The New Year Retrospective

Visuality.

It’s a word I’ve come to know intimately, and I use it constantly as an anchor in how I think about things. Simply here, in this temporal moment reflecting the last year, it represents a narrative of struggle for me – struggling to adapt how I see things. It is here where the word visuality pounds most in mind.

The actual definition of the word is found in a book that was, from front to back, detailing how ancient Inkans perceived rocks (Seriously, great book, would recommend. It’s a dense art history book has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever studied, but even these things can, on occasion, be profoundly affecting), and its refers to “historically and culturally conditioned ways of seeing and interpreting what is seen.”

When I came to came to Korea I did not get it. I couldn’t find a way to make it work within my 2×3 frame. It was challenging coming from California, with such a drastically different look and feel to it. I knew this on some intangible level, I didn’t realize what that actually meant, and I didn’t realize I didn’t realize it. I figured my photography would be me applying how I’ve learned to see and capture California and simply release the shutter. I couldn’t comprehend the chasm between them visually. To me, a lens is a lens – if it fits it shoots. I figured English would be swapped for Korean and signage may be different, but in the end, mountains are mountains, people are people, buildings are buildings, work is work, and ultimately my photography was my photography. Not to be cliche: but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So since coming to terms with that, I’ve been slowly learning Korean visuality. But it’s different than other photographers, obviously. Every photographer will be different. Every photographer is biased and has opinions – and  I am no different. Ultimately, these things dictate how and what I shoot. So if you’re so inclined, pay attention to what I shoot, how I shoot it, and what I choose not to shoot. Notice that my choices in Korea have been so wildly different than California even though I made no intentional choice to do so and I’m still the same photographer in essence.

Or not. Really just look at these however you see fit.

But one last thing, I know I’ve been bouncing in a few different directions and dumping a lot (When you think back on a whole year and go through thousands of photographs to pick these, a lot gets going in my head), but this will be the last thing. It’s that I really hope, from what I have produced and will produce in Korea, that I’m not coming with a Western gaze. I really don’t have any great insight and I’m not trying to make any great commentary on Korean culture. Farm workers in the Salinas Valley, however, I could do that, but not Korea. I don’t have a functional grasp of Korean yet and there’s a wall that’s there that any commentary I could make, would just be coming from a  western white guy who is working from a distance. All I have is my eyes, everything else is just white noise. I’m humbled I can be here and do what I’m doing in Korea. So after that disclaimer, I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve been blessed to produce this past year because it has been a pleasure seeing it.

I hope you have as much joy viewing these as I have capturing them. Thank you.

aa39-lighthouse-point
Lighthouse Point – Big Sur, CA.
aa40-la-boutique
La Boutique – Moss Landing, CA.
aa44-stop-taking-pictures
“Stop Taking Pictures of Me.” – Santa Cruz, CA.
bb04
To Big Sur, Not a Meth User – Watsonville, CA.
bb42-falling-leaf-not-doing-its-job
Stolen Still Life – Aptos, CA.
bb44-hey-spider
Hey there, Spider. – Monterey, CA.
bb46-one-day-it-will-be-written
One Day I’ll Write This Book – Monterey, CA.
cc44-off-to-work
Off to Work – Moss Landing CA.
cc46-some-i-assume-are-good-people
And Some of Them, I Assume are (Good) People – Moss Landing, CA.
cc65
Rachel Hester, Artist – Monterey, CA.
cc73-not-true
Not True – Oakland, CA.
cc101-highway-at-night
Power (Highway at Night) – Marina, California.
dd43-theres-something-more-interesting-to-the-right
Something More Interesting is to the Right – Carmel, CA.
ee90-sister-a-diptych-1
Sister. A Diptych (1) – Santa Cruz, CA.
ee91-sister-a-diptych-2
Sister, a Diptych (2) Santa Cruz, CA.
ee93-wish-i-was-here
I Wish I Was Here – Davenport, CA.
ff02-dance
A Dancer – San Francisco, CA.
ff38-tosh-teacher
Tosh, a Teacher – Santa Cruz California.
ff39-fun-center
Fun Center – Santa Cruz, CA.
ff60-the-fourth
The Fourth – Aptos, CA.
ff63-resist-corporate-coffee
Statement – Seaside, CA.
ff66-rachel-hester-adventurer
Rachel Hester, Adventurer – Big Sur, CA.
ff67-moss-landing
Moss Landing – Moss Landing, CA.
gg01-beautiful-everything
Beautiful Everything – Aptos, CA.
gg32-water-break
Water Break – San Francisco, CA.
gg113
Bread: A Study in Gravity – Seaside, CA.
gg161-sunset
Sunset – Santa Cruz, CA.
gg179
Sugar – San Francisco, CA.
gg180-please
Please – San Francisco, CA.
gg183-artifacts-of-san-francisco-in-summer
Artifact of a San Francisco Summer – San Francisco, CA.
gg184-chinatown
Chinatown – San Francisco, CA.
hh31-longing-for-tradition
Finally, Korea – Korea.
hh32-tea-time
Tea Time – Korea.
ii34-bus-to-seoul
Bus to Seoul – Korea.
ii35-the-farmers-market
The Farmers’ Market – Yecheon, Korea.
jj11-display
Display – Seoul, Korea.
kk3-curry-signage-that-gets-me
Curry – Korea.
kk13-the-things-we-find-inside
The Things We Find Inside – Seoul, Korea.
kk17-rural-bus-stop
The Rural Bus Stop – Yecheon, Korea.
ll15-persimmon-season
Persimmon Season – Seoul, Korea.
mm01-self-explanatory
Self-Explanatory – Pungyang, Korea.
mm4-rural-schoolchildren-edit
Rural School Children – Pungyang, Korea.
mm28-the-taekwondo-kid
The Taekwondo Kid – Yecheon, Korea.
mm36-coffee-break
Coffee Break – Seoul, Korea.
mm37-the-protestor
The Protester – Seoul, Korea.
mm38-mont-blanc
Mont Blanc – Seoul, Korea.
mm108-30-seconds-to-the-new-year
30 Seconds to the New Year – Seoul, Korea.
mm130-new-years-eve
New Year’s Eve – Seoul, Korea.

Thank you for your patience. I hope it was worth your time.

P.S. If you’re curious about the book because you can’t get it out of your head since learning about it ten minutes ago, it’s A Culture of Stone: Inka Perspectives on Rock, by Carolyn Dean, Professor, UC Santa Cruz.

One thought on “The New Year Retrospective

  1. Stephen… there was no “patience” required in your provocative images and rich words. It was a joyful, handsome reminiscence of our six year adventure in the “Land of the Morning Calm.” We look forward to having you and your UCB friend + Michael and Harumi for dinner upon your return. Kamsa hamnida 😇☀️🙏🍁🍂James and Insuk🇰🇷 “Who you become is your gift to the world”

    Liked by 1 person

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