Tag: writing

내 사진의 초점

Korean February 6, 2019

문득 작가 프로필 사진을 고르기 위해서 갤러리를 훑는 중에 느낀 게 있다면, 어떤 사진은 내 모습이 잘 나와도 그닥 마음에 들지 않는 것들이 있고, 잘 나오지 않았는데 퍽 마음에 드는 것들이 있다. 사실 이것을 오늘 처음 와닿은 건 아닌 게 11학년 때 당시 절친이 찍어준 사진을 지우지 못하고 사진첩에 남겨둘 때부터 어렴풋이 느끼고 있었던 것 같다. 그날은 학교 바자회 같은 행사였어서 하루종일 동아리 부스에서 아이스크림을 팔았는데, 몇 시간이 지나고 보니 몰골이 그렇게 엉망진창일 수가 없었다. 머리는 산발이고 화장은 거의 지워지고… 여하튼 최상의 상태는 아니었다. 그런 엉망인 상태로 학교 육상부 트랙에서 노을을 등지고 찍은 사진이었는데, 사진첩을 정리할 때 그 사진을 계속 지울 수가 없었다. 몇 번이고 돌아가 봐도, 그 사진은 남겨두었다. 꽤나 못 나온 사진인데도 난 잊을만하면 계속 그 사진으로 돌아가 그때의 시간을 계속 곱씹곤 했다. 몇 번이고, 또 몇 번이고.

결국 사진의 퀄리티와 선호도는 비례하지 않는다는 것이다. 어떻게 보면은 너무나 당연한 사실을 어렵사리 깨달았다. 그렇게 느낀 사진은 단 둘이다. 나머지 하나는 고등학교 때 서울에서 류이치 사카모토의 전시회를 보러갔을 때 전시장 앞에서 엄마가 찍어준 사진이다. 그날이 왜 그렇게 기억에 남았는지는 지금도 잘 생각이 나질 않는다. 다만 그때 그 동네 특유의 풀냄새가 좋아서, 7월 중순의 햇볕이 좋아서였는지도 몰랐다. 숨이 타들어가는 와중에 보이는 풀꽃이 좋아서, 그늘 아래 한 숨 돌리는 게 좋아서. 전시장에는 유독 기억에 남는 작품이 있었는데, 그건 천장의 수조 아래 누워서 물의 무늬를 그대로 관찰하는 것이었다. 눈을 감고 소리를 듣는 사람도 있었고 그대로 물을 바라보는 사람도 있었다. 난 어쩐지 손을 뻗어서 물을 만져보고 싶었다. 이대로 가라앉아 눈을 감아도 마냥 좋을 것 같았기 때문이었다. 그날 하루는 그렇게 기억에 무겁게 남았다. 이후에 모르는 동네의 언덕을 걷고 생소한 책방을 발견하게 되는 그 하루가 일상에 물결을 일었던 것이다. 기억이 찾아드는 날은 예기치 않게 찾아온다고 그때 생각했다.

어떨 때는 기억에 남기고 싶어도 당최 남겨지질 않았다. 사진이란 당시의 순간을 시각적으로 기록하는 것인데, 사진을 몇 장이고 찍어도 그날의 기억은 그리 인상적이지 않은 것이다. 내가 그날을 기억하고 싶어도 단순히 사진을 찍은 그 순간만 기억하고 그날의 전체적인 인상과 느낌은 잘 생각나지 않는다. 기억을 하고 싶어서 기록을 남긴 것이 오히려 그 순간만 잔뜩 부각시켜버린 것이다. 어쩌면 중요했을지도 다른 모르는 요소들은 잠식시킨 채. 난 사진을 많이 찍는 편이고 또 찍는 것을 좋아하기 때문에 내 사진첩에는 언제나 사진이 많다. 기억하는 순간들은 많은데, 마음에 남는 순간은 손에 꼽힌다. 요컨대, 기억하고 싶은 것과 기억에 남는 건 많이 다르다는 것이다. 난 어릴 적 엄마가 만든 케이크가 어떻게 생겼는지, 맛은 어땠는지 기억하고 싶어하지만 문득 생각나는 건 케이크를 만드는 엄마의 모습이었으니까.

사진 한 장 없어도 계속 기억에 남는 것들도 있다. 나는 유독 기억에 대한 이야기를 많이 쓴다. 봄날의 로즈에서도 로즈와 쥬드는 기억을 가지고 내기를 했고 내 온 마음을 담아서에서는 기억을 잊고 싶은 남자와 기억하고 싶어하는 여자의 정서적 교류에 대한 것이니까. 나는 그렇게 계속 머무는 기억에 대해 쓰고 싶었다. 사진 하나 없어도 기억에 영화마냥 재생될 그런 빛바래지 않는 기억 말이다. 나한테는 어떠한 기억이 중요했고 그 기억을 지키려면 어떤 것도 할 수 있었으니까, 가 내 얼마 전까지의 신념이었다. 하지만 며칠 전에는 눈이 많이 왔다. 눈이 그렇게 많이 오는 건 정말 오랜만이라서, 사진에 담고 싶었는데 생각하는 것처럼 잘 나오지 않았다. 그래서 그냥 그만두었다. 어차피 머물 기억이라면 굳이 사진으로 남기지 않아도 남을 것이다. 그리고 이제는 굳이 못 잊을 것도 없을 것 같았다. 시간이 너무 오래 지나서, 그 기억에게 묻고 싶은 것도, 궁금한 것도 없었다. 그래서 난 그날 사진을 남겨두지 않아서 내심 안도했다. 기록의 부재에 기꺼이, 몇 번이고 마음을 놓았다.

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First Try at Lomo

photography October 25, 2018

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Hyde Park, London 2018


I write to express my feelings: the bed-side thoughts that keep me up on quaint nights, or troubles that cloud my head every passing hour. Or things that I want to remember: the nice cosy cafe by Russell Square station I’ve walked past one early evening or that one night I’ve strolled across the empty park under the biggest full moon ever. When I write stuff like these I try to write them with an immense amount of detail, because to me writing is a way to keep track of things. A way of not forgetting things. I am not going to lie about this pastime of mine by prefacing all my writing with a notion that I derive happiness from simply the act of creating or imagining something. To be ultimately frank I write to remember. Hence my ability to write or lack thereof springs from my desire to keep things intact in my memory. Like a paraphernalia for old and lost moments in my life I often forget about. For some time though, writing was insufficient in capturing everything I want to keep in my memories. Sure, I could describe indefinitely about how I was entranced by the reflection of the moon rippling across the lake or that one stranger I came across who had the oddest-looking boots; but sometimes there were limitations to which I can describe about things I can distinctly recall. So I was looking for other platforms of expression, and somehow I stumbled into lomo cameras.

I have mentioned multiple times on my blog that I am a very analog-obsessed person; I like everything from crumbling old love letters — even if they aren’t addressed to me — to rusty gold-rimmed clocks. I could say that simply the traces of age the items harbor make them different from the modern times, where everything is swift and easy. We can access everything nowadays with a click, press, and a swipe. Nothing was easy back then. Everything had to be thought of countless times before the backlit feeling of the heart could be expressed. It is harder, but hence more thoughtful. The years of hand-held evidence feels different; it just seems more heartfelt and dear. Lomo cameras — analog cameras, so called — use rolls of film to process photographs. And to process film, you would usually have to wait an average of three days. It seems like an agonizing wait for a set of thirty-six photos, but the beauty of time makes up for it. Just imagine taking pictures of the things that you love and thinking and recalling about them for three nights before facing them once again. It is slow, but it feels more precious that way. You learn to appreciate the act of remembering.

In contrary to my previously explained love for lomography however, my first roll turned out to be a disaster. I did not know (although I should have known) that you weren’t supposed to open the back of the camera with the film still rolling — or however professionally you’d phrase that — and exposed my film too early. I ended up losing one-third of my photos. It was a shame, but to be fair the rest of the photos that I’ve managed to salvage were not as exceptional either. I’m satisfied with the few photos, considering that this had been my trial shots. The three photos I have uploaded are my favorite shots (actually the only decent ones in the entire roll), all taken from Hyde Park. I have been to every corner in Fitzrovia street to Hyde Park, but those three were my most memorable ones. The soft-spoken conversation that the couple sitting on the bench was having, the genuine looks they were exchanging — there is an element of intimacy in that moment. It is a feeling that I can never describe fully in words.

One good thing about analog camera is that there is rarely a need to edit them. I usually edit and fix my photos here and there when I use my digital camera — sometimes so drastically that I’d only need a quarter of what I have actually taken. I’d have to edit the brightness or contrast to fully bring out the colors and feelings I was looking with when I was taking the photos. Films capture the moment itself. Its lens has a layer of antiquity marked by a bona fide feeling of sincerity. And that is something I hope to acquire when I look back on my memories — an unfeigned honesty with a hint of wholeheartedness — not with a perfunctory, prompt acknowledgment of past events.

The Art of Writing a Letter about Thinking of You

Life September 28, 2018

I write a lot of letters. On sleepless nights like these, I like to listen to one of my oddly named Spotify playlists and scribble whatever comes up to my mind with my very messy, occasionally – actually most of the times – illegible penmanship. Maybe it’s because that I have this peculiar obsession over the analog era. Old rusty clocks with gold rims that don’t tick anymore or binoculars you use on your night escapades to watch constellations. Besides the point, I just like the idea of completely immersing yourself into the thought of someone while you’re writing about them. The whole moment is surrounded by that one idea of the person. The way you hold your pen, or write your ‘g’s, the words you choose – they are all dominated by the thought of it. It’s more genuine, because the recipient of the letter can actually read the heart and time in between the lines.

I feel like it’s a more effective way to deliver a thought to someone you care, more than a text or an email. But that’s just me. There are probably faster, more effective ways to tell someone you care. It also does not help that I am analog-obsessed. So as much as I love receiving a letter, I love writing them. When I have someone I just can’t get off my mind I start writing. I write about everything. About my day — the one good halloumi wrap I ate that morning, the homeless guy sleeping I saw on my way to the park, this old record shop selling a bunch of ABBA records that I probably should not get, or hours spent trying to tell apart the stars at night. And sometimes I write about writing about them. About how much I think of them. I write about thinking of writing about them. I rarely send them though, because sometimes they are so transparent and honest that I would feel too exposed and bare just by the thought of them being read. Most of my letters are disposed before they are sent.

That’s probably the reason I grew up to be a coward. The more letters I write, the more I hide when I actually have to say something. It wouldn’t matter to me because I would just say those in the letters. The letters I will never send. The letters that will never be read. The words he will never know. I have many regrets about things I hadn’t had the chance to say. I write them all down, well-knowing they will never get delivered, and try to send the thoughts away by disposing the letter in the morning. Will I have more regrets about unspoken thoughts and hearts? Probably. So I write this as an extension to my unresolved letters. Who knows, this might be a letter in disguise too.

The Difference between a Fish and I

Life September 28, 2018

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Just when I was ten, I was afraid of swimming. I didn’t like the feeling of water brimming up to my throat when I immersed myself in water. I didn’t like the pressure of water pressing against my eyelids, or the slightest distance between my feet and the bottom of the water my toes could never reach. I hated the weight of my own body bringing myself to the brink of drowning. I didn’t like the feeling of losing control of my own body. The aversion reached to the point to which I felt like I was losing a grasp of myself whenever I sank beneath the waters. I am a month short of nineteen as I write this, and I am perfectly capable of swimming and manoeuvering my limbs underwater. And I also understand my deep aversion for swimming when I was little. I didn’t like it when things got out of my hands, so hopelessly that I can’t even attempt to handle them.

It is rather odd to realize this through the concept of water. Maybe this is why I have always possessed an element of awe towards marine creatures. Even the two goldfish that lived in the bleak corner of my house when I was eight held some kind of wonder to me. They are so free underwater – free of any sort of physical limitation in an environment I have always found so foreign. (Although using the adjective ‘free’ to describe the goldfish in this case would deem quite ironic because they have lived and died in the minute glass bowl in the corner of my small room in my tiny, tiny apartment.) But it still depresses me a little, just a tad bit whenever I see a giant roasted fish on the dinner table, with is once glossy eyes covered by a layer of dried cloudy mucus, its fins dried up and flesh ready for disassembling. It is a morbid, bleak feeling – a kind of dark promise that I will never be free of whatever that is restraining me either.

If you think about it, my awe towards fish and other marine creatures is completely invalid. It is normal to feel a little physically restrained when underwater, because the water is not our natural habitat. If you put a fish on the shore, I am sure it would feel incapable too. (Not implying that this should be tried out of pure curiosity) Any other land that isn’t home would feel foreign and unfamiliar. By the time I realized that I discovered that my fear of water was more psychological than I had thought.

So I have figured as I waddle towards the end of my teenagehood, that it wasn’t the matter of whether I am capable of swimming or not. It wasn’t simply the question of whether I can successfully maintain my floating stance on the water surface, or move my arms against the waves such that I can propel myself forward. Because I am adept at all of those now, to the extent that if I were involved in a plane crash and I had to escape the wreck and swim to the nearest island, I would probably be able to do that. I can proudly say that my swimming isn’t necessarily terrible, per se. The real issue is that I am still deeply terrified of situations in which I cannot do anything about. I still hate the feeling of helplessness. Throughout my life, there had been various occasions where I was subjected to this; when I say this though, I don’t just mean the triviality, like being unable to open the jam bottle no matter how hard I try (because in most of the cases, it is very likely I can’t).

These occasions hold such an integral position in my life – especially in building who I am as a person. Perhaps that is the reason I am so deeply terrified of this feeling, because it constitutes such a big portion of my identity. Or maybe I dislike changes. Or both. Who knows? The important thing is, I am still learning. I have found out that my fear doesn’t actually lie in swimming. I have discovered the specific cause of the ‘phobia’. I’ve narrowed it down to a point where this feeling usually occurs during human-to-human interactions, in cases where people I love are at their lowest point and are slipping through my fingers. I am continuously finding more things about myself – but I also know now that just because something is so integral to the construction of your identity, it doesn’t mean that it has to dominate yourself as a person.

A fish can swim. So can I. I was afraid of swimming, and I bet you a fish will not be the most delighted to venture on land. At least now, I’ve disintegrated the fear further enough that I understand myself more than I did before. Maybe one day I won’t even remember that I’ve had this fear of swimming.

 

Our Apricots Held Summer

Poem June 18, 2018

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Few summers ago we held the tree close

Its trunk against our chests, its warmth rose

to our toes, our fingers, and our flushed cheeks

in a way that left us helpless and weak

then painted our skin in bright mellow shades

of orange, soft pink, lavender and bade

us such fond afternoons. What we loved most

though were the apricots the tree had lost.

We eagerly plucked the fruit off the ground

held them handful in our hands, round and round

in our pockets, our palms and in our homes

and carry them everywhere, even to foams

of our bathtubs. We carried their fresh green

and deep orange and light red – their skin clean

like the sun bursting into many rays.

We kept the sun in our hands, so it stays.

 

When the summer was over the tree bore

nothing, except autumn-stained leaves and more

warm fuzzy feelings that longed for traces

of the cicadas but only braces

us for impending wasteland of December

branches. But we will always remember

the warmth the apricot left on our palms

the sweet scent of the fruit that made us calm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hindsight Bias

Life June 18, 2018

 

I used to have this habit of thinking what it would be like in the future, then recounting back to the moment I was thinking about the moment, imagining what it would be like. It could be something simple like, how liberating it would feel after my math class. And after my math class, I would recount back, thinking something like, “oh hey, remember the time I was waiting for my class to be over?” It feels like a little accomplishment, a trace of my endurance over time. I do this all the time to give myself assurance that I am somewhat, doing well in whatever I was doing at that point in my life. And I remember, eleven years back in Korea, sitting on the sandy swing thinking what it would be like when I come back to Korea as an adult. That seemingly hopeless gap of eleven years. Now everything in between seems like a blur, like a whoozy little time leap. Like someone pulled me out of my eight-year-old body and squeezed it into a nineteen-year-old’s. Somehow everything didn’t seem as bad as I thought it was when I was in the moment.

Wikipedia defines hindsight bias as the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it. As we humans are slaves to the unseen and unknown forces, I don’t think I can say it’s any different for myself. I actually read about this in one of my SAT practices years back (God, all those standardized tests), and I thought this was an interesting logic. Why do people justify past things with less negativity?

Personally, I can’t answer that question. I would be lying if I said my past memories consist of only fond ones. Because I distinctly remember falling off the swing and injuring my back so badly that I had trouble sitting down and up for a while. Or the time when I ate lunch alone in high school for a few months, or the time I cried over something or someone. I am a person with a great memory capacity — I would not call this “petty” as my friend referred to (Thank you very much, Lisa) — and I think I can recount the times I was severely upset. I just prefer to remember the better times. If the past serves as a kind of solace that I would hold onto when I am having troubles in the distant future, I would want to hold onto something comforting. I would reside in the warmth and light of the past and use that to pull myself back to the present.

I try to forget many things, even when I am living in the present. Memory is such a fickle, volatile thing — so even when you want to forget things, you somehow end up recalling them more. I do think though, sometimes it is better to forgo some of the things you have. You can’t always hold everything in your hands. I refer to Sherlock Holmes’ words to explain this (I just recalled; I also read this in another of my SAT passages — goes arond, comes around) :

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

I mean, memory is not so similar to information as it refers, but I suppose it uses the same logic here. So in my “brain-attic” I prefer to store things like the endless spectrum of sunlight that carpets every exposed patch of land, or the rusty metal bench that has been across the playground for nearly twenty years. The ivy that grows on it, creeping up its wall slightly as the years go by. Things like the thin folded lips across the wineglass, and the sound of waves crashing on the dock. Not the tear-stained pillow after I toss and turn myself to sleep at dawn, or the silence at the end of the phone when I run out of things to say. The painstaking moment to desperately think of what to say to fill up the abyss between. Things like that.

It is rather difficult to voluntarily control things you can remember. I try nevertheless, even if it wears me out and leaves me lightheaded and heartbroken in the end, because I want my past days to be as comforting as possible. I change the pieces to my puzzle, and match them in a way I would want them to be. Going back to hindsight bias, I do think my past has been sweet, just because I left many stuff out of my story and thought “that wasn’t bad after all.” I guess that is the magic of hindsight bias.

 

 

비가 오는 길

Korean June 16, 2018

그의 말에는 어떠한 힘이 있었다. 그리고 그녀는 비가 오는 날이면 어김없이 그를 생각하곤 했다. 단순히 비가 오는 날에만 그와 대화를 했기에 그가 생각나는 것이 아니었다. 어쩌면 그의 어투에서는 마음이 주륵주륵 흐르고 있어, 가랑비가 오던, 소나기가 오던 그를 연상케 하는지도 모르겠다. 빗소리 사이에 숨죽이는 가느다란 목소리가, 노래 부르듯 잔잔한 그 목소리가 계속 마음에 울렸다. 게다가 기억이라는 게 제 마음대로 되는 것이 아니라, 매개체만 있다면 곧이어 그 시간이 따르는 것일지도. 그녀는 그랬다. 비가 오면 그만이 아니라 그를 향하던 그녀의 눈길까지 생각이 났다. 누구를 봐도 감히 따라할 수 없는, 그를 보는 눈길이. 어떤 방향이 있는 것도, 특정 방법이 있는 것도 아니었던 눈길이었다. 그의 부재엔 감히 따라할 수 없는 그 눈길을 그리는마냥 떠올렸다. 그렇다고 비가 오지 않는 날에 그의 생각이 나지 않는 것도 아니었다. 오히려 있어야 할 것이 없어진 듯, 그 사무치는 빈 공간에 그의 생각을 더욱 꾹꾹 눌러 담곤 했다.