The glowing sunlight bathed the street in gold. I was surrounded by people enjoying the first real warmth of a new spring. Cute couples, happy families, old friends, and so much more lilted through the amber haze of dusk. There was a bench outside a jewelry shop where I sat down. I turned my camera up and waited. One of the keys to taking natural street shots is to simply blend in to the crowd. If people are not aware of your existence, then they won’t act any differently when your camera’s lens is focused on them. Which made my job nearly impossible.
Living in Korea, I am constantly aware that I am the “other.” As a near six foot tall, white guy with a funky haircut, I’m not exactly inconspicuous. Outside of the major metropolitan areas of Seoul and Busan I don’t blend in. Everyone stares at me, mostly just out of curiosity. Quite often they stop to chat with me. It’s usually the same simple questions or statements;
“Where are you from?”
“Are you a teacher?”
“Oh! Handsome guy!” (For the record, most foreigners get this one!)
After nearly two years here, it is something that I have simply become accustomed to. It’s part and parcel with living and working in a foreign country with a largely homogenous society. Really, it’s only annoying when I am trying to shoot photos, and all I see through my lens is the combined facial expressions of a deer in the headlights, or people seeing a rare animal in the zoo for the first time. Still, I just shrug it off, wave to people, and do my best to keep a smile on my face.
Occasionally, I can still catch people unawares. And when I do, it can be really worth it.