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Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Tag: Korea

© Billy Gomez

Modern Loops Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

Third-party marketing content, Wikipedia-plagiarized articles, hateful commentary, Fox News–it’s easy to be negative about the internet. It’s also impossible to deny its positive impact. Whole photographic communities have formed due to the largesse of Flickr and Instagram, to name a few. Yet the net that spreads wide also has large holes. Many talented, young artists experimenting with technologies both old and new fall through the cracks due to the sheer numbers of Neue Artistes simultaneously populating the aether. Lucky then I managed to hear about Billy Gomez through a still occasionally Flickr grapevine. Spooling through his photostream one quickly tires of the limitations of the smallish flat screen device on which the women and men and children exist in the small places in between conversations of light and shadow dialogue. Caught between wanting to see more and wishing to seem them as large prints in a gallery setting, I wondered, Who is this mystery man capturing poetic loops of the visible spectrum, who is Billy Gomez? Best to let him answer for himself.

Billy: I’m originally from Los Angeles, although I’ve been in Seoul for the last six years. Came out here to teach. The plan was to do it for a few years and then head back. Six years later…and going back is still nothing more than a plan. I didn’t expect to see and experience what I did. The isolation and anonymity kind of allowed me to re-invent myself creatively. If I wasn’t teaching, I was in the lab experimenting…still am to be honest.

HESO: Talking about “The Plan”…they never do go the way we plan them, do they? When did you first pick up a camera?

Billy: I think I picked one up a long time ago, but I never held it long enough to form a vision, or develop a voice, or think about what I wanted to do or accomplish with it. I would just shoot a few rolls here and there. I was around talented people who were doing amazing work though, Aloysious and Danny Dougherty. Seeing them grow as photographers and artists instilled a degree of what a work ethic would consist of…it was definitely a reference when I came to Korea and began to bury myself in my little creative endeavors.

HESO: Your work is like a cross section from a very distinct portrait artist which crosses traditional boundaries into street photography. How did you get into photography?

Billy: I just started taking pictures of people. Nothing more. This was at the end of 2007. Around the same time I discovered Flickr. So I would go out all day and take pictures…then see what all these other people were doing around the world. Comparing what I had to what was going on in all these other places, kind of gave me a reference for what worked and what didn’t. So strange to become interested in a kind of photography and have access to all these communities and people, that you’ve never been to or met, but sharing mine and seeing theirs, was really instrumental. Flickr definitely had something special for a while there.

HESO: That was exactly like our photo crew in Tokyo. We all met through Flickr. Now we are all lifelong friends. Seeing what “all these other people were doing around the world” let’s us understand and relate better to our own. Does the medium affect what you do? Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Billy: I could care less. It’s a tired argument. The only thing that matters is the music. The instrument you use is an afterthought. Being productive is paramount, plain and simple. Shoot a shit-load of whatever medium or format you choose…and be happy. I’ve said this before, but it’s funny how the militant advocates on either side of the argument all have the same thing in common…their work tends to always be less than mediocre.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Militancy has that affect on people. What technology can you leave behind? Alternatively what can you not do without?

Billy: I make music with a drum machine that’s almost 25 years old. Definitely can’t do without that. Interestingly, I just got an iPhone about a month and a half ago and I think I thought of it more as a phone purchase, as opposed to being a camera purchase. Good lord what a mistake that was…I have been shooting with it a lot as of late and it’s changing the way I work and think entirely. I’ve been playing with a handful of apps as well. I definitely saw the need for an iPad after trying to edit with those apps on the iPhone’s tiny screen. Man, I don’t know, I am incredibly late to the party but I am really enjoying the workflow these two devices afford you. The more I use them, the more I learn, and the more excited I get about the possibilities. Having only used them for the last month and a half, I could definitely live without them… but it would be sure be a shame.

HESO: You get up in the morning, pick up your camera, where are you going?

Billy: To work (laughs). Sad to say, I rarely ever get up with the sole purpose of taking pictures at that time and it’s definitely something I should change. I’m definitely a morning person, but I just end up tinkering with other things at that hour. However, I will say that when I went home to Los Angeles for the first time after having gotten into photography, I had a newfound appreciation for the light there. I was much more inspired to get up and take advantage of it when I was visiting. It’s definitely something I think a lot about too…about going back to L.A. to do a ton of street work. It would be a great challenge, the thought of what I could produce with that kind of light available essentially all year round, excites the hell out of me.

The light is a lot less unforgiving in Korea. During parts of the spring, fall, and summer it can be interesting. But for the most part, air pollution and intense weather patterns keep it so scrambled and inconsistent. Waking up to golden sunlight is not a common thing here, though we’ve actually seen a little of it this past week…conveniently coupled with 100 degree heat and humidity. Most of the pictures I take are while commuting to and from work. I’ll do a walk here and there on the weekend, but I have to say that there’s definitely something different in the way people look and act at that time. During the week, the pinch is on, you know…the weight of the world is in those eyes and on those shoulders. That same emotion just doesn’t seem as frequent on the weekends.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Some of your photographs seem like stills from a film. Is this intentional? Do you like film? What particular genres? Favorites?

Billy: That’s a very nice compliment. And yes, I think films have had a huge influence on the type of photography I do. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Watching La Double Vie de Veronique by Krzysztof Kieślowski was the first time I wanted to know the directors name when the film was finished. I looked for everything I could find of his at the video store and library and then I started ordering his films off of ebay because most of them were impossible to get otherwise. Wong Kar-Wai is another director I definitely connected with before I ever started taking pictures. The slow motion, the lighting, the color, it was all pretty goddamn hypnotic. The key component in both of the aforementioned is how they both told a story without anyone saying anything. Go figure.

HESO: The technical portion aside, what do you look for in shooting a photograph of a stranger? What grabs you and shouts at you to, TAKE ME!”?

Billy: Interesting faces, interesting light–the same thing everyone else seeks out, right? And the two either arrive at the same time or I end up waiting for one or the other. Changing the subject abruptly, I really admire people who are able to capture scenes, as opposed to portraits. It’s something I really want to work hard on. These nameless ghosts though, they kind of haunt me…I can go out with the intention of wanting to capture scenes, and then a certain person will just glow in a crowd, and then the scenes go right out the door and I’m doing the same thing I always do. Patience must have something to do with those scenes, I suppose. I’m a work in progress.

HESO: We all are. Who are your favorite photographers?

Billy: To tell you truth, I don’t even know many photographers…and it’s nothing I’m proud of, or anything like that. I think I’ve gotten more inspiration from my family, Aloysious Dougherty and Daniel Dougherty, than I have from any of the so-called masters. But there were a couple of instances where certain work found me. One of them was the work of Sebastião Salgado. Like Kieslowski, it was the first time I saw a picture in a magazine and wanted to know who took it. Not long after seeing that picture, I went to the library and checked out all his books. Taking an interest in him lead me to War Photographer, the documentary on James Nachtwey. That kind of photography is mind boggling to me and I have to say, I think I have more of an appreciation for it than any other form of photography.

HESO: Where are you now and what direction are you moving in?

Billy: I’m in Seoul and in the time I’ve gone through these questions and answered them, it has dawned on me that a change of some sort is imminent. I have had an amazing time in Korea. It has changed my life forever. But seeing more of the world is a must for me. I feel like every year here is a lateral move. To move forward, I think I need to move on. Again, it’s a work in present… and these feelings on the matter are something that have manifested as a result of doing this interview. So I appreciate that, very much. Probably more than you’ll ever know. I have a set on Flickr called ‘The Roots of Imperfection‘ which is a collection of stories that accompany images. If I was a drug dealer that would be what they call a taste.

HESO: Thank you for your time.

Billy: I appreciate anyone who stuck around long enough to read these words.

Billy Gomez

Modern Loops: Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

Kimchi - The Hot Magic of True Fermentation (HESO Magazine)

How to Make Real Korean Style Kimchi

Just like movies, cars and hourglass figures, they don’t make pickles like they used to.

Found in just about every national cuisine, fermentation was probably discovered accidentally thousands of years ago, when something sugary was left to rot and ended up as a delightfully sour, mildly alcoholic treat. The fact that it additionally preserved both plant and animal matter and promoted health was likely enough to convince cavemen to begin intentionally fermenting things, and thus began mankind’s long-lived affair with the pickle.

Unfortunately, the advent of refrigeration, mass production and other detrimental conveniences gave manufacturers a wonderful idea: why bother going through the bothersome and occasionally unpredictable stages of fermentation when you can just fake the tang with a vinegar and sugar solution? Why indeed! Soon consumers, unbeknownst to themselves, were sucking up all things faux-fermented, and now the vast majority of sauerkraut, gherkins and piccalilli gracing the supermarket shelves are sad and insipid versions of the real thing.

It happened in Japan, too: once abhorred for its strong smell, kimchi is now the most popular pickle in the country. Yet the Japanese version–known as kimuchi–is often made without even being fermented, with citric acid added for the characteristic tang. This sacrilege might have caused less stinky-breath shame for the Japanese and the countries they exported it to, but it brought about a different kind of embarrassment when it caused a trade spat with Korea, whose reaction was much like Italy’s would be if the U.S. put spreadable parmigiano in aerosol cans and flouted it to the rest of the world as the best thing since sliced Velveeta.

How To Make Real Fermented Korean KImchiHaving already suffered the indignity of the derisive putdown “kimchi-eaters” and “garlic breath”, the Koreans bit back at the Japanese, claiming that Japan would forever soil the international reputation of their beloved dish.

So friends (family, countrymen), I implore you! Do the right thing and make your own–taste it before the fake Japanese kind graces your table. Proper pickles are natural probiotics, bursting with lactobacilli, meaning that you don’t have to shell out for pricey tablets or sugar-filled yogurts, and the Koreans even swear that it can prevent cancer.

Plus, there’s an added pleasure in starting up a collection of stinky jars that bubble menacingly in your pantry. It’s not as hard as making bread–just chop, salt, mix, wait–and yet you will swell with pride like a freshly yeasted loaf when your cabbage baby is born. Your family members might be scared at first that this monster, which seems to be actually breathing, might swell to monstrous proportions and tear out of its glass encasement, engulfing them in their sleep like a spicy version of The Blob, but allay their fears by fighting the inflated mass back into its liquid with a metal spoon.

It makes sense to make kimchi the first station on your fermentation journey because it goes with everything, like ketchup. Yet unlike that Malaysian-British concoction, it’s good for you. As a staple of the Korean diet, it’s provided freely at restaurants throughout the country (except during times of cabbage shortages). When it’s fully fermented you can slather it on meat or fish, stick it in sandwiches or stir it through omelettes…or simply eat it with rice, topped with a fried egg. And don’t be too scared that the prodigious amounts of chili, garlic and fish sauce will play havoc with your breath and lose you friends: consider your exhalations adverts rather than warnings, and the world will smile upon you.

How to Make Real Korean Style Kimchi

How to Make Real Korean Style Kimchi

Garlic Mush & Onion Chop - the base of real Kimchi © Isobel Wiles

How to Make Real Korean Style Kimchi

Mixing together the final ingredients for real Kimchi

Ingredients

  • 2 large Chinese or Napa cabbages (whatever you call them, preferably the crisp, white, veiny oblong ones–rather than your average round Western cabbage)
  • Salt
  • 1 large white radish- you may know it as either daikon or mooli.
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 bunch of scallions
  • Variations include adding peeled pears and cucumbers.

Porridge:

  • 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups Korean chili pepper
  • 1 cup garlic, pureed (or paste)
  • 1-2 tbsps ginger, pureed (or paste)
  • 1 cup fish sauce

Instructions

1. Firstly, set aside some time. Remember, most of the time when you’re cooking, you’re dealing with something that’s dead, and you make it even deader by cooking it. With kimchi, you’re making the culinary equivalent of Frankenstein–e.g. creating life out of something dead–therefore it takes a few hours. Four hours in the middle is just waiting but you’ll need about an hour of prep and then about 20 minutes after that.

2. Chop the cabbage into tiny bite size pieces and put in a bowl (with as much as you have, you might need several bowls). Soak it in water for about two minutes, then drain thoroughly and sprinkle liberally with salt, making sure it is consistently covered. Set aside for three to four hours, occasionally lifting up the bowl and tipping out the water that will have accumulated at the bottom- being careful not to let all the cabbage fall out by holding it in place with a spatula or other utensil.

3. Make the porridge: put the rice flour and water into a pan on a low heat and stir vigorously so it becomes a thin paste with no lumps. As it heats up you will need to keep stirring, until it reaches the consistency of wallpaper paste. Then add the sugar, stir to melt, and leave to cool.

4. Put the cooled porridge in a blender, and add the chili, garlic, ginger and fish sauce. Blend until smooth and set aside.

5. Peel the carrots and the white radish and julienne. If you want to save a lot of time you can splash out and buy the Kiwi Pro Slice Peeler, which will do the job in no time, and can also be used to make elaborate and useless little carved Thai vegetables. Sweet!

6. Slice the leeks and scallions into rounds. Put them in a large tupperware container along with the carrots and white radish. Now wait with another fermented product. A beer perhaps?

7. After three or four hours is up, rinse the cabbage to get rid of the salt, and drain well. Begin by adding a little of the spicy porridge to the carrot/leek/scallion/radish mixture, making sure it is well coated. Then gradually stir in the cabbage, adding a dollop of spicy porridge each time as you go.

8. After it is all incorporated, simply snap on the lid and put it somewhere relatively warm. I’ve heard the best kimchi is made at 5 degrees celsius for two weeks, but I’ve also had success at a blazing 28 degrees for four days. The water content of the vegetables should start to seep out, making the porridge watery. You need to keep the vegetables under the water line as much as possible, or mold might develop. When it’s ready the “soup” should be piquant and the vegetables should be soft, after which you can put it in the fridge. However, if you don’t want it to go too sour, or you want the vegetables to be crunchy, you can arrest its development early. Kimchi-making season is coming up, and Korean families typically gather together in late October or early November, before winter sets in. Why not try your hand at fermenting yourself into the new old-school healthy?

About the Author

Sophie Knight is a writer based in Tokyo

  • Sophie Knight is a writer based in Tokyo, Japan, who contributes regularly to HESO on a variety of subjects.

Copyright

Unless otherwise stated All images © HESO Magazine, 2011.

This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. If you wish to use reproduce any of this context in a commercial context, explicit permission is required. Please contact me directly.

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