AN URBAN PHOTOGRAPHER'S GUIDE TO SEOUL
My home away from home and a vastly underrated travel destination...
From endless underground shopping to incredible nightlife... a vibrant, well-preserved culture and amazing, modern architecture... this sprawling city seriously has it all. Turns out, it's also a photographers paradise.
Nick Claasen, a New Zealand born photographer based in Hong Kong, is absolutely incredible behind the camera. Better known as @Fishmonkeycow, he has what is easily one of my favorite urban photography accounts on Instagram. I first came across Nick's account when "planning" my, very spur of the moment, trip to Hong Kong in early October, and, though he was out of town, he still gave me some great ideas on places to see and shoot.
As luck would have it, he came to Seoul a few weeks later. During his visit, we teamed up to create some minimal shots that show off just a handful of Seoul's many futuristic, architectural masterpieces.
Let it be known that, on the day of our shoot, the temps were below freezing (and I'd still yet to buy a real winter coat). It was snowing on and off throughout the day, and my bright red nose damn near sniffled its way right off my face.
These would typically be nightmare-ish conditions to shoot in. Thankfully, my boy fishmonkey has a keen eye for epic, minimal urban shots (that don't show red noses)... and these locations were perfect for that.
After spending the day running around Seoul with Nick, I can say without a doubt that he is one of the most creative people I've ever met. I 100% trusted his directions on where to stand, which way to look, and when to go up (or down) the stairs again for "just one more shot." (Thanks for the mini workout... I needed it).
I felt like a little video game character (with hypothermia), as I moved precisely (left, right, and back up the stairs) while he framed the lines, light, and shadows in each shot... something he does so well that even the most ordinary scenes end up looking extraordinary. Despite his keen creative eye, it's safe to say there is nothing ordinary about the following locations.
If you're into urban photography, and are travelling to Seoul,
here are five spots that you won't want to miss.
I was pumped when Nick said he wanted to shoot here because, despite living in Seoul for years, I still hadn't been. We arrived so early on that Saturday morning that the, typically crowded, famous walkway on campus was practically empty... which made for some incredible shots.
According to google images, this is also an epic spot to shoot after the sun goes down and the buildings light up.
Head to Ehwa Womans University Station on the green (2) line. Take either exit two or three and walk straight for a few minutes. You'll run right in to the university grounds!
On the southside of the Han, in an unsuspecting camera shop, is one seriously swoon-worthy spiral staircase. There's really not much to see here other than that... (unless you're in the market for some new Canon stuff), but it makes for a pretty cool "Down the Rabbit Hole"-esque shot.
If you're in Apgujeong, pop in to the CanonPlex for your next insta-post!
Head to Apgujeong Rodeo Station on the Bundang (yellow) line and walk straight out of exit 5. The CanonPlex will be just down the road on your right!
CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE... CANNNN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASEEEE!
IF YOU GO ANYWHERE IN SEOUL, LET IT BE HERE!
SERIOUSLY. This has been one of my favorite areas in the whole city since I first moved to Seoul in 2015. My friends make fun of me for loving it so much, but I CAN'T HELP IT - Look at those curves! (Plus I had a really adorable first date, first kiss on a butt-statue chair here, and it will, therefore, always hold a special place in my heart... the place, not the butt statue...).
Aside from its sentimental value, the DDP's futuristic architecture and design never cease to amaze and inspire. Be sure to wander inside the spaceships as well. Scotty might not beam you up, but I guarantee you'll find an exhibit, stairwell, or spacey corridor that'll make you feel like you're on another planet.
Head to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, (located on lines 2, 4, and 5), and walk out of Exit 1.
When the snow turned to rain, I caught the train towards Itaewon and ended up at the Book Park in Blue Square, a culture complex with a bookstore, cafe, and even a performing arts theatre. The walls lined with books from the floor to the ceiling, and the massive windows, gave this aesthetically pleasing location an extremely cozy feel.
There were several little nooks and lofts where you could literally sit amongst the bookshelves... so, that's exactly what I did. I got a cup of tea, pulled out my journal, and was happily stuck here waiting out the rain for the rest of the afternoon.
Note: BYOB(ook). As I wasn't here book shopping, I'm honestly not sure if any of their books are actually in English.
Located at Hangangjin Station on the brown (9) line, and just outside of exit 2.
This location is a spa, a boutique, lounge, and the home to what may be the most genius staircase concept I've ever seen. The metal grid alongside the outdoor stairwell seems to go on forever... and, though it actually stopped at the rooftop garden lounge, it was still awesome.
We got some really cool, minimal shots here - in most of which, I was either sticking my tongue out (or taking photos of Nick taking photos of me)... but I was such a minimal midget, you'd never be able to tell... (which is why I LOVE THIS TYPE OF PHOTOGRAPHY - as there's zero pressure on the person in the frame).
The golden metal staircase at Sulwhasoo would undoubtedly be an amazing background for portraits as well... but, unfortunately, at this point in the day, my sniffly nose was wayyyy too red and runny for that.
The Sulwhasoo Flagship Store (not to be confused with the Sulwhasoo Spa in Jamsil) is also accessible from Apgujeong Rodeo station.
Take exit 5 and walk straight along Seolleung-ro (선릉로). When you reach the first major intersection, past the CanonPlex & Sony store, turn right on to Dosan-daero (도산대로). Turn down the third road on your right. This spot will be down the road and on the right - can't miss it!