Photo Essay 2014

Ryan Burge

Ryan Burge


Ghost Flowers In South Korea

South Korea was an extremely humbling experience – to leave my bubble and escape my box in society here in Topeka Kansas was a life changing experience.  I started this trip with the intention of having the ultimate humbling cultural experience and I accomplished this mission. I taught English, learned Korean and went to Korean University and passed all my classes in a different language. I knew nothing when I got off the plane and took the hard road of full on cultural immersion to learn the language and way of life. It was a sink or swim experience and I survived it!

While In South Korea I did learn much, but what I learned the most about was myself. It was a deeply introspective experience that made me realizes how I act and treat myself through an international lens. What I saw through that lens was something I missed – an old me that I have neglected. Something that made that reminded me of a long lost version of myself that appreciated the small things that made my happiness more succinct. I was quite lonely and homesick in South Korea – this made me stir crazy. So I did what I had to do to earn some money and I went out, got a license, bought a motorcycle and rode to the North Korean border and back again.

What I saw on my travels was a country unleashed – a contrast between the old and the new – nature and technology form a bond in nation that has rapidly industrialized to the point of such extreme contrast between the two.

            I had to capture this the best I could after visiting a beautiful Park in the heart of Gunpo on the other side of the mountain range my university was situated.  This park was situated up the side of a mountain adjacent a cityscape with both new and old infrastructure.  This mountainside has little to no trees on it – but is absolutely covered in incredibly bright and vibrant azalea bushes that bloomed flowers for only 2 weeks right at the beginning of spring.  This mountain is a sea of pinks, purples, reds, blues and green.  The feelings this instilled in me brought me to tears – not for the beauty but for what the beauty reminded me of, a younger more appreciative version of myself that shared this feeling of moving forward with your life with the world instead of keeping it to himself.

I was walking up and down the mountain all day and at the end of it all I saw this family enjoying their precious little time off they have off from the Korean work grind and they are enjoying it fully.

I saw a grandmother getting ready to take a picture of little girl in front of a flower bed and statue with open arms, I snapped a picture, then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I need to remember these simply joy while they are still within my grasp.

It was a wake up call about everything wrong with my life – What I take for granted in life – friends, lovers and family that I have loved and lost flashed across my mind and I knew then I had to come back to this place.

             I took advantage of my new motorcycle situation and rode my bike back to this place (without getting lost) at around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning after hours and snuck into this park to do some interpretational light painting next to the flowers on the mountain. I was able to do this more readily without getting in the peoples way. It allowed me to express my emotion and capture the beauty and contrast of the nature vs. civilization aspect of South Korea.