Welcome to The Photo Memoirs, my name is Don MacDonell and this is my photography journey from the very beginning. The photographs and stories that I’m about to share with you are from the time I bought my very first Canon DSLR camera in September 2014. But before we dive into the first photographs, let me catch you up with a brief summary of the months and years leading up to this point.
When it comes to photography, initially I didn’t recall ever being interested in the art form, or ever thought of the idea of being a photographer. But as I reflected on it, I realized that I did have some interest in photography, but just never occurred to me that I could pursue it. For starters when I was young I remember my dad having an old Polaroid camera that I found fascinating. As time went on, I recall buying disposable Kodak cameras which I used to take pictures of my family, friends, and pets. I took 3 of them on my grade 8 class trip to Niagara Falls, and I had fun documenting the trip.
After that time, it would be a while before I thought of taking any pictures outside of my phone. I decided to buy a compact camera when I was in my early 20’s, and after I moved to Toronto. I used it to take photos with friends and with my now-wife when we were dating. After getting married, again I settled into a routine where I didn’t do a whole lot of picture-taking until my life turned upside-down! (In a very good way!)
We Were Pregnant! And soon we would be moving halfway around the world, to Seoul, South Korea, to be closer to my wife’s family, and would raise our son for the following 10 years! It was a combination of having a newborn son and being emersed in a new culture and place, with lots to explore and learn. In addition to taking pictures of my son, I ventured out to explore the sites enjoyed by both tourists and locals, which I documented with my phone. It was only a matter of time before I wanted to purchase a camera and develop the skills required to take beautiful photographs and document the world around me. That time came near the beginning of September 2023.
I started by taking personal photographs of my family and my first excursion took me to Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul, South Korea. This area has been the cultural and historic center of Seoul for the past 600 years! It is also a large business district and governmental center of Seoul today. As such there are many museums and statues among commercial highrises and a palace of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty.
The following are some of the photographs that I captured that day:
This was a statue that was on the platform of the subway station. I wasn’t taking the best photographs. Though I had my new camera, I was shooting in auto-mood. There were no creative decisions made that day with regard to settings. The flash was even on! I do like that I took multiple photographs from various angles. I think that is one thing that I did well. I think that is something that all photographs should do, work the scene! I can see from the images from this day, that I seemed to do that right from the start, as you will see.
This is Cheonggyecheon Stream, a manmade stream with a long history in Seoul, South Korea. It’s a nice area to venture to. There are many people usually coming down from their offices to take a stroll and meet up with friends or significant others. It’s also a tourist attraction that draws a lot of people. Depending on the time of day, you will find a variety of people here. The above photographs seem to be a very early attempt at street photography, though, at the time, I had absolutely no idea what that was.
Gwanghwamun Square is another attraction in the area with a couple of statues of Korean heroes. The above photographs are of the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin looking over the entire square. In the photos, we see the idea of ‘working the scene’ with a variety of angles and distances, which gives us a completely different perspective of the statue’s environment and surroundings.
Walking further down the square, you will come across the statue of Sejong the Great. He is most popularly known for his role in the creation of the Korean alphabet, Hangul, as well as some of his scientific accomplishments, depicted in some smaller figures in front of the main statue. Again, we see that I continued to ‘work the scene’. Different angles, distances, and focus points. Although the images aren’t exceptional, I believe that this was a very important skill that I seemed to naturally gravitate to, which is exciting to contemplate.
The following images are of the front of Gyeongbokgung Palace’s main gate. I re-utter the earlier sentiments about working the scene. I can’t emphasize enough how much I recommend all photographers to do so. Get creative and work the scene! I’m proud to reflect and to notice that I established that as a habit early on.
Photograph(s): # Pre-DSLR~287