Fabulous 2016!

Photography helps me to make some sort of sense of the world!  With every photo that I make, I take small steps in interpreting and connecting with my environment and the people that I encounter. In the last year I have experienced some major lifestyle changes. I moved interstate and am now back living in a city.  After almost fifteen years in a small coastal town, I love the vibrancy of living in a more multicultural place – it feels like home.

I have been a regular visitor to South Korea for many years and 2016 was no exception when I spent five weeks photographing and exploring the east coast from Busan up to the North Korean border. Korea continues to be a favourite place to visit and photograph.

During my stay in Korea I received news that my eldest daughter was going to have a baby!  The happy thought of a new member in the family has warmly coloured the feel of this last year and we are looking forward to greeting our first grandchild later this month!

The past twelve months seemed to be dominated with kids and dogs.  Despite the old warning to ‘never work with children and animals,’ this was exactly what we seemed to have done for a big part of the year.  Not only did my youngest daughter come home with a rescue dog, hello Maxi!, my wife and I finished the year off with a ‘Healthy Dogs, Healthy Peoples’ project in far north Queensland.  Working in a remote aboriginal community was a rewarding and challenging opportunity and for us another chance to use storytelling and photography as a form of  communication.

Every year I try and select a set of photographs that best reflect the past year. Here are 16 from 2016.

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The Hiker and the Heavenly Maidens

The sun’s rays transformed the water into a river of gold, the trees danced in the breeze and the path leading up the mountain beckoned me to explore the Park’s treasures. It was springtime in South Korea, a perfect season to experience the beauty of Seoraksan National Park. I was staying in the small town of Yangyang in Gangwon province, near the park, and it was here I met a local woman who offered to be my guide.

We set off from the Osaek Hot Springs and headed towards Daeseung Falls.  The track followed a mountain stream and I stopped frequently, not because it was an arduous walk, but the mountain views took my breath away.

My guide pointed out a waterhole in the river and commenced telling the Korean myth about the Woodcutter and The Heavenly Maidens. In the story, the heavenly maidens descend to Earth to bathe in a secret waterhole in the mountains.  They are spotted by a woodcutter who steals the clothes of one of the maidens, preventing her return to Heaven.  While listening to the tale it dawned on me that I was familiar with it. My wife, who is a storyteller, told this story to school students when we had previously visited Korea.  It was one of her favourite myths and here I was, in the very place of it’s birth. Not only was the landscape beautiful, it now felt magical.

Too soon my guide had to return home, so I hiked on by myself. Seoraksan National Park is a popular destination for Koreans and foreigners alike, especially in Autumn when the leaves change colour and the park becomes a spectacular kaleidoscope of Autumn hues.  Hiking in Spring however has the advantage of the park not being so crowded, so for much of the time I was on my own.

As I was walking along I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, and at one particularly deep waterhole imagined that perhaps the maidens also came there to bathe. Although the track to the actual setting for the waterhole in the myth, the Twelve Angels Bath (십이선녀탕) was closed due to maintenance, I sensed the whole area alive with the presence of the maidens.

My daydreaming was interrupted by the sound of voices. I turned around and saw seven catholic nuns approaching. Wearing their traditional habits, they appeared to be floating towards me. Was I dreaming or had some heavenly maidens stepped out of the story and come to visit me? We greeted each other and the nuns proceeded to climb down to the water, take off their shoes and soak their feet. I couldn’t believe the myth was unfolding in front of my eyes.  Unlike the woodcutter in the story, I had no intention of stealing their shoes, but being a photographer I wanted to take a few photos. They nodded their assent and asked me to come and join them to share some fruit. Together we sat, our feet cooling in the waterhole, eating watermelon and enjoying the sunshine.

Eventually it came time to leave and continue my journey. I was saying my farewell when they said, ‘Stop, we a have a gift for you.’ They all stood up and sang. Their voices, pure as the snow melt soared up the mountainside and into the heavens.  Tears welled in my eyes and I felt blessed. After we parted, I could not stop smiling for the rest of the day.

Seoraksan National Park is a truly magical place, with its sublime landscape and great hiking trails where you can meet cheery hikers and if you are lucky, perhaps a heavenly maiden!

FREE eBOOK

reFramedcoverreFRAMED tells the story of Jatisura, a small village in West Java, through a series of portraits. I photographed senior members of the community and interviewed them about their most precious memories of living in the village. The project was conducted with the assistance of the Jatiwangi Art Factory (JAF), a local arts organisation who use art to strengthen their community.

The free eBook contains all of the portraitist and text from the project.

Jeju Island

Last year I spent one month hiking and photographing on Jeju Island in South Korea. I often leave the images sitting on my computer for a while before I make a final selection. I want to be able to detach my emotions from the place and time.

https://schatzart.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/jeju-island-south-korea/

Endure – Urban Change in China

Endure is a photo essay of Urban Change in China, it is now a featured exhibit on the Social Documentary website.
The online exhibit features photography by myself plus a short film that was produced with Morgan Schatz Blackrose and Shane Schatz.
To see the video, please select the Video/Multimedia section on the linked page.

http://socialdocumentary.net/exhibit/Roman_Schatz/2609

Endure

Endure

Forests Asia Summit 2014 – Photo Competition

Jakarta, Indonesia will be host to the Forest Asia Summit in May 2014. As part of this summit, there is a photo competition that highlights the integral role the region’s forests play in the heritage, cultural and economic landscape. 

Here you can find three photographs from my residency in northern Thailand, as well as many other pictures of Asian forests and their communities. Show your support by voting for your favourite images. 

http://www.cifor.org/forestsasia/?contestants=lahu-basket-weaver-mother-daughterThe Lahu Basket Weavers

A Photo Harvest

Artists are often asked ‘what do you do?’ Sometimes a verbal explanation will suffice and sometimes it’s better to just see for yourself. This 11 minute film follows my journey on a recent project, to gather my own crop of photos for an exhibition celebrating the Rice Harvest in West Java.