Story by: Dylan Goldby, Photos by: Mark Eaton
Groove Korea: Tell us a little about Mark Eaton, the man and the photographer.
Mark Eaton: Most importantly, I am a husband and a father. I am an American by birth married to a Korean woman, and we have three adult daughters.
I graduated from the University of Arizona in a different century. I use Canon ES digital cameras and I rely upon natural or available light only. My photographic work has been exhibited in the United States as well as in South Korea. Some of my work, including my figure nude work, has been published in books and magazines here and abroad.
Tell us a little about your inspiration to photograph Korea. What gets you out the door?
I prefer the concept of minimalism in photography, and South Korea is a minimalist’s haven if one can redact, in the visual sense, all the unnecessary clutter and noise so common in the country. My goal is to share a story or a metaphor through photography.
I have a deep appreciation for water and the sea. My longitudinal photographic work at Waon Beach mostly features the interaction between mankind and nature. In order to compose a story using minimalism as a guide, it is necessary to walk the same trails as the fisherfolks, farmers, harvesters and villagers.
You live in a beautiful area. Tell us about your little secret, Waon Bay.
Waon Beach faces west into Suncheon Bay. This isn’t a swimming beach; it is a working beach. Unlike its more popular sister, known simply as Suncheon Bay, which entertains visitors by the thousands, Waon Beach sees far fewer visitors, yet its character and beauty is deep. Much of the fishing village has been built on the slopes of the mountain, and that means space is at a premium. Even though Waon Beach isn’t all that far from Suncheon, it is a rural area that sees a lot of agricultural work. It is being discovered, however, as a couple of guest houses and pensions have been built recently on the slopes overlooking the beach. There is a five-storied resort that has a very nice restaurant on the top floor with a phenomenal view of Suncheon Bay and the setting sun.
Waon Beach is my most visited locale to photograph all things related to the sea. It isn’t crowded with tourists, so I’ve never been jostled or bumped once while there.
What is your favorite time to get out there, and how can we recreate these spectacular images of yours?
I prefer to visit Waon during, or shortly after, a storm. The broad expanse of Suncheon Bay at this location provides so many great scenes and compositions that cannot be realized in many areas of South Korea due to the mountainous terrain of the country. Additionally, the low tide shows the design elements in unique ways that combine the natural with the man made.
Interestingly, a wise decision was made by someone to build an enclosed structure adjacent to a parking lot used by visitors. This structure is spacious and it has large sliding-glass windows that provide an almost perfect view out onto Suncheon Bay while at the same time protecting a photographer’s gear during storms. That restaurant on the top floor of the resort I mentioned earlier has many areas from which to photograph during different types of weather.
What’s the best tip you can give to a photographer heading down your way?
I have photographed at Waon Beach during the differing four seasons. It should be noted that photographing in the area during the winter requires effective and appropriate winter clothing. The winds blow with great strength from the sea onto land, and my wife is amazed at how easily the winds can move my considerable bulk. And that wet wind is a bit chilly. I will not use my tripod in this winter wind. It should be noted I have much respect for the men and women who harvest the sea in this area during the winter season.
I always bring my own food and water when I travel to Waon Beach, because there just are not that many corner markets to stroll into when thirst and hunger strike. Because it is rural, it gets dark in a hurry; a strong flashlight with extra batteries are essential items found in my camera bag. Two bus lines run from Suncheon to Waon, beyond, and back: the 97 bus and the 98 bus are the Suncheon City municipal buses that travel great distances carrying passengers and goods.
To see more of his work, go to his website http://eatonmark.com
Directions to Suncheon City
Board the KTX express train from Yongsan Station in Seoul