Monthly Archives: September 2011
Milan-based Maurizio Strippoli describes his photography style as “clean, no frills, making use of very soft and quiet colours.” He works instinctively to create his minimalist images, which he prints himself in small format on cotton paper.
He also works as a graphic designer, and if you look at other projects in his folio (especially Zones With(out) People) I think you can really see that graphic sensibility coming through.
Today however, we’ve been treated to a look into Maurizio’s personal travel photo album. When I first got in touch, he was about to depart for Andalusia in Spain, and promised to share photos upon his return. I admit, I had only a vague idea where Andalusia was until I subsequently looked it up, but even just the name sounded incredible so I was very excited to see the results. Thanks Maurizio!
Scroll down for interview.
Andalusia: I’ve been wandering around Andalusia in Spain for three weeks, reaching Europe’s most southernly point. It’s been the occasion to explore a unique region, with a peculiar identity shaped by geography as well as by the people who inhabited it over the centuries. People of different origin, culture, religion and habits.
Name a place or experience that you really loved.
It’s funny, but if I have to chose I’d name the Tabernas Desert. I’ve been there visiting the studios where many “Spaghetti western” movies were filmed. Spaghetti westerns were very popular in Italy during the Sixties and the Seventies and they are a part of my childhood memories. Now movie stars and the magic of the film industry have given way to a decadent amusement park made of abandoned, melancholic buildings where I’ve been walking like in a dream, between fiction and reality, in an unknown, yet familiar, world where I was a child again.
How do you decide what gear to bring (bodies, lenses, flash, tripod, bags)? Do you try to pack light? What’s your minimum must-have gear?
My equipment is very simple and it’s always the same one I carry around with me in all situations: ricoh grd III with external flash, optical viewfinder and extra wide-angle 21 mm. It allows me to have a good quality and a light weight. And to be discreet enough, when necessary.
Have you ever planned a series before you left, or do you just wait and see what happens?
No plans. I guess you could say my photography is pure instinct. I just point and click! I decide later if the photos will be part of a project already underway, will open a new series or will end up in the waste bin.
What do you do with your photos when you get home? Would you ever use them in your portfolio? Have you ever landed any commercial work because of your travel shots?
Back home, my photos have to undergo a very hard selection to become part of my portfolio. I usually leave them alone for a couple of weeks and then I start to select them. I do it over and over again I don’t know how many times! In partnership with shops and galleries I sell limited edition prints, taking care personally of every detail and of each and every step of the realization. I never happened to work with my travel photos so far, but I think it can be a very interesting opportunity!
What would be your ultimate travel photography destination?
I have so many destinations in my mind and a great desire to discover more. But unfortunately I have to deal with the little time available. I wish I could go to Cuba.
Last week work bought us to the cheese-maker/surfer/farmer’s paradise of Bruny Island, off the coast of Tasmania. It’s not far from Hobart, but there’s something about the ferry ride over, and the small stretch of water separating you from the mainland (also an island!) that makes you feel very pleasantly disconnected. We were working at a private event held in a local shearing shed, converted for the occasion. The shearer’s quarters were our accommodation for the night, which was completely no-frills as you’d expect, apart from the five star view we woke up to the next morning. So beautiful!
By the way, our friends over at Island Menu (a food blog devoted to Tasmanian flavours) recently featured some beautiful snaps from Bruny Island. So if you want to see more of this unique destination (and make something yummy while you’re at it), head on over.
For our last day of Seoul coverage we’re putting a new, but familiar, spin on our regular Fine Art of Travel feature. Nearly all the photographs featured this week have been taken by Skip Town’s own Sean Fennessy, although they differ greatly in terms of style and intention. On Monday, for our introductory post, they were definitely of a editorial nature. But today, the photographs are Sean’s choice; the pics that for some intangible reason cross that line into ‘art’ territory.
It can be hard to put your finger on when a photograph, especially one taken during travel, stops being mere documentation (which I actually think is incredibly important) and becomes, for want of a better word, art. I suppose it’s the intention at the time. What do you think? Ha! I feel like I’m back in art theory class.
Anyway, if I can attempt to describe Sean’s work, I’d say that he’s got a great eye for seeing potential in everyday scenes, the kind of things that you’d normally walk right past. But actually, he’s right here, so I’ll ask him! Okay, he says that they “loosely investigate themes based around order, organisation and repetition…” Yep, just like I said.
This is the post where I was going to attempt to tell you about the amazing food we ate in Seoul. Except that I’m not a food writer, at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat, but I’m reluctant to judge my food. Melbourne is basically a city of food-critics, and I think I might be rebelling against this by NOT having an opinion, apart from ‘oh yeah! that was gooood!” which happens a lot since I’m not a fussy eater.
So, I’ve decided to focus on a favourite meal of the trip – spicy fried chicken at Han Chou. We found this very popular chicken restaurant thanks to a tip from a helpful shop-owner, and immediately felt as if we’d stumbled into a genuine, non-tourist slice of Seoul. The atmosphere was just as good as the food, with groups of beer-and-soju-drinking locals crowding tables. After an enormous plate of chicken that left my hands sticky and belly full, I decided we desperately needed a Korean fried chicken joint in Melbourne, until I came home and discovered we already had one. I’ll be trying that out VERY soon!
Han Chou – Garasu-Gil, Sinsa-dong
The streets surrounding Geongbokgung Palace are absolutely filled with galleries. It’s a lovely area for a walk, and one of the few parts of Seoul where you can still find neighbourhoods with traditional houses. Down one quiet street lies the unassuming Gallery Factory which, with founder Bora Hong at the helm, has been offering it’s own discerning take on (mostly) Korean contemporary art for almost a decade.
A few days before our visit, Seoul was hit by a devastating storm that caused havoc across the city. Factory sustained major damage to it’s vulnerable older-style roof, causing the gallery to flood and putting artworks at risk. But none of this is to be seen by the time we arrive; the sun is shining, the roof has been repaired, and flood damage is all but invisible.
Bora is clearly a very driven person. Over the past ten years she has shaped the gallery’s reputation; curating monthly shows, taking on art consulting work and developing workshops. She has also overseen the production of Factory’s annual magazine ‘Versus’. It’s an impressive large-format publication on beautiful thick matte paper, created to provide another, wider-reaching, outlet for the Factory aesthetic.
Married couple Choi Sunghun and Park Sunmin art direct the magazine, and also create the deliberately lo-fi photographs that feature prominently throughout the pages. Each issue is based on a loose theme that is never disclosed (though you may guess it) and writers are invited to submit pieces. The layout design is by neighbouring studio Work Room, and in the issue we picked up, local experimental musicians were featured on a bonus CD.
Bora speaks of the challenge to stay ‘cutting-edge’ in a society that completely embraces the new. When asked why this attitude exists in Korea, she speculates that it could almost be an attempt to “annul it’s history by blindly believing that ‘new’ is the ultimate virtue.” But, she counters, “it’s really hard to stay in any business unless you constantly renew yourself, and Korean art has grown up so fast over the past five years thanks to it’s ‘newness’.”
Ultimately she believes that more collaboration between artists is needed to build up solid art practices that are not so trend-driven; “we need more time to grow things organically”, she says. It seems as if Factory, and Versus in particular, is leading by example.
Where we went
Gallery Factory – Gyeongbokgung,127-3 Changsungdong, Jongno-gu.
mk2 cafe (next door to Factory) – Gyeongbokgung, 122-2 Changseongdong, Jongno-gu.
The use of character mascots as logos is something I’ve always associated with Japan, but is HUGE in Korea as well. I know it’s perfectly normal in context, but I’ll never get used to seeing, for example, a bank represented by a flower petal mascot, or the police portrayed as cute cartoon characters. As for the banana below (banana? yes?) your guess is as good as mine!
Here are a few favourites from the streets of Seoul.
*Photos by Jess
The airy interior of cafe/gallery Take Out Drawing was the perfect resting place after an energetic first morning in Seoul. After arriving at our hotel in Itaewon the night before, we briefly wandered the busy Saturday night streets before settling on the simple but satisfying combination of Korean bbq, beer and bed. Determined to get to the bottom of our new neighbourhood (which we’d heard described as a “recovering ex-pat ghetto”) the morning saw us walking the streets and taking in an eclectic mix of international embassies, upmarket florist-come-cafes, suspect back alleys, art galleries, backpackers and french bakeries.
Take Out Drawing was a recommendation from our first interview subject, Illustrator Jung Park (pictured above), and in a happy coincidence, located just across the street from our hotel! We had already noticed that a lot of cafes in Seoul are also something else (a florist, gallery, shop) but at Take Out Drawing every detail is carefully considered and integrated into the whole. Tables are arranged around displays of art books, designer wares and installations by the latest artist-in-residence, and the menu doubles as a beautifully designed newsletter, detailing the latest events around Seoul. We settled in with iced coffees and chatted to Jung.
Quickly gaining a reputation for her off-kilter portraits and editorial illustrations, Jung’s clients include Dazed & Confused, Harper’s Bazaar and Levis. She works with pen and paper, later adding bright blocks of colour in Photoshop. She has a way with proportions – they don’t quite make sense, they’re almost naive, but somehow they work. Her next step, she says, is to get an agent in London and work for more international clients.
Jung has experienced a city in rapid transition, the change made all the clearer after a long stint studying in London. She says she had to leave because she wasn’t feeling inspired by Seoul at that time. Now, however, things are changing. In a sentiment we’re to hear many times over the following days, she describes Koreans as being very on-trend and fast adaptors. She says this also applies to the way she’s expected to work – ‘bang bang bang!’ she gestures.
We get off track, talking about the amazing recent history of this city with a very turbulent past. The apartment blocks we see on the hill below us are the result of hasty post-war redevelopment in the 1970′s, and many are now being torn down to make way for the new. Seoul was ‘World Design Capital’ in 2010, and much more attention is now being paid to city planning and architecture. Hopefully this time things will be built to last.
All illustrations by Jung
View to downtown Seoul from Itaewon
Today I’m excited to introduce the first in a week-long series of posts about Seoul! A city with a lingering sense of mystery, Seoul’s colourful charm and effortless style was was revealed to us over four very memorable days last month.
Despite its reputation as a centre for technology and production, there’s something intangible happening on the streets of Seoul. More like Melbourne than Shanghai, the narrow, winding streets host a jostling mix of independent stores, cafes, galleries and kids in thick-rimmed glasses and primary colours (unless you cross the river to Apgujeong – then it’s all Land Rovers, Prada and valet parking).
Very excellent stationery store and cafe, MMMG
In amongst the obligatory eating, shopping and sight-seeing, we also managed to get some local insight from a few inspiring residents, who you’ll read about later this week. Over and over again we heard how fast Koreans adapt to change and how much Seoul itself has changed in recent years. There is a sense of anticipation in this city, as if they know they’re on the verge of something big.
My interest in Seoul had been growing steadily for the past few years as I started to hear about the great design coming out of Korea (not to mention the food), but I still had little idea of what the city would look like or what we would do there. I just had a feeling I’d like it – and I did.
I’m not going to tell you where to go for the ‘Best Korean BBQ’ or the ‘Top 3 Palaces’ or anything like that (in just four days I couldn’t claim expertise) but hopefully this week’s posts will set the scene, so to speak, and provide a little insight into this often over-looked metropolis. I have a feeling it won’t stay that way much longer.
To kick it off, here’s a bit of a visual overview of our time in Seoul. Enjoy and stay tuned
mk2 cafe in Jongno-gu
Streets near Mt Bukaksan
Kids in the busy shopping precinct of Myeong-dong
Sinsa-dong shopping area
The street stalls of Myeong-dong
Eating and drinking in the student precinct of Hongdae
All photos by Sean (except the one of Sean!)
When emerging Australian photographer Elize Strydom booked an 11 week visit to New York she wasn’t content just being another tourist with a camera, so she rented a room in Brookyln, enrolled in a photo class and hit the streets. The result is this immersive series of dream-like glimpses into summer in the city. “Each day, with a renewed sense of wonder and curiosity, I would sling the camera over my shoulder and set out to explore a new neighbourhood, chase the the shimmering, golden light reflecting off skyscrapers and observe the comings and goings of beautiful strangers,” she says.
Elize was nice enough to give us some background into her approach and gear and how to avoid photographic cliches. Scroll down for a Q and A.
I’ve long been fascinated and intrigued by NYC and its ability to capture the hearts and minds of people from all over the globe. In 2009 I skipped over for a three week holiday, to see what all the fuss was about. In a matter of days the city had wrapped itself around me and was refusing to let go. I resolved to visit again and to devote a decent chunk of time to getting to know the place. In June this year the time was right so I found a room to rent in Brooklyn and jumped on a plane headed for JFK Airport. I wasn’t super keen on the idea of simply being a tourist for 11 weeks so I enrolled in photo journalism course taught by French photographer Frank Fournier at the International Centre of Photography.
How do you decide what gear to bring (bodies, lenses, flash, tripod, bags)? Do you try to pack light? or What’s your minimum must-have gear?
The gear I pack is determined by where I’m going and what I’ll be shooting. For this trip I figured it would be fine to include most of my kit as I’d be staying in one spot the whole time; not traipsing from city to city, lugging bags. I knew I’d be covering a bunch of gigs and festivals and that I’d be dong a great deal of shooting for my course, so the digi (Canon 5d Mk II) was a must. I’m in love with film so there was never any doubt that my analogue SLR (Canon EOS 300) and medium format camera (Yashica 24) would make the cut, as well. My lenses of choice were a 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.2 and 70-200mm f/2.8. All of that, plus my MacBook, fit nicely into a backpack. When I was out and about I tried to travel as light as possible; just a canvas bag over my shoulder and the camera in my hand with the strap wrapped around my wrist. I favoured the 50mm for day to day photography and only used the 70-200mm at gigs. I continually found myself reaching for the analogue SLR or the Yashica. There’s something raw and honest about film that resonates with me. Having 36 shots forces me to slow down and focus on actually making a picture, rather than just taking one. I adore the aesthetics of film photographs, too – the grain, the desaturated colours, the occasional light leak. Yes, buying and developing film can be expensive and inconvenient at times, but the fulfillment I find is well worth the dollars and the time.
How do you avoid taking travel photography cliches or “postcard” shots?
Sure, I visited tourist-y spots and took photos there, too. But by focusing primarily on people and light it’s quite simple to make pictures that give a subtle sense of place while at the same time revealing something unique about the subject/s and the way they interact with their surrounds.
Have you ever planned a series before you left, or do you just wait and see what happens?
I often have a list of places I’d like to check out but rarely have a clear idea of exactly what I’d like to capture. Shooting personal work sans a strict brief means I can let the light and the action guide the direction of my lens. In my ICP course I was given weekly photographic assignments which did require planning. Often that meant going to the place I was required to shoot and just observing. One assignment was a story on the Number 7 train from Times Square to Flushing, Queens. There was a lot to cover, both physically and culturally, so numerous trips, hours of wandering on foot and conversations with strangers were needed to help me find an angle and settle on a way to ‘tell’ the story.
What would be your ultimate travel photography destination?
It’s impossible to pick just one! India for the colour and craziness, Iceland for the isolation and extremity and France for the love and light.
Well, I made it through the final month of the Melbourne winter with the help of some fantastic photographers from around the world. For starters, successful portrait photographer Emily Shur joined us for an interview and shared a very different style through her Japan series, and Yann Gross revealed the odd world of Americana in Switzerland. I enjoyed the dreamy double-exposure collaboration between Julie in Denmark and Shokoofeh in Iran, and caught a glimpse into Mexican suburbia with Alejandro Cartagena. We also travelled back in time to turn-of-the-century Vienna, and indulged in some Istanbul-inspired online shopping with Latitude. On a more personal note, I packed my bags and (along with Sean) winged it to Seoul and Hokkaido for a two week break. I can’t wait to share what we found there… I’m busy putting the content together as we speak. Stay tuned!