Beer and soju

This weekend, whilst planning an upcoming photography walk, I ventured out into the streets of Tongyeong with another local photographer, Roy Cruz. Our mission was simple: Use our local knowledge to outline some prime shooting locations for the army of photogs whom will descend upon this sleepy city come June 14th. A rather swift, unanimous decision was made to include Dongpirang, a quirky mural village that became a favourite of mine in my formative years as a fumbling new shutterbug.

We wound our way up the steep hill, noting key locations as we climbed: a vantage point over the vibrant harbor below; artists sketching by golden light; twee cafés; gritty street scenes; and cutesy teen lovers for the romantics-at-heart. The combination of the searing early-summer heat and a foolish decision to sport my trusty black Levis had me craving the sort of refreshment that only a cold, crisp beer can deliver. My thoughts soon wandered to my favourite installation among the painted alleys.

Clapping eyes on the colorful characters you see above is always quite the sensory experience for me. Depicting the deadly duo of Beer and Soju, they send memories flooding back of that morning spent on my knees, calling for God down the great white megaphone; of the buddy who had convinced me that the soju would improve the taste of the cheap local beer without a need to worry about the strength; of the vice like grip of the most relentless of hangovers. My God, the Hangovers! The installation conjurs images of friends casually adding a nip of soju to your pint glass, of sharing a bottle over barbecue, and of old, merry men passed out on park benches under the soft glow of neon. Simple imagery has a great power to move us; I’m realising this more and more.

After mentioning the installation to Roy, he said he’d like to see it, and so I led him off to the small wall on the outskirts of the art village. As we neared the spot, it became clear that the merry So-Maek Men were no more; the installation had been removed. It was only in sending Roy the digital file that I came to appreciate that the world around us is in a constant state of flux; it is evolving, ever-changing. Upon visiting England, it was evident that in my two-year absence, great, sweeping change had occurred. But never before had I chosen to share with someone such intricate detail of a place, something so minute yet holding so much significance to me. I feel sad that no-one will be able to form the connections I did with such a simple piece of art, but I feel wiser in my understanding of the world: The moments that colour our existence are just that: moments, fleeting by their very nature.

The role of the photographer is an important one, for it is he who tells stories of these moments in his imagery, freezing them in time so others can relate, feel and interpret that moment despite it having already passed. There are times when I loathe the weight of that heavy DSLR around my neck, or the thousands of dollars I’ve poured into my passion, yet it has been worth every sacrifice. I AM a photographer; experiencing, capturing and preserving these moments is my reward.