Six Photos in Search of a Story.

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.
Never let photos in the way of a good story, I say. Ask anyone who’d read Thubron or Robb, writers of books without as much as a picture, and ask them if they hadn’t seen the Banguê restaurant, or Mount Kailash. Good writing is as powerful as any set of Hasselblad lenses and, one would argue, a lot cheaper.
Why this post, then? Why Bible-thumping against photography and then stick one in that’s all about them?
Well, I’m neither a man of virtue nor a good writer.
A few days ago, I felt as if I’d said everything about my visit to Seoul; yet, I still had some photos. Much like those characters in a Pirandello’s play whose title I butchered for this post, they were in search of something. Pirandello’s characters were looking for an Author; my pictures, bless them, already had one – whether they wanted that one is another story – but what they were missing was a story.
I suppose I could’ve left them behind; somehow, though, I knew I couldn’t. Irrational as it might sound, I thought I owed them something. Then I decided, as so often I do, to part ways with my own convictions and let these pictures be the story. Here they come.
First night in Seoul. I was at last, after many false starts, on my way to the Noryangjin fish market: I had been on the cusp of leaving my hotel room for a good hour before it finally happened. Something – be it an email, or a document to check online – would pop up and distract me. As I eventually slipped in the lift, I started nagging my memory for the title of a book, written by Italo Calvino, where the protagonist – a reader – had the same issue I experienced: he wants to read a novel, but despite his best intentions he keeps on being sidetracked. By the time I was on the kerb my brain had spat out the answer. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. And, right at that moment, I saw the young couple walking into the cone of light of the kiosk, much like I’d imagined the traveller. Click.
Incheon, a rainy Sunday morning at the pompously-named International Business District. We’d seized on the chance of a pause in the procession of squalls of rain and gusts of wind that were lashing our hotel when – surprise surprise – it started again. Surprised by the downpour, a man used his puffer jacket as he walked towards his car. His sense of urgency didn’t seem to be mirrored by any of his, better insulated, companions.
Morning had barely passed the baton to afternoon and these four sprightly gents were well into what I assume was their first round of beers, sitting outside the neighbourhood Mini-Stop market. The way they were laughing, and the generous humour that I could feel, brought me back to Italy: everywhere in the North of the country, perhaps not outside a grocery store but in bars, their peers would be sitting and laughing hard as well, maybe with small glasses of white instead of beers. And a non-stop stream of profanity in dialect, of course.
In these days of Instagram, a number of enterprising ventures have popped up, in and around the historic district of Bukchon, offering the ultimate selfie experience to the social media crowd. For a – fairly substantial, I imagine – amount of won punters can be issued with traditional dresses to wear for the duration of their stroll around the Hanok village. But what happens when the Instagramming is done and all that remains is to sit down and marvel at the number of likes piling up? Well, one could do as these ladies and opt for eating fried fish balls at a shop embellished by two hand-drawn adverts featuring Maggie and Bart.
Bukchon village is peppered with signs – hanging from walls or held by yellow-clad volunteers – pleading visitors to keep quiet, for the sake of the locals. It felt all a bit over the top given the traditional politeness and respect that is the mainstay of this corner of Asia. Besides, even if I were inclined to indulge in some Mediterranean fracas, how could I not obey to the cutest admonition ever?
Yes, I said 6 photos and with these two we’d be at 7. But… which one would you use when you inadvertently play with your camera’s focus? The Oriental bishop or the lady? Ah, choices. Let’s have both, shall we? After all I said I wasn’t a man of virtue.
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33 Responses to Six Photos in Search of a Story.

  1. Lovely photo stories, especially the second last

    Liked by 1 person

  2. richandalice says:

    The leftmost photo at the end — where the bishop is in focus — is definitely the better of the two!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. MELewis says:

    I adore the one with the old men at the café and the little girl in the yellow jacket. They really tell a story!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lexklein says:

    The lady! No question. And no explanation is possible; I just like it better with her in focus.
    I adore the dressed-up girls eating the fish balls – my absolute fave of the bunch.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with Lexie – the lady! This is a great collection of photos each enhanced by its unique story. I can see why you wanted to share them.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anna says:

    The photo of the little girl is so sweet! As for the last pics…. I’m with the lady too!

    Like

  7. equinoxio21 says:

    Love Pirandello. Totally and unconditionally.
    “Je suis celle qu’on me croit”.
    I wonder what the original Italian phrase was? Do you remember?
    Io sono quella che credano??? (Probably made two fatal grammar mistakes?)
    😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. J.D. Riso says:

    I vote for the lady, too. Love this eclectic collection of images. Seoul has never been high on my list of places to visit, but these, and your previous posts, have piqued my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Thanks Julie! Seoul is interesting. Surely worth adding to one’s trip if you’re around. I, for one, would like to spend more time… at the airport. That place is a J-E-W-E-L. Straight out of my manual on how to build airports.

      Like

  9. Man of virtue or not, not for me to decide, but a good writer – yes. Everybody can be a good writer without the photos. 😉

    Off topic: Today, as we were driving to Slovenia again and got lost and almost reached San Marino before realising we were going to the south of Italy – again! – rather than to Padova and Venice (do you know how it’s called in Slovenian? Benetke), I thought of you. Who says nothing ever happens in the flat northern Italy?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lignum Draco says:

    Perhaps you’re not a man of virtue, but you can tell a story, with or without the aid of photos. I particularly like the one of the four men and their beers. I’m glad you eventually made it to the fish market. Korea looks like it was cold, and my Korean friends confirm that. How on Earth did those girls stay warm in traditional dress?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bama says:

    If that sign asking visitors to be quiet were in Japan, I would be really surprised. But since this is Korea, I can understand why. People said, and I saw with my own eyes, that the Koreans are somewhere between the Japanese and the Chinese. They’re not as polite and considerate as the former, but not nearly as loud as the latter. As for the last photo, I’d go with the lady as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Thanks Bama! Yes, I found Korea to be a nice middle ground between one and the other. The organisation and generic respect of the public thing of Japan, but a lot less shy, like in China. Plus English was widely spoken, and people would come and chit-chat to me. In all honesty, though, to achieve the same level of quiet that they had in Bukchon in, say, Rome, they’d beed riot police and water cannons!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Dave Ply says:

    If it wasn’t for pictures, I probably wouldn’t have much for stories – and probably not followers either as I’d have to be a good enough writer for my stories to stand on their own. So let’s hear it for visual inspiration. 🙂

    And somehow, I suspect the fishball girls could lead to an even more extended story, if you don’t mind inventing a few plot lines…

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Well Dave, considering teenage girls in Asia, the story wouldn’t have strayed too far from “…and they spent the whole day Whatsapping, Instagramming or whatever app they use these days”.

      Like

  13. Brad Nixon says:

    These are the sort of photographs more travelers SHOULD aspire to make — they capture the life of a place far more effectively than pictures of monuments, temples and statues. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jane says:

    Fabrizio, I have to disagree with something you said in this post. How can you say you are “not a writer.” You ARE a GREAT writer. Your story telling skills are excellent. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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