Forty years ago, Seoul installed the first subway system in the country. Sixty nine years ago, Korea won it’s independence from colonial rule. And while the Western world was gearing up for the first World War and the rise of socialist movements one hundred and four years ago, Korea ceased to be ruled by a monarchy. Compared to the Western world, the Korean continent had a very slow start to the last century. The current day Korea enjoys blazing fast internet, a subway system rivaling the length of those in larger metropolitan cities, and is currently presided over by an unmarried female president; at least, the southern half of the peninsula anyways.
This accelerated growth has resulted in numerous issues from social to economic with generational gaps getting wider as time goes on. But as a result, this has left the entire national with a cadre of leftovers from civilizations not so long past.
This past month, Gyeongbokgung held a nighttime opening for citizens and foreigners alike. The palace has stood (and fallen) for hundreds of years in the center of Seoul, like a jewel. Under the Joseon dynasty, the palace was the seat of power from which the King ruled the country until it was lost in an invasion by Japan. After having most of the surrounding structures burned and destroyed, only a few structures remained. The past decades have brought reform originating from a profound respect of the past.
Exploring the environment of many of the palace grounds means coming across many construction sites. Living quarters, guard barracks and other structures out of the past are being rebuilt slowly as space allows in accordance with blueprints and layouts that have been preserved over the past centuries.
During the day, the palaces are splendorous works of art. The columns, murals, and woodwork shine in the sunlight like standing portraits of the past. But at night, at night they shine like stars. Although the last event has ended, I would highly recommend everyone to buy tickets and attend at least one of the openings if opportunity allows. It’s an amazing testament to what once was, and how far the country has come.
For more on the palaces, take a look at my past blogs which I’ve linked below. Happy adventures!
Spring in Seoul isn’t so much a season unto itself as it is a transitory and ephemeral passage of time between winter and summer. The only thing certain about spring is that it will not last. But while the weather is cool and the sun is warm, exploring Seoul and enjoying the city is a must. Right now the cherry blossoms are long gone with nearly a year left until their return, but I was lucky enough to get out of the house and spend an hour or two wandering the streets of Yeoido with my girlfriend.
We made a bee-line straight for the National Assembly Building on the No. 9 line. It’s a gathering point in the spring and the site of one of the largest cherry blossom festivals in Seoul. The actual dates for the festival are themselves mercurial and tend to change from year to year. Usually they get announced on television programs and websites a week or two ahead of their dates but we were looking to beat the crowds for a small private shoot. We judged the chance of full blossoms by looking at the cherry blossoms in front of our house and took a chance on a cool Saturday morning hoping for the best.
What we got was a mix of half blossomed trees and mostly blossomed trees. The festival got announced for the next weekend, though, so we were happy to have the street mostly to ourselves. What followed was a pleasant one hour walk along the street with minimal cars and foot traffic. Exactly what we’d been hoping for and, amazingly, something that showed up well on camera.
This isn’t the first time that we’ve attempted to beat the crowds to Yeoido for the cherry blossoms. Last year we made a trip and ended up visiting the area smack-dab in the middle of the festival. Suffice to say, we didn’t get many shots worth using that time. Next time I’m hoping to head out of Seoul to more exotic locales like Chuncheong or maybe even Tokyo depending on timing. Regardless, this year was definitely a great experience.
Salon du Chocolat started in 1994 and launched in 1995 as a event for chocolatiers to show off their goods and further the industry. Then in 1998, the event spread to New York, then in 2003 to Japan and since 2005 it has ballooned to include Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Cairo, Marseille, and beyond. Finally last year, it arrived in Seoul and to nobody’s surprise it was a huge success.
My girlfriend and I attended last year but we were too busy to go on a weekday and ended up going on a Saturday. This meant while the event was in full swing, it was incredibly crowded and we ended up missing the fashion show which is the centerpiece of the entire event. Just like last year, we toured the grounds made a few purchases and hit the vendors for some samples. Thankfully the vendors where different and most of the booths and sweets on display were significantly different from what we saw last year.
The show was made up of about 60% vendors parceling out samples and goodies and 40% industry vendors targeting businesses. And just like last year there was a chocolate art area where select chocolatiers put their skills to use to create amazing works of art from chocolate. Interestingly, there were two Swan Lake outfits along with ballet slippers crafted from chocolate also on display at one of the booths. It wasn’t part of the chocolate art exhibit nor was it a part of the fashion show. It was, however, incredibly impressive.
Attending the event on a Friday made navigating the floor and fashion show a hundred times easier. Smaller crowds, no lines and we were finally able to watch the fashion show. The show took about half an hour to get started with two hosts speaking English and Korean giving away prizes for contestants during a quiz show segment. When the show finally did start, it was worth the wait. It was less of a fashion catwalk and more of a extended preview with each model posing on stage for two to three minutes showing off their designs. If the designs weren’t interesting enough, the samples thrown into the crowd, live music and rapper were enough to keep the audience’s attention. The finale was a professional violinist who got the crowd up on their feet before all the models returned onstage for a final curtain call and for some extra photos.
After the fashion show, there wasn’t much time for much else since the event closes about 20 minutes later. We stuck around long enough to get a chance to look at the outfits that were worn during the show up close. The level of detail and amount of work that must have gone into them was amazing. It took another fifteen minutes for the outfits to make their way out to the viewing area but I would highly recommend taking a look. While the show is the headliner of the event, viewing the pieces up close gives you a better idea of just how awesome they actually look.
We left the show with a emptier wallet and a few potential cavities. All in all, a pretty awesome day.
For more, check out Faith in Style
I gotta say I love working with Elyse but this winter weather wears on me every time I go out on a shoot. This wasn’t particularly cold but I still had to spend 15 minutes thawing my fingers once we finished. It was still morning so we weren’t bothered too much by any bystanders and the few there were weren’t much of an issue.
By the time we finished the sun was already starting to get gold and the street was beginning to get slightly busier. From there we spent an hour drinking coffee and looking over the photos to find our final copies (which I always appreciate). Another good day spent with good people doing what I love.
Breaking my tradition of photos with little to no introduction or exposition, I’ve decided to include some words. While I hope my work can speak for me, it doesn’t hurt to add a little something to fill the blank spaces. Without further ado, here’s a small shoot I did with Marisol at Yeoido Park a few weeks ago. You should definitely check out her own site @ TheUrbanGeneration.
I met Marisol on a cold winter afternoon. It wasn’t exactly under the best of circumstances really, she was running late and as I said, it was cold. It was also one of my first shoots with my new Canon 70D.
I wasn’t alone, it was a meetup for a few bloggers associated with IFBK. In fact I was shooting their inaugural photos for their new site. I’d met Diana and Elyse before but this was my first time meeting Gina and Marisol so I was nervous.
This was what led to my somewhat grateful reaction to Marisol’s lateness. I’m not anti-social (mostly) but I prefer to meet new people in waves and this gave me a chance to meet with Gina before Marisol and sometime to fine tune my new gear which would later malfunction anyways, but I digress.
When Marisol finally arrived, I was relieved to find she was nice with a moderate personality and kind tendencies. In other words, she was chill. It’s not often that I work with models but whenever I do I’m always a little worried that they’ll turn out to be divas or some sort of “-zilla”. Luckily enough this wasn’t so.
Being on a schedule I wasn’t able to spend as much time shooting as I might have preferred and correct for on-site issues (one of which would ruin a set of photos later). But it was fun meeting someone new and attached to the fashion world, and it’s always interesting to meet another Gyopo with another perspective of life abroad.