Photos Discussed March 28th
The atmosphere: This was a very polluted week in Seoul, extra smog so thick you can feel it in your lungs after a long day. The trend of wearing face-masks is also a practical decision, for Seoul is a highly polluted city both from its neighbor China and its own coal and manufacturing. Dongdaemun is not Bryant Park: it is historically a place of production, and continues to be not only a place of seeing high fashion in luxury stores, and at the DDP museum and plaza, but also is a functioning industrial clothing manufacturing zone. The verticle business plan of having both industrial clothing making and sale occurring in the same area is what has made Dongdaemun unique, and internationally sought after by tourists. In Japan, my boss Michael told me that the style of Harijuku was only made possible by this fast-fashion oriented Dongdaemun center of the city. Also they potentially are the first fashion group.
Anyways, rant over, I took some photos here of the area, the smog, the gray day, which is actually PERFECT for photography, so we were happy, but the area during the day is at best grim. The government funds Seoul Fashion Week heavily, and Michael said that the food trucks I captured are a new addition to the event to attract more people, and provide more “culture” to the event, although the food trucks sold Tacos, Burritos, American food, and across the street on the way to the metro station I can buy carp-fish pancakes and roasted sweet potatoes from Ajuma for less than 2USD$. They are always there, the same stands, the same Ajuma. I photographed the statue because I was confused as to why it is there, especially for Korean culture having a large naked body that is abstract seems interesting. It also doesn’t necessarily go with the space age building at all (DDP building). Another comment: in such an interesting political time with the president being impeached, the showing of so many Korean flags struck me. Obviously Seoul Fashion Week is an international event, and the point of the government funding the event is that they want to continue to capitalize on Korean culture, to export and make popular “Korean-ness” to be big not only in Asia but all of the world. However, right now, for Koreans, the Korean flag symbolizes sympathies with Park Geun-Hye, and is by the general public, strongly disliked. Radicals wear the flag and are camped outside of the City Hall building, or at least they were before the official announcement of her impeachment three weeks ago.
Not everyone at Seoul Fashion Week is dressed nice! While I haven’t been to any other fashion week, and have nothing to compare, it was FASCINATING to see the divide between those with cameras and those without. Models coming out of shows with their hair done and makeup, posing for a very long time, while photographers literally SWARM them. I saw this happen many times, including with Michael, but after one photographer talks to a model (either professional who just got off the runway, or some person on the street who may not even have gone to a show but is dressed to the 9s) they make small talk, and the photographer starts to take photos. Then, another guy with a more impressive Cannon lens starts to take photos, and even Ajuma and young girls with cell phones and puffy jackets will sneak a photo while the model poses endlessly. It was quite a scene and I tried to gather as much footage of the swarming of the models as possible. It was such a clear divide too, on the right side of the ramp (if you are looking towards the plaza) stood the models posing, which I guess was for the quality of the light. Then on the left people walked, back and forth, in some cases waiting to be asked to be photographed, in other cases to and from shows, some wanna be fashionistas waiting on the left to be photographed. My job for Michael was to notice people walking, notice people in the crowd, and get them to come be photographed with his impressive set up if he approved of their style. Michael wants people who aren’t too flashy, who are regular and young, and who are wearing the styles that are popular but in their own outrageous way. He likes people who are kind of flashy but not seeking attention, shy birds but also peacocks. This is perfect for me because I want to talk to normal people for my ethnography more so than professional professional 1% top of the industry, top of the beauty, top people. And these people are nicer too and more appreciative of being photographed.
Another phenomenon I tried to grasp with a photo: the lining up of the beautiful to be photographed by the crowds. These fashionistas stood one by one while hoards of people photographed them. And anyone can be a celebrity for the day if they are dressed well. Someone even asked to take my photo, another photographer (we both had cameras around our neck) she complimented my blue hair, we talked for a minute and exchanged kakao ID’s but she never sent me the photos.
I saw one guy, he had bright red hair and a full red suit on, with beautiful black loafers, so I got him to come over for Michael. He told Michael in Korean that he had never modeled before and he was nervous to have his photo taken. He looked like a K-Pop star though, comfortable in his outlandish outfit. As he stood waiting to be photographed by Michael, he played on his phone, and I saw people come up while he wasn’t looking to take his photo, as if they had just caught Taylor Swift in the shower. He became a celebrity because we decided he should be on the wall to the right, waiting for a professional photograph from a fancy rig.
Another odd example of this: a Thai man dressed like a woman wearing a lace frilly shirt in all white with full contouring makeup, sunglasses, and a white Hermes Birkin bag (roughly a 10-30 THOUSAND dollar bag) with the fur sneakers that are really popular in Korea. Michael asked if Pa was transgender (which I thought was wildly inappropriate, even though Michael said “is it rude to ask” jesus, just ask, What pronouns would you use? Or How can I refer to you in my paper?) Anyway, Pa was a DOCTOR! A PHD doctor, we asked his profession, he said medical doctor. Of the people we photographed, him and the red hair man looked like Idols and neither of them really had anything to do with the fashion industry. The Thai man called Pa said he was in Korea to go to Busan to have his face “designed” and it looked like he had already had at least one nose job by the sharp angel and slight turn to the left of the tip of his nose. He told us the concept for tomorrows look is “sexy”. While Pa said he identified as a man, I really do not know if any one else photographing him understand that Pa was a man: his clothing and makeup were amazingly convincing of being biologically female. I am not sure if there would be a different reaction from the photographers in Seoul if they knew he was a he. Michael wanted to get his photograph specifically because he thought Pa was transgender.
Boy in the yellow striped shirt, seemingly shy but was definitely seeking attention from photographers in a really understated way. His embroidery on his jeans, and the casual look of his outfit stood out from normal casual wear but I think that is what made his look so successful, the simplicity of it. The hat with the rings is incredibly popular in Korea.
The group of three girls wearing Black and Red were studying modeling, Michael told me, and dressed very sexily and posed too sexy for Michael’s taste. They were well coordinated, like a couple outfit but all three of them, incredibly trendy, very young, and very sweet.
I took some photos of the Denim trend, especially light denim and distressed or fraying denim. SUPER popular, must keep tabs on this trend, but I guess denim is always a popular trend.
The Tide jacket girl and her friend: I don’t remember where they were from but their phones were in Japanese. They complimented my blue hair. They had some serious best friend GOALS style going on, I really liked their outfits best of the day.
Somewheres in here, we talked to three guys with visible aggressive tattoos. Necks, faces, hands, COVERED in tattoos. One guy was a model for Pushbutton, I asked what show he wanted to go to and he said “Pushbutton: I’m in it,” But the other friend was also a model, and the one I spoke too most was a fashion designer, an up and coming fashion designer. He said he had only been getting tattooed for four years, but they were all over his neck and face, beautifully intricate color pieces, one was a dog, on his neck, and a sentence in English cursive on his jaw line, and my favorite “if?” on his forehead. His friend had like gray shading (the model for pushbutton) all the way down his fingers. I asked if this was a problem for modeling, and he said absolutely not. He even lifted up his shirt to show me some pieces on his stomach. I didn’t take their photo because I was slightly embarrassed, and they were very cool. In retrospect I definitely should’ve. I will be more forward tomorrow for sure.
Then we met one of Michael’s friends, the last photos in the purple kilt. She had been photographed by Michael for years, and she is a third year student studying fashion. Michael taught me a little bit about the camera to help me photograph her indoors, he wanted me to interview her, but I was worried about her English level. And also his patience. Tomorrow my goal will be to record and conduct three mini-interviews. It doesn’t matter if they are good. And I must photograph Everyone Michael does just to keep track of everyone. This is gonna be great kids.