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‘Jeju U-do Island the Hidden Treasure’Collection fails to deliver the real beauty of Udo
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승인 2010.09.18  19:02:27
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▲ A sampling of work from this new collection of Udo images. Photos by Park Chul Jin

There is no shortage of photographers exploring Jeju Island and its surroundings. Considering there is so much raw natural beauty, why shouldn't there be? What is unfortunate about this abundance of DSLR-wielding missionaries is that much ado is often made of nothing. “Jeju U-do Island the Hidden Treasure,” with photographs by Park Chul Jin, is a free local government publication that offers both achievements and failures in photography. What appears to be a tourist-dollar-driven book contains a combination of pretty, considered photographs and those which would be better not displayed publicly.

Its introduction, “U-do Island” counts the “eight great sights of U-do.” In listed order, they are Juganmyeongwol, a cave where the sun appears to be the moon reflecting off the water; the lights from anchovy boats off the shore; views of Seongsan, Halla, Jimi peak, and other Jeju oreum; the panoramic view from Udo peak; views of Udo from Jongdal and Hado; Udo’s dramatic cliff, Huhaeseokbyeok; Dongangyeongul, a cave rumored to have been inhabited by whales; and a beach whose sand is actually crushed remains of seashells, Seobinbaeksa. Whether all of these “great sights” are beautiful or exaggerated is not clearly demonstrated by this book.

Some of the landscapes in “U-do Island” are quite nice. Considered, and taken at the right time of day, they do a good job of displaying natural beauty. One could ask if Jeju Island photographers can escape the 23-year legacy of renowned nature photographer Kim Young Gap, but one could also ask why they would want to. Udo, just as Jeju Island, lends itself well to Kim Young Gap-style panoramas. Well-grounded, colorful, sometimes moody, and with plenty of sky, they are both peaceful and interesting. Some of Park’s photos even capture the wind moving reeds or grass in the foreground, just as Kim Young Gap did in his famous images.

Others are not Kim Young Gap-inspired, and they stand on their own. For example, on pages 28 to 29 is a very colorful, if slightly stark composition. It is weighted nicely, and the building in the mid-ground really makes it stand out, creating a scene that one might imagine in a Tim Burton film. On pages 34 and 35 appears a picture very appropriate for a tourism book. The quality is high, and it shows one of the more striking features of Udo in a good light.

On the other hand, some of the photographs seem ill-planned. One could wonder why Park put them in the book until noticing that his name does not even appear on the cover. On pages 78 and 79 appears one of the more egregious examples of these photographs. Taken in terribly harsh light and with the camera pointed more or less towards the sun, Park fails to capture detail in the most important parts of his composition. The caption seems oblivious to this, remarking on the “beauty of sharing.”

If Park had wanted to take a picture of these particular horses in this light, he might have decided to silhouette them against the sun or to shoot them from a different angle. Instead, “U-do Island” offers us a photo without foreground, mid-ground, or even background interest. What’s more, the digital noise is significant, and the photo does not enlarge well.

If the landscapes of “U-do Island” are hot and cold, then the pictures of people are entirely lacking. Failing to show character or offer insight into life on Udo, they are no more than stock photographs of haenyeo and tourists shot from a distance. Even in photographs of haenyeo, as many backs are displayed as are faces. Being an offshoot of such an interesting island, one could imagine that great and interesting characters live on Udo. If they do, they are not in this book.

Of course none of this all speaks badly about the quality of landscapes on Udo. It speaks badly of the pictures in this book. If the wheat were cut from the chaff, a book of the same work, but with roughly one-fourth of the content would better accomplish the goal of promoting Udo as a beautiful place.

For more information on Udo, please consult The Jeju Weekly, Issue 32, pages 14-15.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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