How I Shoot is a series where we ask Instagrammers to tell us about their photo-taking process.
Philip Park (@komeda) is a Korea-based photographer whose photos of Seoul manage to capture solitude in the otherwise bustling city. We wanted to find out more about how Philip goes about shooting photos of Seoul, and he was kind enough to share his story with us.
Hi Philip! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in photography?
Ten years ago, my doctor told me I need to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. On my doctor’s advice, I started walking around my workplace, and one day my wife bought me a Lomo LC-A film camera to carry with me while I walked. My wife checked the film once a month to keep watch on my walking. This might be my first experience of photography.
Tell us about your photo-taking routine. When do you find time to snap photos?
While I don’t have a lot of time to take photos because of my work, every day I commute on a riverside road, and my workplaces are located near scenic places, such as the river, a palace, an urban park and other places introduced in my photos. Most of my photos are taken during my lunch or on my way home, and sometimes I skip gym for a photo walk. Very occasionally, I take a day trip with my friends to take a photo, but it’s a pretty rare case.
Most of your photos are taken in Seoul. Do you live in the city?
I live in Namyanju, a suburb outside of Seoul, but I commute to the city for work. I come and go between two different environments every day. Such an experience of daily life keeps my view fresh, but sometimes it makes me feel like a stranger. A stranger from everywhere…
Have you always lived in Korea?
Actually I lived in several countries as a child because of my father’s career. Our family didn’t move to Seoul until I was 16 years old. During my childhood, I felt like a stranger everywhere I went. Now, every day I’m reminded of those memories. I believe these memories are reflected in my photography and give my photos a feeling of loneliness and solitude.
Seoul is a very crowded place but somehow you’re able to capture the solitude of the city. Instead of crowded busy streets, you photograph a single person against the background of the city. Do you aim for this?
Yes, right. The population of Seoul surpassed ten million several years ago. Fast Internet and mobile networks connect everyone. Traditionally, Korea was a tight-knit community, but the process of industrialization has trapped Seoul in concrete walls. Most people feel solitude in this city, and I’m also not free from this feeling. In order to express this feeling in a straightforward way, to see things as they really are, I always set my camera at eye-level and emphasize a single person (or sometimes a couple) against the background of the city. You can imagine that the person I capture in my photos is me, or someone who empathizes with my photos. Sharing emotion and feeling is part of the reason I take photos.
The whole town was shrouded in mist. The vague objects disappeared and only the essential ones remained. The mist showed me what I must see at that very moment. Nobody wants to believe the simple truth, but the answer is always quite simple.
Here Dumulmori means “head of two waters.” Two river streams meet at this place and become Han River. Those Zelkova trees have seen the history of the river for the last 400 years, but I can capture only a fraction of its story.
The house gets older together with its people. Only a few remain, but there are still some old residential districts like this in Seoul. Unfortunately, this place is on the brink of extinction in a few years. My pictures are still powerless against the passage of time.
Historical Royal Palace is a really strange place, and it is even stranger that this palace is located in the middle of the modern city. Just get over the gate, then you will arrive at another place and time. Although it is impossible in reality, we can imagine.
Sometimes I feel Han River is a kind of border between the real and the unreal. The border divides us from each other, but at the same time it is the point of contact. Man can immerse his bike wheels in water, but the river remains unfordable.
I knew that there were two ways to go at the end of this road. One way to my real world, and another to where you can leave reality behind. I was walking in the middle of the path, but I still could not decide where to go.