The Ghosts Of Okpo Land – Abandoned Amusement Park In South Korea

I am a regular traveller to South Korea. On Geoje Island, I learned of an abandoned amusement park overlooking the town. The fun park, called Okpo Land, had been closed down in 1999 due to a series of accidents, the last when a young girl tragically fell to her death from a ride.

The park, perched on top of a hill, was in the process of being reclaimed by the surrounding bushland. Although it was deserted, graffti, rubbish and empty beer bottles were evidence that it was still being used as a ‘fun park.’ On that day, I was the only person there, but I had an eerie feeling that I was not alone. Was it my imagination, or was there really a restless spirit inhabiting the area?

I have since returned to Geoje Island but Okpo Land has now been demolished to make room for a hotel. To honour the people who died at this site, author and storyteller Morgan Schatz Blackrose, and I have published a book dedicated to the lost souls of Okpo Land. You can download it as a PDF file for free here:  carousel

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The Jeju Diary – My camera bag

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I am about to embark on a month long photo hike to Jeju Island, the largest island in South Korea.  Jeju is famous for three abundances, or samda: wind, stone and women.  These three abundances will be my guiding themes for my photographic project.  I will be hiking on the Jeju Olle, over 200km of connecting paths that will take travellers along the south coast of Jeju Island.  This network of hiking tracks Is inspired by the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Here is my camera bag that I will be taking on the journey:

Olympus OMD EM1 with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7
(my main camera with only one lens, means I never have to worry about having to change focal length)
Lumix LX5
(My trusty, sharp, macro, zoom, landscape and always ready camera)
Fujifilm Instax mini 8 plus film
(The perfect ice breaker camera)
iPhone 4s
(It’s a phone, a computer and a camera … perfect)
Spare battery for the Olympus
extra SD cards
Polaroid filter
Camera cleaning gear
Business cards
Note book and pen
Swiss Army knife (I never travel without one!)

My camera bag is an old messenger bag that I bought about 10 years ago in Korea, I have many other bags but I keep coming back to this one.  It is kinda my Dr. Suess bag, old bag, new bag! It is now fitted with a camera box to protect the equipment.

Looking at the list it doesn’t look that light, considering I’ll be carrying a full back pack as well.  But this is about as minimal that I am prepared to go for this project.  I am not taking a laptop, only relying on the iPhone for quick editing if needed. (this works really well with the Olympus’s wifi capability) The phone also makes for a handy third camera. The Instax camera was a last minute decision and is a wonderful tool to break the language barrier. I love giving away photos to people that let me take pictures of them.

On top of fake mountain

I love mountains, which is probably not surprising, as I grew up in Switzerland.  One of my favourite places to visit is South Korea, a country that reminds me of Switzerland.  The Koreans are keen hikers, the train system is excellent and there are lots of mountains. When I first visited the port city of Tongyeong  in the South Gyeongsang Province a few years ago, I took a cable car ride to the top of Mireuksan mountain. From here you have one of the most spectacular views in South Korea. In clear weather, visitors can even see Tsushima Island (in Japan), Cheongwangbong Peak in Jirisan, and Dolsando in Yeosu.

I promised myself, that the day when my good friend Marcel Meier comes to visit Korea with me, I will take him here.  That day finally came last year, as the two of us spent one week in the county for a photo project.  I was really looking forward to revisiting the mountain and to show off some of Korea’s finest views.  Time was short and we only had one day in Tongyeong. Unfortunately the mountain cable car was closed for maintenance and would not be opened for a few weeks!  I was very disappointed but there was nothing we could do about it.  We took our cameras and headed for the local port near our hotel. It was here that we discovered another mountain range.  You won’t find these hills in any guide book!

Best of 2013

 

“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.”  Albert Camus

This year has been a busy one for me. I was lucky enough to travel for my photo and art projects.  My work continues to concentrate on time and space. I am exploring the essence of a place through its people and their environments.  In 2013 I visited some of my favourite countries; South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Switzerland, Turkey and of course my current home base, Australia.

The age of digital photography is both a blessing and a curse, resulting in 1000’s of images being taken. Selecting the right photos is more time-consuming than taking them. My working philosophy this year has been to narrow the images down to the essential, that is to capture the emotions of the people or places I am photographing.

Here is the selection of my 12 best images from 2013.

The great little artists of Ulsan

Last Friday we finished our art and storytelling residency at Ulsan HFS with an exciting exhibition. Students from Reception through to Year 9 created wonderful text based art works, inspired by artists like Colin McCahon, Jean Michel Basquiat , Christopher Wool and Joseph Beuys. They in turn inspired us with their creations. Here are some highlights.

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I AM

Every year for the past six years Morgan and I have been visiting the primary school students at HFS in Ulsan South Korea to run art and storytelling workshops.  This year the students are exploring issues of identity through stories and art works which are  text based.  I have shown the students artists that have used text in their art making,including traditional Asian calligraphy, graffiti art and modern artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly and Colin McCahon.  The students have taken to this challenge with great enthusiasm and have created some wonderful and thoughtful works.  I am looking forward to the final outcome of this project and the exhibition of all art works on Friday at the school.

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