Urban Street Photography in Ulsan

I find street photography a challenging topic. When I first got into landscape photography, I remember having a few “street photographers” comment about my photos saying how superior their shots of people sleeping on the subway or a random street sign were. It sort of soured me on the whole genre. Not to mention, that this continued to occur and thus, the less I was interested in the genre.

The Taehwa-ru in all it’s glory

To be honest, I tend to get annoyed by the toxic of postulating of photographers at times. I try to keep an open mind but if you have read my blog over the years then you will know that I have taken a number of jabs at street photographers over the years. Usually, I have those guys from back in the day in my head. However, these days I have tried to shift my perspective.

The Struggle is Real

Since my Father passed away, I have been fighting with motivation and creativity. I will want to head out to shoot some landscapes around Ulsan and then just lose the motivation. Negative thoughts pop up like “no one gives a sh*t about your photos!” or “who are you trying to be?” “You are just trying to be [insert famous photographer] LOL” and then I just end up looking out at the window hoping that my motivation would come back.

So I finally just grabbed my gear and took a walk. I wanted to shoot…. something. I put on some good music and walked along the river as I normally do. This time, I had my camera in hand. It was a game changer.

At first, it was frustrating because I was walking super slow and didn’t get to my first location at blue hour. So the shot was a little on the “meh…” side. However, the night was young and I needed some coffee. I then decided to head to “old downtown” and see what I could find there.

There Is Character Somewhere

Perhaps it was the coffee, but after reaching SEONGNAM-DONG in Ulsan, I was starting to “see” a bit clearer. I had more of an idea that I wanted to show. This is something that I try to explain to the students that I have taught photography to over the years and that is “find the story” or to sound even more preachy “find your why” and go from there.

The seongnamdong district of Ulsan is a collection of older buildings, alleys and cheap eats.

As the rain started to fall, the character of the area started to show up more and more. I could see the colours and the mood starting to come out in this area.

If you are unfamiliar with this area of Ulsan, it is one of the older areas of the city and parts of it are almost ancient. You can still find parts of the old protective walls build to protect the city. The area is a mix of modern culture and alleys that date back to the 60’s and 70’s. It is quite an eclectic mix for sure.

The More I Wander

As the rain started to fall hard and harder, I finally retreated home. One of the things that I love about Korea is that there is always some place to buy an umbrella. I ran over to the Daiso and grabbed the first black umbrella that I could find. I thought that would be better than the assortment of teddy bears and Disney characters that adorned the other umbrellas.

Sadly, I didn’t look close enough and bought an umbrella that was shaped like a giant hat. I kept getting funny looks on the way home but it was worth it. I was dry and so was my gear.

What I realised as I walked home was the fact that there are so many stories to tell as you wander around the streets in a city. Sure there are a lot of “meaningful” shots of stairwells that have comments about life and struggle. However, what I noticed was that if you really watch the scene, you will see the real story.

The seongnamdong district of Ulsan is a collection of older buildings, alleys and cheap eats.

The bottomline here is that I learned a lot about about a style of photography that I had sort of written off as something for pretentious douchebags. I don’t think that I will be giving up my tripod for a pair of skinny jeans* yet, but trust me when I say that after that rainy night, I have a newfound appreciation for street photography.

*I am joking here

The more that you wander through the city the more interesting stories you will find.

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