Archives for category: Photography

It is not even 4AM yet and I’m wide awake in a strange bed. My son and I landed in Seoul a few hours ago, tired and hungry after a long airport limousine bus ride into the city from the Incheon Airport where we were plopped down into a bustling area at shortly after 7:00 in the evening. Trying to remember our directions to the guest house where we’re staying was not bad–I had been here several times before–but this was my first time arriving into this area of town after the long, grueling flight. Finding the place was not too difficult–people here are very friendly and willing to help out a stranger, even if they don’t know a word of English. I forgot my Korean phrase book at home. Oops! And my son forgot his dress shoes, but that’s another matter. Technology helps; smartphones abound here. After all, this is where LG and Samsung are headquartered. They guy waiting on the corner brought up his smartphone map and showed me which direction to go. Luckily, I had written on a piece of paper in Korean Hangul the name of my destination.

We’re here now and checked-in at the guest house, a little room with two small beds, but comfortable. And they have provided wireless for my laptop excursions, like this chance to write at 4AM because my body clock is still some 15 hours different from here, meaning I’m going on as if it is early afternoon. This should surprise nobody who is a well seasoned traveler to faraway locations, however it never ceases to amaze me each time this happens.

After checking-in, we ventured out in the local neighborhood to find a place to eat. Like at home in Minneapolis, the mid-winter snow is also very lacking in Seoul this year, although it is a bit colder here. Walking about in my vest with no jacket, the cold air woke me up; this left the only remaining basic need all the more stark–I was very hungry. We found a Korean fastfood-like place called 2900 which was quite good and inexpensive. It was named 2900 after their phone number. We both had some variety of Bim-bim-bap, a rice/vegetable mixture. The accompanying little bowl of soup was both warm and comforting after that chill air.

Besides the original motivation for this trip, I hope to capture some of the images of Seoul and combine those with my previous visit here in 2007 to create a book much in the same spirit of One Hundred Views of Beijing. I expect it will be called One Hundred Views of Seoul. Part of my interest in these images will be a study of the use of color, the meaning which is applied to it, and how it is interpreted. The toilets at the Incheon airport for example had red and green symbols for women and men, respectively, a use of color I have not seen (or noticed) before in the states for male/female markers. I will keep my eye out to see if this use of color in this way is prevalent. And, we will see if my 8mp smartphone camera will do that image any justice; I was reluctant to get out my big camera in the middle of all that airport security.

During my trip to China in May 2010 I accumulated more than 3,000 images. From these, I chose a set of 100 images from Beijing to create my book titled One Hundred Views of Beijing, a name derived from One Hundred Views of Edo (1856-58) which later inspired artists like Vincent Van Gogh. Preceding this work was Thirty six Views of Mount Fuji, large color woodblocks, by Hokusai, created 1826-1833, and later, One Hundred Views of Mount Fuju, upping his previous number.

Technically, one of my images in this collection of 100 is of the great wall, which is not exactly Beijing. But since I felt the great wall had a close relationship with Beijing, I deemed it okay to make this stretch. (But I didn’t want to push it and only kept it to the one image; I could have gone wild with great wall pictures!) Also, Ninety Nine Views of Beijing with One Thrown In of The Great Wall would’ve been a very cumbersome title.

The organization of these images were done as a part of a graduate design studio class I had Fall 2010, and later improved upon.  I first went through an exercise of pairing photos in preparation for each spread, for an early first draft. This process was mostly intuitive. But this wasn’t enough by itself, it needed an additional form of organization. As such, I came up an idea for four themes, or chapters: Iconic, Architectural, Patterns, and People. Still, there were other issues to be solved. Tagging images wasn’t perfectly exclusive: there are people patterns, architectural patterns, iconic architecture, etc. But in general, I assigned a major attribute to each image. Most people shots were on the street, so that section was named accordingly.

Later, the Iconic split into Prologue and Epilogue, joining the two ends. Doublends Jined as Joyce would put it. Now I had a continuous loop when you considered Epilogue and Prologue as a split-Iconic. Every chapter had a one before it and one after it. Now I could make use of each image’s secondary attributes and sort them according to what section preceded and followed. For example, architectural images when from iconic in style to pattern. The pattern section began with the most architectural looking images and ended with people-patterns. Likewise for the other two sections, On the street (people), and Iconic. I had a system for placing every image appropriately to a spread.

Given the symmetry which emerged from this project, when I went to add a preface, it seemed to throw it off balance, looking at it holistically. So that gave me the impetus to create a colophon to put at the end, and why not describe my work? Except I didn’t go into as much detail about the organizing principles in the colophon as I did here, but rather kept to typeface choices and other interesting details which I did not include in this post.

It was a very satisfying book project and a great accomplishment. Now I’m ready to start another.

The other day, I found myself wandering the periphery of Tianamen Square trying to figure out how to enter.  I had no idea it was so surrounded by busy roads so wide that they could easily be considered expressways.  The tunnels are the way in, security check included.  In the process of wandering, I ran into a guy who called himself Tom.  He is a middle school history teacher on one of the cities outside Beijing, returning to Beijing for some training and now seeing the sights.  He and I hung out for a while, and he showed me the ropes at Tianamen, and the old part of the city just to the south.  We stopped at a shop for a beer and a bite to eat when he told me about Friday nights at Renmin University, the regular event called English Corner.  English Corner at Renmin University happens every Friday night, starting about 8pm.

Friday evening I was on my own and not terribly far from Renmin, relatively speaking, I decided to go to English Corner.  It was about a 25 RMB taxi ride, so not very close either.  I arrived shortly after 8pm at the east gate entrance to the University.

I entered and found the park area, just inside.  It was dark, but the open space in the middle of the park was very crowded, and, as expected, everyone was speaking English, various levels.  People were in groups of various sizes, some very large, actively discussing.  Inhibited to interrupt any of the goings on, I nearly circled the whole area before finding someone alone.   I said ‘hello’ and we started talking.  I soon found myself surrounded by at least 5 or 6 people, which peaked later at some higher number.  We talked about photography, art, politics, philosophy, opinions and attitudes, comparing China and the USA.  I was like a celebrity, talking constantly and constantly being surrounded by the curious and the engaged conversationalists.  Many were engaged with very thoughtful, challenging questions.  I handed out many of my business cards, and received a couple in exchange.

I’m not usually good at standing for long periods of time, and I knew some time had passed when the crowd starting thinning out, but I was surprised to find out it was nearly midnight when I looked at the clock.  Nearly four hours had passed since I had arrived!

To anyone traveling to Beijing: reserve your Friday night for this!  Highly recommended.

Internet access for me has been difficult while in Beijing, at least from the Hotel where I’m staying.  I found a nice little Internet cafe called Sculpting in Time, and this evening I’m here catching up on my online stuff.

Today, we presented our works for the faculty and students in the photography department at the Beijing Film Academy, which was well received.  Everyone has been great.  There was a lot of interest generated from the presentation.  The Beijing Now blog has a little more detail about this.

(And I hope to have some photos posted soon.)

Not earth shattering, but this thought just struck me.  A great application for Apple’s new iPad would be a traveling portfolio.  My iPhone is just too small to do justice to any of my photos.  Laptops are ok, but inconvenient, when you’re going from gallery to gallery to other venues.  The iPad fits in-between very nicely.

My photograph, River Portrait (pinhole), did not make the cut in this year’s Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts show. This interrupts my 4-year trend, but I can’t feel too bad. The statistics of getting into the show are rather bleak, when you look at the numbers.

This year’s Photography category was judged by Doug Beasley. There were 1019 online entries registered in this category, of which 819 actually made it, and 112 were selected for the show. That’s only 13.7 percent that made the cut!  Mr Beasley on his blog declared something around 9 percent, however I believe he calculated from the total online number.

For the State Fair ‘overflow’ (a term much less threatening that ‘rejected’) artists were invited to submit their works to the non-juried show called Salon 300 at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, in downtown Hopkins, MN. River Portrait will be in that show, which goes from Saturday 22 August to Sunday 6 September, opening reception on Saturday 22 August 6-8 pm.

As for the other categories, the numbers were not quite as bleak:

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