I didn’t see many bicycles in my time in Korea. The severe congestion, combined with air pollution didn’t make it a safe proposition.
And yet, this image has two bikes in the frame. The image doesn’t seem to be Korea to me. The mature trees on the street; the architecture; the lush green within the city; the aspect of casualness; the bikes. However, the gestures of its subjects and expressions on their faces seem to make it unmistakably Korean.
It’s an image that I think I would have taken. There is a certain dialogue here; a definite spontaneity and importantly, a tension – it pulls the image together. The woman in the frame’s centre seems suspicious: ‘why is my photograph being taken?’. The young woman turning back on her bicycle perhaps could know the photographer, yet again, there is a certain surprise in her expression.
I didn’t take this photograph. In fact, I don’t even know who did, as I found the negatives on the street in Korea. Yet, the more I look at the image, the more familiar it seems to me. It appears that I have experienced the moment and there is also a cinematic feeling to the image. There is a perfection in its framing and in its rhythm. However, the time stamp on the bottom right almost certainly means that it is the work of a casual photographer.
The history of this image also reveals an interesting fact about popular image making: somehow, through a series of seemingly unlikely events, this image has been lost as a negative, then found by an Irish-born Australian in the streets of Seoul (the same streets where this photographer compulsively attempted to document his experience in that place), only to be scanned in Australia and placed on a blog for the world to see – should they discover it.
The film itself that captured this image only made that possible. There is a certain absurdity that up until quite recently, and for the mere blink of an eye in history, precise, haunting moments in time were captured on strips of film – many to end up being preserved in shoe boxes and randomly re-discovered later, and many to still await this fate. And now, more than ever images are ferociously being captured and consumed, their destination on hard drives and memory cards requires a delicate and intricate series of events to make their presence known. This same series of events seems now to us all a natural matter of fact – yet, when the power is cut, or the hard drive crashes, or the computer is stolen (containing a whole person’s visual history), this delicate balance becomes more evident.
And finally, the fact that the photographer was not me and is anonymous, has made it easy to make such a fluid examination of it.