Photographer Marco Devon
Written by: Andrew Cummings
Before Marco Devon moved to Korea, he had barely even touched a camera. Now, he works mainly with street and portrait photography, regularly producing content on social media.
Portraiture is a relatively recent venture for Marco and has exercised a marked influence on his documentary shots.
“It has definitely made me consider how to approach people more appropriately in order to capture the look or mood that I’m after”, he elaborates. Portraiture, and more generally the camera itself, are “wonderful tools for bringing you closer to people, placing you in situations you wouldn’t otherwise get into”.
At the same time, he tries to resist the temptation to take photographs wherever he goes. There was a time when he’d focus on “getting the next best shot because you want to preserve the memory as best you can. I’d get the shot but more often than not I’d be without the memory”. The key, he elucidates, is balance. “I’ve learnt to choose when to pick up the camera and when to leave it on the table and rather make a human connection with the people in the room”.
Another aspect of practising photography that Marco has had to grapple with is his social media presence.
“I think social media can mess with your mind if you’re not careful. You start grading yourself on the number of ‘likes’ you get and allow that to determine your attitude about your work… You may also sometimes be inclined to share what you think your audience wants as opposed to what you want to share.”
There are positives, though: having a commitment to social media “can keep you on your toes” and provide motivation. Again, equilibrium is important.
Looking at Marco now, a practising photographer engaging in various creative projects, there is a stark contrast with the same man of four or five years ago. At the time,
“I had absolutely no idea how to create an image, and I didn’t even own a camera”, says Marco. Growing up in “a bit of a dangerous neighbourhood” in South Africa, looking at photos provided a form of escape. “Black and white photos pulled me in the easiest, but when a colour image got my attention, it had it for a long time”, Marco explains, adding that the wonder of images lay in their ability to “make me daydream a bit and forget about what was happening around me”.
It wasn’t until coming to Korea that Marco picked up a camera himself. “I’m very grateful for [my experiences in] Korea”, he admits. As an outsider, he’s been in a better position to “just observe… I’m not too close but not too far from things, which for me is perfect, allows me to ‘see’ better”. He’s also made connections with other expat photographs, including Dylan Goldby, with whom he recently completed a project about the Seoul subway system. In short, in Korea Marco has been given the time and space to explore photography as well as understand how his previous experiences can contribute to his own way of seeing.
“I’m [also] grateful for my past experiences, be them good or bad. They’ve all contributed to me getting to this point”.
Marco can clearly define his particular way of seeing, an ability honed by his explorations with photography and which in turn offers him greater success as a photographer. “Seeing doesn’t necessarily mean using your eyes”, he says, which can sometimes be “ridiculously frustrating”. For a rewarding practice, Marco has found he needs to engage different senses. To produce subtle images, he explains, he might listen to “soft music”, which sharpens his mind and enables it to “see with subtlety”. Marco calls this process, which involves filtering what the mind is exposed to in order to induce different states of mind, “feeding yourself the right exposures”.
As well as the senses, Marco draws inspiration from different art forms; his online posts often come accompanied by quotations from artists, writers or musicians. Perhaps because of the unique approach or subject matter of the artist, one art form, he believes, can provide the photographer with the tools to interpret or reinterpret something else. “I don’t think I can narrow my inspiration down to a particular person or thing” he explains, although music is the most moving medium for him, particularly the RnB, deep house, and ambient genres. “It’s always changing depending on the mood I’m in” he adds as a caveat.
How does Marco expect to use his inspiration in the future? Are further Korea-focused projects in store for him?
“Seoul is full of surprises”, he begins, “but it’s my hometown [Cape Town, South Africa] that I’d really like to photograph. It has a tremendous amount of character, but I’ve seen relatively few photographers capture it. It’s special not only because it’s my hometown, but also because of its diversity and the charm of the local people. I didn’t own a camera when I lived there so I have very little to show of Cape Town to date. Hopefully that will change soon.”
To view more of Marco’s work visit his FACEBOOK page