Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Dinner and Hospitality on a Snowy Night in Gwangju

There is something special, in my opinion, about having a Christmas dinner on a snowy night.  And so it was last night at The First Alleyway in Gwangju.  Eating great food, and sharing a table with an entertaining and intelligent couple was a fine way to spend the evening during this Christmas dinner celebration.

It just didn't stop snowing, much to the chagrin of my dinner companion, but a pure delight for me.

Snowy Night in Gwangju
© Mark Eaton

While taking in the sites of the district, we popped into Manila Town to warm up a bit.  Any time spent at Manila Town is time well spent because of the warmth and hospitality offered to guests.  

I like the fact that there are places that I can visit to get my feet back on the ground.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Why I Enjoy Abstract Photography

I appreciate abstract photography because it is mysterious.  I like it because abstract scenes are taken from the ordinary and the everyday hustle and bustle of life that is missed when living is viewed too large.  I suppose it can be missed when viewed with too narrow a prism also.
  Reflections Past
© Mark Eaton

I enjoy abstract photography because no matter how the final image is viewed, the viewer's head tilts, the eyebrows furrow; the piece creates a mystery.  For some, there is confusion.  I like the fact that people work to solve the mystery, or even approach it as though solving an equation. 

Angles and Lines
© Mark Eaton

For me, abstract work doesn't have distracting elements, nor is it complicated.  It touches a part of my being that acknowledges that I was at a certain place at a certain time, and that it was I who was touched by something that I thought beautiful.  Of all the billions of people in the world, I saw and felt something that was important, or meaningful.

It forces me to admit that I, too, miss so much.  Too much, actually.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Journey

Over at the Phaidon site, Steve McCurry discusses some of his philosophy about life and the concept of when to take photographs.  It is best remembered that it is the journey of life that usually presents the most memorable times, not the destination.

To watch the interview, visit the Phaidon site here.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Fate and fortune are strange creatures.  I had a teaching position in Jinan, which is the capital city of Shandong Province in China.  During the first week of October there was a week long national holiday in the Middle Kingdom.  I made plans to return to South Korea during the holiday so that I could pick up my winter clothes that were to have been shipped to me previously, but were not.

To make the story more palatable, and to not share the bloody and gory details, it became necessary for me to have surgery in South Korea.  Fortunately, two doctors whom I have known for many years, Dr. Seo and Dr. Shim, were involved in this process.  I'll always be grateful for their dedication and skill.

The surgery took place at Dr. Shim's Dream Surgery hospital located near the Ecograd Hotel in Suncheon.  In the photograph below, the nurse and I are in front of Dr. Shim's biography sign in the hospital.  The nurse...and the meds...did much to ease the pain and discomfort.

I don't remember who took this photo, because I was more than slightly out of the real world at the time. 

The recovery process is taking longer than I want, but I suppose anyone who has experienced this would feel the same.  Wisdom would dictate to greatly curtail, or even cease, all social activities.  Alas, I am not wise, especially while under the influence of my prescription medicine.  

A few days ago I wrote about the Thanksgiving dinner that was held at the house where I am convalescing.  I had some concerns the day before the dinner about whether I could endure a full day of cooking and activities, and I expressed my concerns to the matron of the house.  I even suggested that we cancel the dinner, but I was assured that everything would be alright.  Besides, the turkey had been purchased and was awaiting the oven.  It turned out that my concerns were premonitions unheeded.  

During the course of the dinner, I merrily went about my tasks.  Everyone was smiling and laughing and having a good time, or so my observations told me.  I hadn't taken my usual nap to recharge my batteries, and I began to run out of energy.  I didn't learn this until a week after the dinner, but I had infuriated every Korean at the dinner.  I was told that when I was washing the dishes I was making everyone angry.  Well, I explained, we could have then eaten our desserts on the table sans the eating utensils, plus I was the one doing the work while everyone else continued to enjoy the company.  The dishes were similarly washed in the very same sink during last year's dinner without peril, hence my great confusion.
After dessert, I went to another room to sit alone so that I could gain some strength.  I was running on empty, the motor was operating on fumes.  I was completely unaware of the roiled atmosphere that permeated the house.  As mentioned above, I didn't learn any of this until a week after the dinner.

I pressed the matron of the house for specifics as to why the anger at the man recovering from surgery who was doing his best to see that everyone at the party was being tended to.  "It is your character.  Your American character is unusual.  You are unusual," was the response.

I asked the matron of the house if she recalled a significant event that recently occurred in my life.  No?!  The surgery?!  The friends who attended the dinner all visited me in the hospital, and all are aware that I'm still leaking, stinking, and taking prescription medicine.  With their university diplomas hanging on their walls, no one could put two and two together?  No one thought to sidle up to me, and to say, "I have this covered.  Go sit down."  No one thought to ask, "Big Guy, are you ok?  What's going on?  How are you feeling, man?"  All present are said to be Christian who attend services weekly.  So much for helping those in need.  So much for the diplomas.
I do kick myself for not listening to my concerns and for not heeding the premonitions.

Self Portrait:  The Unusual Man
© Mark Eaton

I am scheduled to go to Gwangju this weekend to attend a farewell party for a dear friend who is leaving the peninsular country known as South Korea.  I think I'll be up for it, but I'll decide that at the time.  Except for performing my commissioned work, this unusual man will then recuse himself from social interaction lest the sensibilities of the society is angered or inconvenienced.  Back into the shadow goes the photographer.  And then home again.