2016 Year in Review Part 3 – Seoul Photographer

The clock ticked over and we’d blown the funding goal out of the water for our Kickstarter project. Wesley, Pablo, and I sat down for a well deserved glass of whiskey and stared out at the Han River for a couple of hours. A mixture of shock, affirmation, and fear for what was to come kept us running on adrenaline as we chatted through how far we had come. The book was ready, but little did we know how difficult it would be to print. We had made samples and contracts well in advance, and had a relationship with our printer. However, as anyone who has lived over here can tell you, nothing is ever confirmed until the last minute. In the end, it took us nearly three months to print what should have been done in a few days. But we got there, and it looks fantastic. If you haven’t got a copy yet, please support the Lai Tu Chin people by picking one up from my store!

Back to photographing families in Seoul, though! I had a great few months here that began with Faye bringing her children over to Korea for a holiday and us spending a whole day exploring the city together. From their beautiful Hanok stay to the parks all around the city, we trekked around but could not wear the kids out. Thanks for a great day, guys!

Seoul, Korea - Documentary Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Documentary Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Documentary Family Photographer

Travis and Kim Bolton were my next family session for this quarter. We headed out to Seoul forest to soak up the beautiful greens and get ourselves a few mosquito bites! Despite Kai having a rough couple of days with a virus running through his system, he perked up in the sunlight and we had a great session together.

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Next up was the Mohr family. With three adopted boys, they decided to visit Korea and give their children a chance to see their birthplace as they grow up. In amongst visiting their foster families and visiting everything they could, we got to squeeze in a family session to get some portraits of the boys at Gyeongbokgung one morning. Each of the boys had such a different personality, and it was quite a challenge to get them all showing themselves in one picture, but I think the below two give you a fair idea!

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

The joy that is a new adoption came to my doorstep again with the Swanner family. Tara and Brandon were adding number FIVE to their family in young Chandler! We had a fantastic morning at the agency and then again when they returned to take custody of him. Tara and Brandon are inspiring parents, and their love and dedication for their children is quite overwhelming. Hope we can see you all soon!

Seoul, Korea - Documentary Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Documentary Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Documentary Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Documentary Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Between all of this, it was time for some editorial work for South China Morning Post and Malaysia Airlines’ Magazine. I love this sort of work because it forces me to re-explore Seoul. After a while, the city becomes the norm, a place to live and nothing more. Working for international publications means I have to see it in its best light. It’s a great exercise in renewing your love for a place. A couple of shots from that time are below.

Seoul, Korea - Editorial Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Editorial Photographer

Of course, it also helps when you get to travel a little. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Jeju Island this year, which despite its over-the-top development at the hands of new land owners, is still one of my favourite places in the country. The ocean all around is a calming presence, and brings you back down to earth after the mayhem of Seoul. Here is one of my favourites from my time down there.

Jeju Island, Korea - Fine Art Photographer

Another favourite spot of mine is Jeonju. This beautiful little city is another example of rampant commercialisation, but pockets of beauty can still be found there as well. I spent a day with Chris and Kim photographing their pre-wedding photos in the old city. Ducking and weaving our way past the tourist hotspots to the simpler, prettier parts of town, we made some great images in the gorgeous light that the town gets courtesy of not having high-rise buildings everywhere. The following day, I squeezed in a little personal shooting time before heading back up to Seoul. Countryside Korea is wonderfully friendly and full of characters, and Jeonju is no exception.

Jeonju, Korea - Pre-Wedding Photographer

Jeonju, Korea - Pre-Wedding Photographer

Jeonju, Korea - Pre-Wedding Photographer

Jeonju, Korea - Pre-Wedding Photographer

Jeonju, Korea - Editorial Photographer

A couple more wonderful afternoons days out with families this month would get me through to my final assignment of the quarter. Both sessions were held at Changgyeonggung, my favourite palace in Seoul because it’s so quiet and rustic. Not to mention that it’s surrounded by park land!

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Seoul, Korea - Family Photographer

Last up was a job with Thermo Fisher Scientific working on their staff stories. My job was to show Tony, VP & GM of Thermo Fisher Korea, in his story of unity within Seoul. Tony’s team address some huge issues in Korea, such as air quality, which anyone who has been here can tell you about. Tony’s story revolves around getting everyone working together to solve a common problem. Thankfully, we had one of the clearest days of the year to show off their good work!

Seoul, Korea - Commercial Photographer

On top of all of this, I am proud to announce that my second large personal project is under way. Myself and Marco Tessiore visited Taiwan during the week of Typhoon Meranti (hardly planned, but you take what you can get!) to begin working with additional tribes practising facial tattoos in Asia. Amongst the Taiwanese aborigines, many practised facial tattoos in the past, but very few living examples remain. We visited in order to explore their culture and hear their stories. Many are now too frail to participate in our project, but of the people we were able to meet, you can see some samples below. A new site has been set up to facilitate this project, and we are looking for funding to complete a pan-Asia project of tattooed faces. Please do let us know if you are interested in helping out or know someone who might be!

Asian Fine Art Photographer

Thank you again for taking the time to follow me on this journey. Next week will be the last instalment for this year. Check back then!

2016 Year in Review Part 1 – Seoul Photographer

This year has been a roller coaster ride in every respect, and a wonderful one at that. Last year was my busiest to date, and I was glad to be scheduling some time at the beginning of 2016 to work on a personal project again. Despite 2016 being a little quieter than 2015, there was still plenty happening and a lot of changes. As per usual, this blog will be set out into 4 parts, covering the four quarters of the year to give some breathing room to the pictures. So, without further delay…

Before taking off on my personal project with Wesley Chang, I had a few families flying in that I would be working with. The very first family I ever worked with on an adoption, the Sharp family, were flying in to take custody of their second wonderful boy, Sam. It was so wonderful to see them, and to spend time with Jae, their first son. It was the Sharps’ decision to reach out and work with me on that first visit to Korea that shaped the direction for my photography from then on. They opened my eyes to something I didn’t even know was possible, and I fell in love with the process right away. A big thanks to Kala and Gary for that, and I look forward to seeing you and the boys again next year!

Family Photographer in Seoul

Family Photographer in Seoul

Family Photographer in Seoul

Family Photographer in Seoul

I also had the chance to work with another family I had met through their first adoption as well, the Andersons. The cheeky little ball of sweetness that is Ezra was coming back to meet his sister this time, and we would spend quite some time together during their long visit. This job that I do does not only get me access to the most intimate times in a family’s journey, but introduces me to friend after friend during the process. Dan and Ester have been such a blessing to meet, and I hope that it’s not too long before our paths cross again.

Family Photographer in Korea

Family Photographer in Korea

That was the beginning of January, then I was off to New Zealand for a friend’s wedding for a few days before flying to Myanmar to begin my personal project. This was something that came about during my visit to Mrauk U last year, and grew and changed in my mind until it was ready to be realised. I set out to create a book that would be able to sustainably assist in providing primary education and drinking water for a group of people called the Lai Tu in Rakhine State. I mentioned the project to Wesley Chang, who decided he would come along to make video during the journey. He in turn introduced me to Pablo Fuentes Gomez, who would come to design the final book and promotional materials for the project.

We set off on a 3 week journey up and down the Lemro River and its tributaries in Rakhine State. Somewhere between 20cm long centipedes, feral dogs, military and police escorts, and a few cases of food poisoning, we managed to make our way back home with around 500gb of footage and stills to work into this huge project. After three months of solid work, we launched our Kickstarter campaign with an exhibition in Seoul. The turnout was more than we could have expected, and the level of support humbled us completely. Below are a few images from the journey and the book, which is available from my personal site.

Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Lai Tu Chin Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Behind the scenes by Wesley Chang Photo

Lai Tu Chin Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Lai Tu Chin Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Lai Tu Chin Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Lai Tu Chin Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Behind the Scenes by Wesley Chang Photo

Lai Tu Chin Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Lai Tu Chin Fine Art Photographer - Myanmar

Returning from this journey was quite a shock, but I had a few days to get my head back into city life before a few more family sessions and a menu update for Mi Casa in Itaewon. First up was the Delk family. We spent a short while in their hotel room before heading out to play on the grass at Changgyeonggung for a while. It was a fun session with this cute little lady, who was super brave and embraced the day with us.

Seoul Family Photographer

Then, I had a short session with the Maisami family as they were preparing to leave Seoul. We had a great day out in the park riding our bikes, chasing birds, and getting dad on all the children’s rides. I feel like the below image really sums up the outing we had in its closeness and silliness. What a wonderful day.

Seoul Family Photographer

Of course, then came that time of year when Mi Casa updates their menu and we come up with a new concept to display their food in all its glory. Not to mention, everyone takes their belts off at the beginning of the day, as it would be a crime to let this wonderful food go to waste. This time around, we decided to make the menu a lot more visual by laying all the dishes out together with their ingredients. With this in mind, we had a huge background custom made, and set up the scene to show the food as graphically as possible. If you haven’t been there, head over to Mi Casa for some of the finest Spanish food around.

Seoul Editorial Food Photographer

My final session for this quarter was with the Foote family. We began our Day in the Life session as the sun was coming up, and worked all the way through the day. The golden light of sunset was when I got a couple of my favourite frames from this year. Here they are.

Seoul Family Photographer

Seoul Family Photographer

Ground Jam Promo Kit: Korea Photographer

At a recent small flash workshop I ran for Flash Light Expeditions here in Seoul, I encouraged one of my students, Damari, to introduce himself to a man sitting closeby our location who he wanted to photograph. That man was Woosik Park, and was more than happy to come over for a portrait in our three light setup of the day. We exchanged numbers after the shoot and kept in touch so that Damari and I might organise a full day’s shooting with Woosik, who turned out to be one member in a 5 man street tapdance troupe called “Ground Jam.”

After a couple of months of being rained out, trying to match schedules, and international travel, we finally managed to organise a day to shoot with the Ground Jam team. We collaborated on the style of images we wanted to produce using a Trello board (my new favourite thing!) to keep everyone in the loop and store all our ideas in one place. Everything from skate magazines to Savion Glover made its way on to that board, and we found ourselves an abandonded warehouse to work in.

Before the shoot, I spoke with them and we decided that for my part in the shoot I would produce a series of promo/editorial shots they could use for posters, flyers, Facebook, and their website. Having this approach in mind allowed me to focus very clearly on creating images for specific use. There would need to be a lot of space in the images for editorial or commercial use, but tighter shots would be needed for Facebook.

A cross-section of all of this came together on the day in a tag team effort between Damari and I. Shot for shot we used the afternoon to create images for Ground Jam. Despite a fence jumping incident requiring me to purchase new shorts (a hard task for anyone larger than your average Korean!), and a concrete nail puncturing the sole of my shoe, we came home with some great images of the guys and a great time to boot.

Seoul Korea Photographer

Seoul Korea Photographer

Seoul Korea Photographer

Seoul Korea Photographer

Seoul Korea Photographer

Seoul Korea Photographer

Seoul Korea Photographer

Seoul Korea Photographer