Like many others, Brian Miller came to Jeju as a teacher and stayed on as more. After working on the magazine “Jeju Life,” he began a book, “The Village Across the Sea.” The first printing came out just last week.
Brian took the time to answer some questions about the process of creating the book, the product of three years of hard work. This is Miller’s first foray into the publishing world.
Did you come to Jeju as a photographer or did you start here? I’ve been taking photos off and on since college but I really got serious about it while living on the island.
What was the impetus for this book? After we finished up work on Jeju Life I was looking for a new project and thought this would be a good way to go.
The first page says “An Expat’s View of Jeju.” Does your status as an expat give you a unique perspective? It wasn’t my intention for the book’s angle to be about seeing Jeju from an expat point of view, it was just something the government really wanted. Being non-Korean may give me a new perspective, but only in as much as I wanted to cover the island in a way that hadn’t been done by anyone here previously. The biggest difference between me and a lot of the photographers on Jeju, is that I’m largely interested in shooting residents of the island, and the photographers on the island are more interested in shooting the foreigners living here. Whenever I go to a cultural event it seems I’m working hard to get the shot of the big performance, while the Korean photographers are trying to get pictures of me and any of my non-Asian friends.
Do you have a favorite picture or section in this book? There’s a layout which describes an animal sacrifice in Waheul. I had tried and failed to see sacrifices a few times before, so when I did finally witness and photograph one, it was a huge thrill for me. It’s also the best example I can give of the book deviating from the normal subject matter of Jeju publications.
In your opinion, does the book show a side of Jeju that hasn’t been seen before? There are times when it does, as in the animal sacrifice and in coverage of lesser publicized events, like Baekhogi. I think the point that’s made in the beginning of the book about the haenyeo seing the disappearance of their trade as progress rather than a tragedy is an interesting one. It’s usually not discussed in English language publications about the haenyeo.
Would you comment on the kind of photography that people usually see in relation to Jeju? Most of the photos published on Jeju are very colorful, dreamy, and bright. I was trying to bring something a bit more gritty and real to the table. In fact, I've just heard from the Assistant Editor of 10 Magazine who thinks the book is too “dark”
What kinds of projects do you have planned for the future? Right now I’m working on a guide book about the island, but am still in search of a publisher.
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