The New Year Retrospective


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.

Lighthouse Point – Big Sur, CA.
La Boutique – Moss Landing, CA.
“Stop Taking Pictures of Me.” – Santa Cruz, CA.
To Big Sur, Not a Meth User – Watsonville, CA.
Stolen Still Life – Aptos, CA.
Hey there, Spider. – Monterey, CA.
One Day I’ll Write This Book – Monterey, CA.
Off to Work – Moss Landing CA.
And Some of Them, I Assume are (Good) People – Moss Landing, CA.
Rachel Hester, Artist – Monterey, CA.
Not True – Oakland, CA.
Power (Highway at Night) – Marina, California.
Something More Interesting is to the Right – Carmel, CA.
Sister. A Diptych (1) – Santa Cruz, CA.
Sister, a Diptych (2) Santa Cruz, CA.
I Wish I Was Here – Davenport, CA.
A Dancer – San Francisco, CA.
Tosh, a Teacher – Santa Cruz California.
Fun Center – Santa Cruz, CA.
The Fourth – Aptos, CA.
Statement – Seaside, CA.
Rachel Hester, Adventurer – Big Sur, CA.
Moss Landing – Moss Landing, CA.
Beautiful Everything – Aptos, CA.
Water Break – San Francisco, CA.
Bread: A Study in Gravity – Seaside, CA.
Sunset – Santa Cruz, CA.
Sugar – San Francisco, CA.
Please – San Francisco, CA.
Artifact of a San Francisco Summer – San Francisco, CA.
Chinatown – San Francisco, CA.
Finally, Korea – Korea.
Tea Time – Korea.
Bus to Seoul – Korea.
The Farmers’ Market – Yecheon, Korea.
Display – Seoul, Korea.
Curry – Korea.
The Things We Find Inside – Seoul, Korea.
The Rural Bus Stop – Yecheon, Korea.
Persimmon Season – Seoul, Korea.
Self-Explanatory – Pungyang, Korea.
Rural School Children – Pungyang, Korea.
The Taekwondo Kid – Yecheon, Korea.
Coffee Break – Seoul, Korea.
The Protester – Seoul, Korea.
Mont Blanc – Seoul, Korea.
30 Seconds to the New Year – Seoul, Korea.
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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