These are some of the first photos I ever took with my camera.
Only the better ones are shown here. Many of the others are unsalvageable: out of focus or terribly skewed, as I fumbled with the controls, the lens, the settings. I took a sequence of seventy selfies on a day when my skin was recovering from repeated exposures to a particularly aggressive face wash, and not one of them is acceptable. It’s a minor miracle I have any photos of the village at all.
Still, a lot of the joy I felt then is the same as the joy I feel now, seeing the light glance off the roofs of the hanok and the mountainside trees burn with color. It was the excitement of being able to discover and to document, and to take away a hundred souvenirs of something too massive and old and cherished to be removed. I captured my first golden hour then, wandering past lovely houses of stone and wood and looking for patches of wall that the sun had blessed.
Photography remains elusive to me. Years after tiptoeing into the world of f-stops and shutter speeds, I am still learning to find the right angles or achieve the right bokeh. There’s a lot of good content out there. And even for the most polished photographers, who wait a lifetime to chance upon just the right cloud cover, just the right expression, a lot of it comes down to luck.
But I stick with photography, this foolish pursuit of visual fulfillment, because at its best it has that quality that I strive for in my words: the immediacy of emotion, the preservation of memory.
Nestled just north of the city, the traditional houses of Bukchon Hanok Village offer a welcome respite from Seoul’s urban bustle. Much of the village’s charm is derived from getting lost in the narrow streets and peeking into the many workshops and cultural centers along the way, but do consider the walking route recommended by the visitor’s center, which leads to a vantage point with stunning views of the city below. As the village is a residential area, visitors are reminded to be respectful.
Name in Korean
37 Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
02 2133 1371