Footsteps of My Father: Captivating Before/After Photos of Korea
In the basement of my parent’s house, buried deep beneath some old tools, a bulky laptop running Windows 95′, my mother’s childhood dolls, plastic tubs of multi-colored legos, and piles of books, was a wooden box full of Kodachrome slides.
At times I would go through that box, hold the slides up to the light, and try to figure out what was on them. Most were from 1979, the year my family left the US and moved to South Korea. We lived on a small semitropical island called Jeju, about 60 miles off the southern coast of the peninsula.
“I knew that Jeju was going to change forever. [My boss at Jeju National University] Dr. Koh told me about the billions of won that the government was going to pour into the island for development. Being ‘modern’ was more important to them than preserving the unique culture of Jeju. I knew lots would be lost forever so I wanted to preserve a small slice with my shots.”
Like my father, I also taught English in Korea. I had the chance to see the changes for myself. After hearing the reason for his project, I felt like the next step would be to go back and photograph the same locations he shot.
From the moment I arrived on Jeju it was a Sherlock-Holmes-like adventure trying to figure out where the photos were taken. It was a thrill whenever I found the location of the original picture and bizarre to think my dad stood on the same place decades ago. I was reliving his journey as well as our family’s.
Rather than show the pictures side-by-side, I decided to present the images as a ‘photo within a photo’. I merged my dad’s pictures from 1979 inside the frame of my photos from 2016. My goal was to present the pictures as a single body of work, one vision.
I tried to find a central point to link each picture like the windows of a building or outline of a mountain. In some instances, it was impossible to know where the picture was taken, so I used some artistic license to complete the image.
Has Jeju changed? Absolutely, as we all have. Yet there are some things that will always stay the same.
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Author: Pete DeMarco
Pete DeMarco is an award-winning travel photographer. His passion for helping people transform their photography shows through in the expert advice he shares. His work has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, CNN, and as a staff writer for Digital Photography School.
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