here over a digital one. Seems like an iPhone photo. People always tell me their iPhone is a camera “just” for memories.
What does that mean? A camera “just” for memories. The thing putting those first negatives from the camera Matt gave me into the binder reminded me of was that photography was made to record memories. It was made so that we could have a physical record. Something we can touch.
Flash forward a month.
I had let the negatives pile up again. I develop almost right away but generally my negatives collect in a plastic container next to my desk. The month and a half since Matt first arrived had flown by. Lots of things had happened in that time. I sat looking at that pile of negatives and a lot of things sort of came together. The fog that had been over my brain and the haze of the prior 6 weeks suddenly cleared.
Dramatic, I know.
Flashback 2 weeks.
Nick and I were watching Trailer Park Boys and I took that photo of the screen. Nick turned to me and said something like,
“I noticed you seem to take photos of things you care about with the film camera. I remember you had that M3 that you loved so much, what happened to it?”
I’ve had a lot of GAS in my life. I’ve had a lot of spurts with buying and selling cameras. If you’re reading this you’ve probably read about lots of them. The Leica M3 he was talking about was a camera I bought some time ago and always seemed to be around. It is a beater of a camera but works wonderfully.
Two days later.
I saw her in the elevator of my building.
I dug her dress. It was a great dress. I wanted to take pictures of it. At least a couple. She didn’t seem too annoyed and was just on her phone.
I followed her outside to the courtyard. I couldn’t get enough of that dress.
From another time was that dress. She was from another time.
I couldn’t help it. I had to ask.
I don’t know what it is but these moments feel more special when I look at a contact sheet as opposed to a Lightroom library. I feel like that piece of plastic was there with me in that moment. The light from that actual moment is melted there.
It is all hipster nonsense really. I suppose it is anyway. It must be.
Flash forward two weeks.
Nick and I are in Gwangju. Gwangju is a city South of Seoul. I won’t get into why this city is famous, but it has a deep and interesting story. We somehow got roped into teaching art in the World Youth Festival being held there.
We spent the first day in the blistering heat. It was 40* centigrade the entire day. At night, it cooled to 30-35. Nick spent the day painting and drinking soju. I watched as I would have to do the painting the following two days. It was also Nick’s last day in Korea.
Nick left the next day. For nearly two months I had been with friends. More than friends really. The older I’ve gotten the more I have realized that friends can be more like family than actual family.
Nick and Matt, they are my brothers.
Flash forward to yesterday.
I saw the negatives sitting in that plastic container next to my desk. My new Alienware computer had just arrived and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to scan. Weird though, I just ended up looking at them for hours. When I sort my negatives I basically throw out any strips that are boring or don’t have anything “good” on them. I ended up throwing out all the photos of people in the streets that I didn’t know. Those photos don’t matter much to me.
Looking through a story line of negatives from the 60 or so days I felt a lot. I laughed a lot and I cried. I felt happy and I felt sad. I felt something from each of them. It was 4 AM before I realized. I was still looking.
The green tea fields of Boseong. A popular place for Koreans to visit during the spring and summer. I went without much thought. I went without many expectations. I was somehow expecting a tranquil experience. I was expecting a feeling of calm.
In fact, though, it was busy and crowded. It was full of tourists. It wasn’t much tranquil or calming. People looked stressed.
“There aren’t any leaves left to pick..”
A common theme, ha. I didn’t really take many photos. Just a couple. Didn’t have much gumption to.
We did find a couple. Enough to make a cup of tea.
Boseong, South Korea.
On a side note.. Do you prefer these shorter posts that happy more often or longer posts that are far more infrequent? Would like to know as I’m trying to balance the amount I do on my blog.
I noticed her. The park was full of tourists. The cherry blossom season in Gyeongju is a big event in Korea. The small lake had a winding path circling it. Strangely, no one walked up to the lake.
She did, though. Wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean dress) like out of a dynasty far removed she walked up to the edge of the lake. Simply taking a break from walking perhaps. I don’t know. To me, she almost looked a ghost of a time long past. Remembering the time playing in the blossoms as if they were snow with her friends.
A different time.
I followed her, and she stopped several times. Always looking as though remembering. Always seeing something I wasn’t.