The Street Portrait Experience - Gwangju, Korea

This guy was a character. We had a 45min "conversation" while I waited for a bus. We talked about Iraq, Obama, machine guns, smartphones, TV, and cars. The details and opinions of our discussion were just a little fuzzy - he only knew about 30 words of English, and I only knew about 30 words of Korean - but we certainly enjoyed sharing the time!

In South Korea, couples will often wear the same shirts or outfits. These two had a shirt I couldn't resist. Charlie Brown is the man.


I have a lot of fun taking photos of random people on the street, especially in a country where I don’t speak much of the language. What usually happens is I catch someone’s attention, make a gesture towards my camera, and smile. Some people smile back and give me a nod. I smile some more and snap a few shots. Some people are confused and give the “meee????” look. Then I give them a little push of confidence with a larger smile and nod and maybe a “yes, yes!” or a “nay nay”, or whatever confirmative word I happen to know in their native language. I try to let them know that they look good, or stylin’, or downright fabulous. More often than not, however, people just say no. Most say no with a respectful smile and a shake of the head. But there are a few who literally freak out in disgust as if I’m asking them for fifty bucks and a back massage… I mean I understand that they don’t want their photo taken and I completely respect that. I just wish they would not be so upset about it, especially when I showed respect enough to ask (because most of the time, I’d rather just shoot their glorious natural aura without them knowing). But I guess I can’t really judge them, I have no idea what their day or week, or their life has been like.


But the great, great thing about taking pictures of people in a foreign land is that the experience brings us together for a moment. The camera becomes a bridge of consciousness, a vessel for interaction.  Even if the person says “no” to the photo, we still share just a touch of our lives. When I do a get rare encounter with a person who is as interested in me as I am in them, the experience can be the highlight of my day or week, or maybe my life. Interacting with someone who can’t converse with me sometimes provides a deeper connection than if we are able to speak. Maybe the lack of dialect strips away the technicalities and we find our selves talking in a simpler way. Smiles, eyes, laughs… awkward gestures. We are separate people from different worlds and we know nothing about each other’s lifestyles or beliefs. But in these moments what we share is the most simple and real connection, and we find ourselves appreciating each other just for being here.

Here are just a few shots of some cool people in Gwangju, Korea.