A Korean Love Affair
Photographer Shuvra Mondal:
Written by Oisin Feeney
It’s hard to catch a break in Seoul city. It is a city that never sleeps. Some photographers choose to shy away from this intensity, shooting scenery and landscapes instead. Others delve into this world and street photography becomes their art. Then there are photographers like Shuvra who takes this intensity and brilliance and gently puts a silent frame around it. One of his favorite things to do in Seoul is to go ‘Rooftopping’. For those unaware, ‘Rooftopping’ is exactly as it sounds. Photographers try to get access to some of the highest, usually restricted, roofs in Seoul in order to capture the city from a different angle. As Shuvra puts it:
“Roof-topping is like a mission for me! You basically need to sneak into most of them in Seoul. Finding the right spot is the first step, then checking the security is the next. Basically you need to avoid all human contact”
Once you get past the human element, the rest is easy. The results really speak for themselves and are featured in this piece. Shuvra has a totally unique view of the city and it is here that he has really come into his own and developed his style. His cityscapes are vibrant and colorful, showing the flowing pulse of Seoul in a very elegant manner.
Shuvra was born in Bangladesh where he completed an undergraduate degree in Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering. He decided he wanted to stay in the field by doing a masters degree, which led him to Seoul on a scholarship from the Korean government. He has a lot of gratitude for the Korean government for giving him the life he has over here today. He will be finishing up his time at university this year but it sounds to me like he has no intention of going home!
But why did he choose to live in Korea? When he was doing some travelling in 2011 he arrived in Korea and it was love at first sight. The technical advancements and quality of service he experiences over here are on a different level. As well as that he loves virtually all Korean food. When I asked him about his favorite place to shoot in Korea he had this to say:
“I love roof topping where I get a magnificent view of Seoul city lights, I love mountains where I can get nature, I love temples and palaces where you will find history and culture. I have visited almost all the major cities and some very rural places like Muju and I was stunned with its beauty.”
Korea had a profound effect on Shuvra with regard to his photography. Before Korea he had been shooting with his Iphone and a Point and Shoot camera, rarely changing the settings away from auto. All this changed when he arrived to the city that would soon become his home, Jeonju. In his own words:
“the city with endless opportunity to fall in love with Korean culture and tradition that inspired me to keep them in my memory with photographs.”
He bought his first DSLR, a canon 650d in November 2012, and has not looked back since. His fascination has always been long exposure photography so the first thing he did with his 650d was change the setting from auto to aperture priority.
His two favorite styles of photography are portrait and landscapes, the latter giving him a serene pleasure. According to him, on the worst of days, he can go out into the night with a tripod and a camera and still come back smiling. He has done a number of photography projects over the past year while juggling long hours spent doing research in his lab. His ethic is quality over quantity so he does not like to spread himself too thin. He has shot events, video, portrait and even had a couple of exhibitions as well in Korea… and won a few competitions to boot! But at the end of the day, having a camera in his hand gave him the sense of adventure he had desired so:
“There were many times when I thought I would never have been there if I didn’t have my camera. Shooting time lapse, I have had to contend with restricted areas, 1000’s of mosquito bites, extreme cold and windy rooftops. I’ve hiked for hours to get to a summit to catch that perfect moment.”
Shuvra is completely self-taught, he trawls photography blogs and tutorials but most importantly he practices shooting as often as he can. He cites the photography of Steve McCurry his inspiration. “He makes his portraits alive with his use of color”. As well as that he loves photographers Chase Jervis and Vincent Laforet.
But what does Shuvra use to take such crisp, colorful pictures? His main camera is a Canon 6d but he is always changing his gear and lens. In the last three years he has had three DSLRs and switched a lot of lenses. His travel camera is the Fuji x20. The Fuji X series is quite popular among the established photographers in Korea. Roy Cruise also speaks very highly of them. Shuvra loves the x20 in particular for the sharpness, contrast and range (29-112mm). As well as that the sensor in the x20 is an xtrans sensor which gives phenomenal color reproduction to his stills. Although this camera cannot beat a larger, full frame camera it certainly is nifty and convenient! His favorite lenses are the 50ml prime for portraits and the 25-105L for landscapes. The majority of his processing is done through Lightroom and naturally, he shoots entirely in RAW.
So with all this talent, what does the future hold for Shuvra? The answer is unclear:
”I am more focused on my academics right now. I am planning to finish my MS and go for research. That will decide where I will be next. I love Korea I would like to be here for longer, but nothing is really confirmed at this moment.”
So if we do have to say goodbye to Shuvra, it will be bittersweet. He will have left a bounty of beautiful captures in his wake but he will be undoubtedly be moving on, and up, in the world.