Candid Korea: South Korea Through the Eyes of a Photographer

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We enjoy publishing photos of Korea but, until now, we’ve normally only given airtime to the old, the very old, and the even older than that. In celebration of our continuing photo series, we invited Mariusz Sikorski, a Polish-Canadian photographer to share some of his pics from a recent trip to South Korea.

Originally finding his groove after drawing inspiration from Japanese street photography, Mariusz took himself and his camera on a much-anticipated trip round Korea and, true to his signature style, captured the people, sights and ambiance around him in stunning detail and character. Rather than letting the usual yawntastic long-exposure shots of moonlit temples and steaming pots of kimchi dominate, we like Mariusz’s style of photography as we believe it shows a more candid and natural side of Korea that is often loved, experienced, and enjoyed; but not often captured.

We asked Mariusz what makes him and his camera tick:

I wanted to take a shot at doing something similar to how I approached my photography goals while in Japan. I wanted to be able to capture aspects that draw people to the culture but also facets of everyday Korean life. In truth, prior to going I often saw both countries as quite similar even if different in cultural and ideological terms. I knew that, if I were to go to one, I would at some point in the near future go to the other. Of course, as one can guess I was quite mistaken about the shared similarities and differences which turned out to be both incredibly enjoyable and frustrating at times.

I spent most of the trip documenting some of the adventures I came across in my travels, more so than actually running around with my camera with a dedicated perspective or narrative. It is something I wanted to sincerely spend some time on but I ended up being much busier than anticipated. The majority of the trip was dedicated to spending time with my girlfriend after all.

We got a chance to explore a bit of Seoul, Chuncheon and the many attractions and sights of Jeju Island. I ended up meeting many interesting and kind people along the way and it has become a journey I plan on taking many more times, especially with the intention of spending some serious time with a camera in my hand.

South Korea is a beautiful country and I look forward to returning later this year and exploring it with my camera by my side.

You can view more of Mariusz’s other photos over at his blog, dear-blue.com, by following him on Twitter @AOFOTO or, by liking his Facebook page.

This is part one of a two-part series of Mariusz’s photos of Korea. Next week: South Korea in black and white.

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  • vetomon

    What, no whiteys in the pics?

    How can anyone not get a whitey in a photo anywhere in Asia?

    • lonetrey

      The guy himself is Polish-Canadian. I’m sure if he wanted to, he could’ve just taken a self-shot.

  • lonetrey

    i really like this series. I just wish there were more shots of people rather than so many scenery shots.

  • Karl

    This set is not nearly as good as “High Street, Low Street”, a set of Seoul street shots done by a Canadian photographer.

    • Those ARE excellent, yes! Love them. That guy is selling copies of his book though so that he can save up and get a new camera (so he probably wouldn’t like them released for free like this). Here’s a preview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi21Df5vAPw

      • Actually, my photography is allover the web. I simply put the book together to sell, but all the pictures in it are out there. :)

        • Hey, welcome! Did you manage to raise enough for your new camera yet? I’d love to publish some of your stuff if you have anything new – I did think about contacting you about your book but assumed you wouldn’t want digital copies of it published as a connection. Send me an email via the ‘About’ page if you’d be willing.

  • Tippy Long Stocking

    lovely! i want to go to this place!

    • Chucky3176

      He sure loves table cooked Korean barbecues.

  • morgy

    i have two copies of “high street, low street”. i find his perspective a lot more interesting that this photographer, although these photos are okay. having lived there, i can tell this is very tourist-y

    ^^

    • josoki

      I only have one copy of high street/low street, but I completely agree. These photos are pretty but they’re trying too hard, like beauty pageant contestants. Dayv’s photos are arresting while also actually looking like day-to-day Korea.

      • With this series, we chose to share them because they show a version of Korea from the perspective of someone on the outside, not the inside – they’re not designed to compete with the excellent photos by the likes of Davy Matt. It’s the more touristy aspect that Mariusz captured that we like, in contrast to trying to present Korea in any other light than its passively-absorbed and appreciated form. We would, however, love to publish photos from a more internal perspective at some point – along with an article from that photographer.

        We’re also desperate to find photos of 1980s Korea – which are few and far between it seems. I want mullets and neon. And lots of it. North Korea photos would also be welcome, as would reader submissions.

  • Tippy Long Stocking

    i have a question that is completely unrelated. marriages in S. Korea. Are there any special traditions? Or is it like a western wedding? White dress, veil, etc? i know chinese people used to have like, weddings and the color white was forbidden due to being the color of death, and red was preferred, etc.

    • Chucky3176

      Weddings are like western wedding. But many couples do both Western and Korean weddings at the same ceremony. They change their western clothes to traditional garbs in between the two weddings.

      • Tippy Long Stocking

        what is the traditional weddings garbs like? Why is korean weddings so similar to western weddings? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that of course, just wondering. i like learning special things about people’s cultures but couldnt’ find anything on korea, so that’s what made me ask.

    • Paul M

      On the face of it, marriages in Korea looks like western marriages but with some major differences. Mostly people don’t get married in temples or churches, but if you really want to you can come to some arrangement with one. The groom will normally wear a suit and the bride a white wedding dress. Often they will have the option to dress in traditional Korean clothes and do a kind of tea ceremony after the initial ceremony. Wedding halls are a common sight and most people get married in one. Basically a wedding hall is a big building with several rooms where people have the wedding ceremony performed. Often there will be several weddings going on at the same time. Also you only get the room for about 2 hours, then you are encouraged to leave as there is likely to be another wedding in the room you just had yours. After the wedding, guests are usually given meal coupons which they can take to a buffet restaurant either in the wedding hall or nearby. Also people usually don’t have a reception afterwards.

      When I got married it was in the District office (also quite common) not a wedding hall. For the Korean guests we gave out meal coupons, but for the Western guests we hired out a bar for the night and partied till the small hours there.

  • Chucky3176

    He should take pictures of Ansan at night. It’s not just a regular ghetto, it’s a multicultural crime fest area with no Korean police in sight, as knife fights and street gangs rule. At night, crimes go unreported, and the buildings are falling apart from disrepair and lack of care. What a dump! And apperrently they’re going to import more factory workers from Asia, as if things aren’t bad enough already. I got nothing against importing immigrants, but Korea’s importing all the poor ones who do low skill work, instead of importing the rich ones who can help the country.

    • Stories of butts

      Poor workers = cheaper work. Like any business would seriously care about helping the country before saving money, sad truth.

      • Ruaraidh

        Aye, this sort of immigration just decreases the value of labour relative to capital, meaning the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

        • Stories of butts

          Way of life now a days.

      • k

        Eh, it’s the exact same situation in the USA except with Mexican/South American workers…..they get paid slave wages, work insane hours, and drive down wages of Americans doing similar jobs. I mean I don’t blame Illegals for coming to the US, Mexico is a pretty sh*tty country and they are just people trying to provide for their families (who wouldn’t do the same in their situation?) but yeah cheap asian workers = cheap mexican workers and its really not the people’s fault, but the company’s.

        • Stories of butts

          Yeah, in the end its the country they come from to raise their work, school, wages, and over all living standards but thats easier said then done for poor countries. I usually fault the company for hiring cheaper workers though, not the workers themselves.

  • k

    I have albums of photos from korea too :) The one thing i really regret when I stayed there was not getting out enough and doing photography…..between working 60 hr weeks and being super pregnant, I just couldnt muster any extra energy to walk around all day….when i go back its goig to be purely vacation so I can actually get out more and see the people and places.

    • k

      @KoreaBang, Maybe you can do an article of commentator submitted photos of Korea too? Many of the people who comment here live or have lived in Korea and probably have great photos too! I know I do at least :)

      • Justin_C

        if you create a photo blog and gets a lot of hits, of course we will :D
        how korea is viewed by outsiders is of great interest to native koreans…

  • Stories of butts

    Really nice photos, I would really like to see daily life activities of the people. It would be really really cool if someone did S. Korea version of Humans of New York.

  • 참을 수 없는 존재의 가벼움

    This impressive set of pictures really captured a cross section of Korean society vividly and beautifully. This allows me to understand why photography occasionally speaks louder than words, and motivates me to learn to take a photo. Really awesome!!

  • Nobody

    I love that 2nd to last shot.

  • Cleo

    This means more to Korean eyes imagine – maybe they feel what I feel when I see pictures of Hong Kong.

  • Jennster

    omg korean bbq! pork belly!

  • >pics of people’s backs
    >meh landscapes
    >not really candid

    3/10
    all my meh.

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