I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with our premiere local English magazine, Groove, in its various iterations and across more editors than I can count. My very first assignment was from the then music editor, Summer Walker. She sent me out on location to photograph a group of members from various punk rock acts here in Seoul. It was my first editorial assignment, and to date the one that has educated me the most about the way a photo shoot can work. The need to roll with the punches was drilled into me on that first shoot. It was February in Seoul, so the temperature was about 10 below zero and we would be shooting in the park across from Hongdae. I arrived 10 minutes early, my subjects arrived in dribs and drabs between 1 and 2 hours late. One had polished off the better part of a bottle of whiskey for breakfast, and that was how we started. My most recent assignment has taught me about why I took that first assignment, and brought it all back to me.
The editor, Matt Lamers, contacted me saying he needed a photographer to cover foreign monks and nuns in a couple of Zen monasteries in Korea to go with a story one of his writers was working on. It didn’t take much to get me on board. Two weeks later I found myself on a train half way across Korea brainstorming possibilities for my arrival at one of the monasteries. I would have approximately 2 hours there, as I could only see the monks between their lunch and a special prayer that was happening that day. That was what the email said.
Upon my arrival, I was promptly invited to lunch and introduced to some of Korea’s traveling monks who were visiting for the day. One added me to Facebook on his Galaxy Note, adding to the surreal nature of the situation I was already in. We then moved up to the main hall, where I made several frames of day-to-day activities that would take place in the hall. Following this I was treated to a prayer chant by one of the nuns, a lady from the United States, who delved into her love for alternative rock after we’d finished the shoot. Speaking of previous lives in Poland, the United States, and Lithuania, we whittled away the next hour or so of shooting photographs.
Feeling more than thankful for the monks and nuns’ time, I packed my gear away and prepared to get myself back into Seoul. I convened with everyone back at the monastery to give my thanks, and in turn was offered a chance to observe and photograph their ceremony of thanks to the master of their order. I gratefully accepted and spent another 30 minutes drifting between experience and photograph.
This is why I got into photography, it opens doors to experience that would otherwise be closed. It gives me the chance to see things and meet people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. It gives me an excuse to ask for things most could not. It allows me into other people’s lives in a way I could not achieve without a camera.
Of the photos, the magazine chose to run a black and white collection. Below is the full article by Sophie Boladeras, which can be read here, and a collection of the photographs that didn’t make the publication.