About Luc Forsyth
Luc Forsyth is a freelance photojournalist and writer who specializes in social and humanitarian storytelling. This is his blog, a place to share photography, writing and ideas.
You can contact Luc at firstname.lastname@example.org
Luc is a collaborating member of the Ruom Collective. Bringing together journalists, researchers, videographers, and photographers, the collective provides an opportunity to exchange and share information - providing multiple perspectives and more depth to long-term documentary projects.
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- Monks March for Human Rights December 9, 2013
- Monks Begin Protest Marches Ahead of Human Rights Day December 5, 2013
- 5 Reasons to Set Aside Your Ego: The Benefits of Working Together December 3, 2013
- What Do Monks Eat For Breakfast? November 21, 2013
- Underwater Gold Miners in Southern Leyte November 14, 2013
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Tag Archives: Luc Forsyth
To view the full image gallery, click HERE.
Well into the second month of protesting, demonstrators gather around Seoul’s city hall in the hundreds, despite the sub-zero weather.
Initially signed in 2007, adjustments to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement in February 2011 give American companies increased advantages when entering the South Korean market. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, “Once it enters into force, the Agreement will be the United States’ most commercially significant free trade agreement in more than 16 years.”
Many Koreans are less than supportive of the agreement, however, feeling that it is one sided and will benefit American interests above those of Korea. While large conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai stand to make substantial profits by gaining tariff-free access to U.S. customers, many Korean industries – such as agriculture and entertainment – feel they may be overwhelmed by American competitors.
The anti-FTA protests closer resemble a music festival than a violent confrontation. Performers dominate the small stage, singing about Korean President Lee Myun Bak’s American subservience and the evils of corporate greed. The scene hardly looks threatening.
Yet hours before the crowds gather, hundreds of police vehicles including buses, armoured cars and riot control vans arrive at City Hall. Riot police in the thousands spread out around the area in full body armour.
There are no indicators of agression by either the police or the protestors, and the demonstration winds down as the sun sets and the temperature drops. As people attempt to leave the area, however, they find that the sidewalks have been blocked off, preventing access to the subway station. With no way around, the tension escalates.
The situation reaches its peak when a young girl is trampled after being pulled beneath the police lines.
Realizing that they are exacerbating an otherwise peaceful group of people, police commanders abandon the sidewalk blockades and instead redeploy their men to protect local hotels and businesses.
As quickly as they began, the hostilities cease. Protestors leave the area to seek warmth, and the police withdraw to their vehicles.
It seems unlikely that the protestors will prevail. South Korea’s current government is highly conservative, and President Lee is an individual with powerful corporate connections – he is a former top executive of the Hyundai Construction Corporation, and it is widely believed that many of his political decisions are based on the company’s interests. With the massive police presence (at least three officers to every protestor), President Lee seems to be more focused on demonstrating the power of the state rather than responding to public opinion.
The United States was once among the most popular countries for South Koreans, with many Koreans believing in the power of the American Dream. But the golden age of public relations seems to be dwindling, and many have become disillusioned with the U.S.
It remains to be seen whether or not the protests will have any affect on the FTA proceedings. Despite the weather, demonstrations can are scheduled every weekend at City Hall and Gwanghwamun station, and can be attended by anyone who is interested.
To see the full image gallery, click here.
Dodging street vomit has been an occupational hazard of living in Korea, and it is something I have gotten strangely used to. Businessmen and adjashis (old men) often drink to excess to relieve the monotony of their work lives, but typically they have very little free time in which to do so. The popular solution is a simple one, if not overly elegant: drink faster. Now that the evidence is freezing overnight, I know that winter is officially on us.
I haven’t seen snow in nearly 2 years, and I haven’t had a Christmas with my family since 2007. The light flakes landing in Seoul are making me reflect on my strange nomadic life and the consequences of these choices. As I move towards my goal of becoming a working photojournalist/humanitarian photographer, it doesn’t seem like I’ll be settling down anytime soon.
A large part of me is apprehensive – the part that is terrified of turning into a lonely 40-year-old drifter, semi-alcoholic and utterly lonely. But the other side of me, the dominant voice, is urging me forward. The safe option would be to continue with teaching, obtain a Master’s degree and enjoy a comfortable life of lecturing English Language classes at universities. The current plan, however, is to square my credit card debt, upgrade my camera, and buy a one-way ticket to Bangladesh.
The outcome is uncertain. There has never been a better time to showcase your work to the world, and photography has never been more accessible. But it has also never been more difficult to make a living at it. I have little formal training and my knowledge of the business and marketing side of photography is sparse at best. In his great book The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield defines these feelings of doubt as “resistance”, and I feel it strongly during almost every waking moment recently.
But then I remember what he says about dealing with it:
Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.
We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.
Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our souls’ evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
- Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art
If there is one thing that Korea has really gotten right is its system of food delivery. Unlike Western society where delivery items are limited to pizza or similarly priced things, more or less everything that can be eaten can be delivered – regardless of quantity or cost. It is possible, even common, to order something which costs 5-6000 Won ($5 or less), and have it delivered to your door. The food will also come with real cutlery (i.e. metal and not plastic), and be served on dishes, not paper plates or take out containers. When you’re done eating, just put the plates outside your apartment door and someone will be by an hour later to pick them up. Magic.
How this system is cost efficient is beyond me, but everyone does it. Even McDonald’s delivers, usually 24 hours a day.
While Korean “bali bali culture” (fast fast) can be a negative force in fields like education or pretty much anything creative, when it comes to having things delivered, no one does it better. Restaurants employ small armies of scooter and motorcycle drivers who race through traffic at breakneck speeds, for whom traffic signals are suggestions, not laws. They tear through red lights, weave into oncoming lanes, and use the sidewalk as an extension of the road. Terrifying for pedestrians but wonderful for the hungry.
The drivers are known to be excellent multi-taskers as well, typically either smoking, texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. And they exemplify the job dedication that is so revered in Korean culture. Once a friend and I saw a pizza delivery driver drop his bike at high speed and slide violently into a concrete wall. When we asked if he was OK, his only response was to check to make sure the pizzas hadn’t been damaged.
Korean delivery men, I salute you. Now, just tell me how to say my current address in a way you will understand and we can begin a glorious reciprocal relationship.
Last year I got burned. Hard. And it has taken almost eight months to fully recover.
How or why exactly is an extremely long story, and one which I am working on telling fully – but for now I cannot do this tale the justice it deserves. In a nutshell, my best friend and I tried to have a grand adventure, and it ended in misery. We signed on as crew of a small yacht with the goal of sailing from Malaysia to Madagascar, but 3 months later we ended up stranded in the Maldives, mentally and financially broke.
This experience dealt a severe blow to my confidence, and my willingness to take risks. I thought seriously about giving up on what I wanted out of life and settling for something comfortable and secure. I convinced myself that achieving your dream life was an illusion, and that I was misguided in thinking that I could live it.
But last month I got my inspiration back. There was no catalyst, it just sort of happened one day. I am now ready to take risks again, to get what I want out of life or go down trying. Insert more motivational idioms here.
So today I put a down a hefty deposit on a photography workshop with Zoriah Miller, one of my favourite photojournalists, and someone whose work I have been following for the last 3 years. I’m not sure how I originally found him, but it was well before I had decided to pursue photography as anything more than a hobby.
What inspired me about Zoriah was not that he took amazingly moving images (which he does), but the fact that he shares the process with others. There are so many amazing people found on the internet who create wonderful things, but there is no insight into the how or the why. Zoriah’s site, however, is an in depth look at how a dedicated professional works – and, more importantly, why he is compelled to do what he does.
I am not expecting Zoriah to make me a great photographer, or to spoon feed me a photo opportunity that will get me published on the cover of Time Magazine. But its a start, and a positive one at that. There is a long road ahead, and there is no magic bullet for how to get what I want. I could get lucky and be supporting myself fully from photography by the end of next year, but I sincerely doubt it. Probably it will be a drawn out affair, developing slowly over 5 or 10 or 20 years. I am not counting on retiring any time soon.
The website, the writing, the worskhop – they are all manifestations of me trying to set myself on a track towards getting what I want. So if you read any of what I post on this blog, you don’t have to remind me that I am not a professional. My pictures are not the most moving frames you have ever seen. The material I have now is not going to change the world. I know all this. But I will get there.
If you need to hear this stuff from someone else, listen to this guy. He’s completely wired, but his words are still great. He’s high on dreams!
At over 60km, the number 2 Seoul subway line (a.k.a. “the green line” or “circle line”), is the longest circular metro track in the world. Started in the late 1970′s, the line now has 52 stations and a mind boggling quantity of human traffic – roughly 2 million passengers daily, according to the city’s 2010 published statistics.
Many Korean’s will spend hours per day in Seoul’s subways, and I think that these prolonged periods of being trapped in transit have partially fueled the country’s obsession with small electronic gadgets.
Korea is the epicenter of the smartphone/tablet revolution. It is not uncommon to see a 7 year old kindergarten student with a touch screen cell phone fastened around their necks as they walk to school, and this trend solidifies with age. According to some studies, by the time they reach highschool, the average Korean youth will be sending more than 100 text messages per day. One friend of mine was given a free trip overseas for being crowned the fastest texter in his university.
Now that phones are also wired to the internet (South Korea boasts the fastest internet connections in the world and the most complete wifi network of any country), they have become more like extensions of their bodies rather than useful communication tools.
My views on technological addiction aside, I have spent innumerable hours on Seoul’s subways myself, most of them on the Green Line (in fact, to get these photos I did three full laps which totals 180km and about 4 hours). While the cars are often packed and nightmarish, I instead wanted to show just a few frozen moments, representative of these lives in commute.
Ed Kashi is a VII photojournalist, or long-term storyteller as he calls himself. Kashi’s work ranges from social to environmental issues, and his projects reflect his passion for the subject matter he is documenting.
This video is from a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute, and it covers some of his most recent material. Kashi has been published in publications such as National Geographic and Time. He is especially interesting to me not just for his amazing photographic vision, but also because of his experiments with multimedia and short films.
His offshoot media company, Talking Eyes, is a great example of a posible future for documentary media.
Ed Kashi at the Chautauqua Institute
The sight of the elderly pulling garbage carts around the street is nothing new, but I never really understood where they go with their loads. To answer this question I decided to follow a tiny woman who looked to be about 70.
She led me to a small community dump, walled in corrugated iron, but otherwise completely non-descript. If the gate had been shut I likely would not have known anything was there. It was neighboured by a large apartment building on one side, and a real estate agency on the other. Korea is a place of surreal juxtapositions.
Once I started photographing the mechanical vehicle loader I was approached by one of the workers. He seemed suspicious and uncomfortable with me, but after breaking the ice with my sub-par Korean he warmed up. He wouldn’t let me come fully inside the ‘facility’, but he didn’t chase me away either. Over the next while I plan to go back a few times and see if I can eventually get a more in depth look at this hand-drawn life.
As far as I know the garbage carts are a way for the unemployed or financially unstable elderly to make a little money (how little I can’t imagine). It has also been suggested to me that some of them do it simply to have a reason to leave the house every day, but as of now its all uncertain to me.
A work in progress.
This is an interesting watch for anyone interested in documentary photography or photojournalism. I know that I don’t personally expect to make a money from this for many years (if at all), but it is nice to hear some working pros talk somewhat optimistically.
A Google search of “the future of photojournalism” will return innumerable pages and quotes professing the death of the industry, and that anyone who would plans to follow photography as a dream or an art form is naive and misguided. Listening to these four, however, gives some hope.
Documentary photographers have never made much money, and I am prepared for that. But it is reassuring to hear that the future is not bleak, but rather exciting and full of possibility.
Himba women are red. That was my first impression driving into the small village outside of Uis, a small community in central Namibia. Their hair, their bodies, even the earth they built their villages on – all red.
During the first few weeks in Namibia, I had noticed these red women sporadically. In the gas station; walking through the aisles of the supermarkets; sitting at the side of the road. It seemed completely bizarre to see a woman of Amazonian presence, red from head to toe (including lengthy red dreadlocks), casually buying a tin of snuff from the local grocer. And while I eventually stopped gaping every time I saw them, the curiosity always remained.
So when a man stopped Brad, my traveling companion, and I on the side of a dusty road in Uis to ask us if we would like to drive out to visit one of the remaining Himba settlements in the area, we jumped at the chance. Well, in truth we initially feared a scam, but once we were told that the only payment required were some sacks of corn meal and a few kilos of sugar (no cash) we decided to take him up on his offer.
The village was an hour away, down a bumpy access road. Among the dung and thatch huts sat a large circle of women and children, all of them red. After giving them our ‘gifts’ we were given free range of the village, and spent the day trying to communicate with them through music, photos, and sign language.
The Himba are descendants of the Herero, sheep herders who were displaced from their traditional lands by an intertribal conflict. The Himba are nomadic, moving their cattle from place to place in search of grazing lands. The ‘village’ we saw was actually just a temporary camp that they would inhabit until their cows had eaten all the grass in the area. The men mind the herds during the day while the women stay in the camp to do domestic chores and prepare food.
Their striking redness is a product of ochre and fat, which the women rub on themselves and in their hair to protect themselves from the sun as they churn milk into sour yoghurt. It gives them their distinctive colour (and unforgettable smell!). From what I could see, the men were not similarly dyed, but I never found out why this was a specifically female habit.
I took a series of portraits of some of the Himba, which you can see HERE.
While walking around the sidestreets of Nam Guro with some friends, I met a nun named Hong Seun-Hwa. Korean religious types, particularly of the Catholic and Jehova’s Witness persuasion, always seem eager to talk with foreigners – and more often than not have a decent command of English. Seun-Hwa curiously approached me as I was sitting on a ledge taking photos of a small blue door. Apparently she lived behind said blue door along with 35 of her sisters. For the next 25 minutes she gave me some historical background of the area (as well as encouraging me to see the wisdom of God).
Apparently the name Guro comes from a legend that once nine (“gu” in Korean) old men enjoyed “a miraculously long life in the area”, and so the neighbourhood was renamed in celebration of their longevity. Having lived in the area for many years, Seun-Hwa had witnessed the dramatic changes in the area as the municipal government rezoned Guro into a modern digital business area.
I wasn’t allowed to follow her into the convent, though I’m not sure if thats because I’m a man, or because I told her I wasn’t Catholic. But the fact that there were 35 Korean nuns living behind a non-descript concrete wall confirms that in Seoul there is a story behind every door, even if it can’t be seen from the street.