When Byun first started his project in 2005, he hauled around a massive camera. But upon discovering stiff and expressionless faces in the photographs, he switched to a DSLR in 2012 and took the contestants’ portraits without much direction. “Think of this as a rehearsal. Do whatever you want!” is what he actually said. “I recall a man from Gangwon-do who owns a local restaurant in Sokcho, who really, really poured his heart out during the shoot. Looking at the pictures on the surface, they’re fun, but what I see are the sorrows of the average Korean—cause 80% of the contestants are lower middle class citizens. The project is about the joys and sorrows of their lives, so I take these pictures with a sense of social duty.” The dedicated photographer still finds joy in photographing the fantasies of Korean locals all over the country for this ongoing project. We only hope the photos continue to accumulate and age with the program’s 30-year history, as these kinds of portraits are not only artistic, but depict a frank record of Korea’s national character over the past decade as it continues to evolve with time.
More Seoul eye
Photographer Byun Soon-choel travels all over Korea to take portraits of the average Korean citizen.
See that puffy-haired gal waiting for the bus in her wide blue jeans? She’s Korean all right, but definitely not from the North.
The “true and dark side of plastic surgery” as photographed by Ji Yeo.
Despite the ever-so-slightly awkward smiles and staged poses, the people in these photos are real families that live in the same apartment complex.
With over 63k followers, you may know him as @seoul_stateofmind.