▲ At left, Chris Dwyer. Right, Shazwan Singh poses for Chris in Jaipur, India. Photos courtesy Chris Dwyer
Chris Dwyer is an islander through and through. Hailing from a remote Newfoundland island, this Canadian multi-disciplinary artist has lived coast to coast in his native country. An English teacher in Jeju City, Chris has a background in writing, design, photography, illustration, and music. He is often seen photographing and participating in all sorts of events around the island. His Web site is chrisdwyer.ca.
I hear photography is a big passion of yours. When did you first become interested in taking photos?
I started taking photos about 15 years ago. It was kind of incidental, some of my friends were photographers and one of them lent me an old Russian camera, a Zenit, to take with me to Europe. Once I figured out how it worked, I was off to stalk Dutch cows at sunrise.
What kinds of photography do you like taking most? Portrait? Landscape? Urban?
I started largely with urban decay. Landscape photography has become an interest on Jeju Island, and candid portraiture is a favorite. People just being themselves.
What do you like most about photography?
Studying light and storytelling.
What camera do you shoot with?
Until a few months ago I was shooting with a Nikon F3, but getting high grade or properly stored film here had been a problem. I just got a D7000, so I’m still climbing the digital curve. I love it though.
Has photography evolved into more than a hobby for you? If so, what kinds of projects have you done?
I would call it a professional hobby. I’m familiar with the technical aspects behind photography but I would never want it to feel like work. I’d probably start to hate it. In the past I’ve done a lot of story-telling, since my background is in writing. I’ve done stories set in a dystopian future, an abandoned mental asylum, in a seedy motel. I’m working on a story idea for Jeju.
What is one of your favorite photos you have taken and why?
That’s a hard one. I guess one of my favorites would be of Shazwan Singh from Jaipur, India. I was wandering the streets and found him sitting there, just being Shazwan. So regal. He let me take a bunch of photos, and I had to go print them immediately so I could find him the next day and give them to him. That one comes to mind, but I don’t think I have an actual favorite photo.
Do you have any interesting future plans involving photography?
There’s lots of things I would like to do, but I feel a little limited with locations and resources, and of course my lack of spoken Korean. I’m setting up a project right now, and almost all of the supplies I needed had to be ordered from outside of the country. I’m headed to Thailand this winter, so I’ll be shooting there as well.
What do you find interesting to shoot in Jeju?
Scenery, old architecture, the people. But, perhaps due to modesty, random Koreans rarely let me take their photos. When did you come to Jeju Island?
Almost two years ago.
Why did you choose to live in Jeju initially and what has made you continue living here?
I’m from Fogo, a remote island on the east coast of Canada. My home province is an island, and my decision to move to Korea was made while I was there. The thing about island people is that no matter where in the world you go, there is a sort of kinship that transcends language and culture. So with the idea to move literally across the world into a foreign culture, I figured it was a safe gamble. Fortunately, I was right. Jeju is very comfortable.
Do you think there is a community here that helps you utilize your creative outlet?
Sure. My friends are supportive, especially my girlfriend, who has been invaluable in my sometimes crazy, random pursuits. There’s also a lot of creative and social events among the foreigners of Jeju that provide lots of opportunity to share work. Within the Korean community, I have been very fortunate to meet people who are friendly and always eager to help out. They’ve been especially helpful when I need to find random items and don’t even know where to start looking.
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