4 de enero de 2016

The Magic of Photography

An Interview with John Steele

John Steele is a Landscape Photographer based in Seoul, Korea. John is from Virginia, a state located in the South Atlantic region of USA. John has been living and working in Seoul, since 2002.
His amazing pictures show the magnificence of Korea; with his camera he is capturing stunning places and unforgettable moments. John takes pictures all around the country... from the capital city Seoul, to the rural countrysides, his pictures talk us about highlights, landscapes, winterscapes, seascapes, cityscapes and streets... Nature at it best!

A reminiscence of homeland...

Can you tell us something especial about Virginia?
For me, it's special because my parents are there. Many of my family members and friends are there. My memories are there. Virginia has a long and beautiful Atlantic Ocean coastline and stretches out to the Appalachian Mountains - a lot of wonderful landscapes that I took for granted until my recent trip home. In addition, there are many historic places to visit such as Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. The ham is also quite good.

What did you study at Indiana University?
I studied Management Information Systems at Virginia Tech for my bachelor's degree, and I did my master's degree in Language Education at Indiana University.

Seoul is far away from your USA...

Why did you travel to Korea?
What takes you there?
I came here originally in 2002 to teach English at an academy in Seoul. At that time I had never been outside of the US, so I wanted to see more of the world and try some something different as far as my career goes. Almost 14 years later, and I am still here.

Before photography became a full time life...

What did you use to do?
I am still teaching at a university in Seoul (Chung-ang University), so I wouldn't say that photography is my full time life exactly - not yet anyway. Before coming to Korea, I worked as a business analyst in the IT department of an international manufacturing company where I learned many things, most importantly of which was that I never want to work in an office again if possible.

Becoming a Photographer...

When did you fall in love with photography?
I have been taking pictures for quite a long time, but the first time I really fell in love with it was when everything that I learned from all of the mistakes that I made finally resulted in what I considered a good picture. That was some time in early 2013. I remember I lined up this composition one day in Yangsuri that had the leading lines and the rule of thirds, and the dramatic sky and sunset magically all came together at the same time. That moment when I checked the image on the LCD screen of my camera and later that evening on my computer was a big turning point for me and a rush, and I wanted to feel that again.

You have a special pet: Holly, a partner of travel and life...

Photo by Seung Hee Lee

When and where did you find her?
In the summer of 2009 I decided to get a dog. I wanted a dog that could live comfortably in relatively small Korean apartments, but one that could also go outside and do things: go for long walks, climb mountains, basically one that could keep up with my lifestyle. After much research, I decided that a Boston terrier would be perfect. So I searched and searched for weeks, maybe even months, looking for one. Around that time Boston terriers were getting really popular in Korea. When puppies were born they were snatched up right away. Every time I found one and called the owner they would say "Oh, someone just picked that one up this morning." This happened dozens of times. Then one morning while doing my routine search I found that 8 puppies were born that morning in Seoul. I called the owner right away and she said she still had 5 left. I got on the bus right away. I was living in Yongin at the time, about a 45 minute trip to Seoul. I got off the bus, ran to the subway station, rode that for 2 stops and finally arrived at my destination. There was one puppy left, it was Holly. She was so small, about 1kg. She looked at me as though she was expecting my arrival. It was love at first sight for me, and a few moments later, love at first bite for her.

I love to see all the minimal subjects and compositions in your work...

How do you find the perfect moment for your pictures?
Many people are curious about this and so I get asked this often. It's a hard question to answer, so I will quote one of my favorite photographers, Alex Webb. There was a show called "In Frame" that aired on Arirang a few years ago, it might still be on, not sure. Anyway, they invited famous photographers, such as Webb and other Magnum photographers, to come to Korea and photograph a particular city or subject that they were interested in. On one episode, the Korean guide asked Webb basically the same question that you've asked me, and he said something along the lines of "It's a tough question. I'll let you know when I see it." That's exactly how I would like to answer this question.

What is the most difficult part of the photography process?
I guess all the things that go into making pictures that people don't see. Staying in cheap and not so clean love motels while travelling in cold months (I often camp in warmer seasons), eating alone often, waking up at 2am to travel 4 hours to a destination only to be greeted with undesirable conditions, getting swallowed up by east sea waves that come out of nowhere during long exposures, falling 10 feet lens first from rotted ledges that seemed brand new - all the behind the scenes stuff. Those times are all fun to laugh about later on, but at the time are not so great.

You have an especial talent for Infrared and Black and White photography...

What is more challenging Black and White or infrared?
Thank you very much. I wouldn't say that one is more difficult than the other, but there are certain weather conditions and/or subjects that each style is more suitable for so having an understanding and a feeling for that is important. One thing that I will say about infrared is that it requires more post-processing time. I might spend 15-20 minutes or more on an infrared file, and well, now that I think about it I am usually shooting film for my black and white work so I have to develop and scan the film after shooting, so that also takes time. Totally different techniques and processes, both very fun.


Are there any projects you are working on that you can talk about?
No, I don't think that I really work on projects per se. I do almost all personal work and I just go where the sun and wind take me.

A Quote From John Steele

"I love the moment when the sun comes up over the horizon and the sun’s rays hit me in the face. The morning light - there is nothing like it - so clean, colorful, and energizing"

Photo by JongYoung Kim

Photography Publications and Awards

Groove Magazine (November 2013) – Yearning for Yangsuri (p. 94-99)
SEOUL Magazine (December 2013) – Romantic Sunsets
SEOUL Magazine (April 2014) – Gochang Barley Festival
SEOUL Magazine (September 2014) – Soothing Jeondeungsa
PIK Magazine (online) (October 2013) – Getting the Right Light
PIK Magazine (online) (November 2013) – Get up Early
PIK Magazine (online) (December 2013) – Sunrise in Yangsuri
Trazy Travel Photography Contest – (December 2013) – 2nd Place

Follow John Steele Work Online

All the pictures are protected under Copyright law by John Steele and are used with permission.

To read the Spanish version of this interview click HERE

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