koreaBANG: Why do you always say ‘There’s nothing poignant about these photos’ when you publish?
Dayv Matt: Every photo does indeed have a story behind it, but for the majority of my photos, I do not know nor do I attempt to explain the story. There is a big difference between captioning a photo in order to provide some context and placing some sort of philosophical meaning onto a photo. It’s been my experience that photographers will put together a set of images and attach a false perspective, philosophy, or ridiculous emotional narratives. I may have twenty good pictures of people who appear to be sad, but god help me if I ever put those pictures together and call it “The Beauty of Sadness”.
kB: How poignant! Your images are all quite over-saturated and high contrast, why?
DM: They weren’t always that way, but over the years they slowly became more and more high contrast and saturated. I like to think that it has developed into my style, and when people see my pictures, they know they’re mine. I am absolutely anti-technical with regard to photography; I’ve simply tweaked my presets. Indeed, since leaving Korea for Sri Lanka, my presets have once again been tweaked
because the colours and environment of Colombo is so different from Seoul. I felt like my photos needed something different. They’re still high contrast, but they’re a bit brighter.
kB: What? You’re in Sri Lanka? What were you doing in Seoul? And why Sri Lanka?
DM: Like most people who find themselves in Korea, I was a hakwon teacher. I did that for three years, and then started working as an editor for a couple of government agencies. I’m in Sri Lanka because my wife was dispatched here for three years. My plan is to do the street photography thing here for that time and then put together High Street Low Street 2.
kB: So you’re not a fugitive then. Why street photography?
DM: In high school and university it was documenting the Toronto Jungle scene. When I moved to Seoul in 2002, I decided to start documenting my surroundings. My photos back then were absolutely terrible, but I kept at it. It gave me something to do during my commutes, walks, nights out, etc.
kB: It’s those walks, nights out and commutes that make a lot of these photos so familiar to people living in Korea. In fact, there’s a big gap between the Korea we see in your photos, and the Korea that Korea wants the world to see. Why do you think this is?
DM: For the most part, Koreans hate my photography. They want Korea to be shiny, perfect, ideal, and glorious. Many think my photos make Korea look poor, dirty, and
uncivilized. I never really understood it, so those very basic reasons will have to suffice. On a more personal note, my wife also didn’t like my photography. She thought the photos were ordinary and boring. I respected her opinion and it never really bothered me. She is, after all, Korean. Now that we’re in Sri Lanka, she’s been showing my book to everyone who comes over for tea, and her opinion of my photography has changed. “Now that we’re here, I really enjoy looking at your book. It really reminds me of home”. Non-Korean readers and Kyopos sometimes email me to say how modern and awesome Korea looks in my photos. Go figure.
kB: But what were you doing wondering around Seoul with a great big camera taking pictures all the time? Do you go everywhere with a camera? Or did you set out to take all these on purpose?
DM: Haha, yes I do go everywhere with my camera. I took around 200-300 photos a day in Seoul; though admittedly most of them get deleted. I shot during my commutes, lunch hours, after work walks, epic Saturday walks, and while out with friends. On days I did decide not to carry my camera, I’d always see amazing shots. That was hard so I tried not to go anywhere without it. When I picked up the D700, the shopkeeper was visibly astonished to see that my D2X had taken well over 300,000 photos.
Want to see more? We’re giving away High Street Low Street to 5 koreaBANG fans!
High Street Low Street represents hours of walking, experiencing, and capturing the daily routine, atmosphere, and excitement of Seoul. From the bustling streets of Myeong-dong and Gangnam station, to neighborhoods off the beaten track, High Street Low Street exposes Seoul, bringing you closer to one of the world’s best cities, and does what most brochures and books do not: provide you real and amazing pictures of a city overlooked by too many for too long.
To win the ebook, and use your iPad/Kindle/stone tablet to view almost 200 more photos like these above, all you have to do is…
Go over to our Facebook page, hit ‘Like’, then message us with the answer to this random question:
Excluding its urban rail lines, how many lines does the Seoul Metropolitan Subway have?
Deadline for entering is midnight KST on Wednesday 12 December. Only one entry per person please, and you must have ‘Liked’ us to be eligble to win (yeah, that’s right, we’re bribing you for your love). You can also follow Dayv Matt on Twitter @chiam and, of course, follow @koreaBANG (on Twitter, please don’t literally follow any of us).