The Seoul Metro Project

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What do you get when you mix 17 photographers, copious amounts of coffee and over 400 subway stations?

The Seoul Metro Project!

The Seoul Metro Project is a collaborative effort between 17 members of the Seoul Photo Club which photo documents over 400 stops comprising Seoul’s subway system. The club has been working on this project for years…literally. With all collaborative artworks, group commitment and solidity can sometimes have surface issues; however, the dedicated artists pulled through and realized none of the hiccups along the way could prevent this project from materializing.

The overall theme of the of the project is difference, “a term coined by the philosopher Jacques Derrida to combine two senses of the French verb differer (to differ, and to defer or postpone) in a noun which is spelt differently from difference but pronounced in the same way. The point of this neologism is to indicate simultaneously two senses in which language denies us the full presence of any meaning: first, that no linguistic element has a positive meaning, only an effect of meaning arising from its differences from other elements; second, that presence or fullness of meaning is always deferred from one sign to another in an endless sequence.”(Parker Pg.1, The Seoul Metro Project)

In addition to photographing assigned stations, each photographer submitted a first-person narrative about their experiences within the metro. Below, I have shared some quotes from a few of the contributing photographers’ written submissions:

“I do not fully understand the kindness of strangers, why someone would strike up a casual conversation with me simply for the joy of it or why someone would offer to show me a part of their country I have never seen, a place they are proud of, despite having only just met me and understanding little of who I am or where I am from.” – Flash Parker

“The interaction or sometimes conspicuous lack of interaction between people on the metro is fascinating. Vendors, passengers, buskers alike crowd the metro station, all interacting – or not interacting – en masse, day in and day out.” – Andrew Leonard

“Shortly thereafter, the ever-louder ‘clack-clack’clack’ of a cane being struck against the concrete announced the return of her husband, for whom she had evidently been patiently waiting. In reply, and I suppose to signal to him her location, she rapped her own cane loudly on the ground a few times. Reunited, the two boarded the next train.” – Sam Wigginton

“I was told once that at rush hour in Seoul, close to a million people would be underground riding the rails. I was also surprised to see that although there are so many people down below, none really interacted; most were lost in their own little world.” – Joe Tursi

“From kooky bargains like the five-disl collection of “Classic American Rock Songs” (abounding with tracks from the Swedish band Abba), to the ultimate amalgamation of form & function in the pink jagged piece of plastic that removes glogged hair from a sink pipe, we found many rides worth of entertaining merchandise.” – Aaron Brown

“If one is prepared and aware, the Orange Line can transcend a simple transit between points A and B, and become a journey between points in architecture, time, and culture.” – Aaron Raisey
“Picture the color of your bed, the paint on your walls and the sound of the unbalanced ceiling fan that lulled you to sleep. Some of these old details may be a little hazy but if you think hard enough you can recall everything. Details are the building blocks of our memories.” – Colin Roohan

“Hundreds of stations spanning three provinces, millions of eyes, a single goal: the desire to transpose. All of this boils down to a simple experience; anonymity in a cavernous expanse. This is the Seoul Subway.” – Dylan Goldby

“I find being the outsider gives me a unique perspective; it lets me strike out on my own. I’ve often been a person who has done things differently to others in life; this has sometimes given me a unique perspective in photography, and on life.” – Simon Bond

“It is a familiar yet easily formed metaphor; the subway is the circulatory system of a city. Effortlessly pulsating just below the steel and concrete skin.” – Jacob McEndollar

“In/out, up/down, curved/straight, at rest/in motion – these dichotomies are always at play in the subway.” – Anthony Dell’Ario

“You will also notice so much character in the people around you. It was an eye opening reminder that there are good photographs everywhere – you don’t always need to go to some elaborate place to take compelling pictures.” – Brian Keathley

“To me, during the days I spent riding its rails and exploring its stations, Gyeongui came to represent solitude, peace, and a time for introspection.” – Jesse Lord

The link below will take you to MagCloud, where you can order a printed or digital version of The Seoul Metro Project. I hope that you appreciate our work and share it with others.

The Korea Guide Tip:
When you visit the link above, make sure you click on the book cover to browse all the 208 pages of this book.

About the Author
Colin Roohan began his career as a photographer 3 years ago in Seoul, Korea. Since then he has traveled the globe, searching for inspiration and documenting his experiences with travel, culture and lifestyle. His images and words have been published in AFAR Magazine, Groove Magazine and The Korean Herald.


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