Monday, August 06, 2012

High Street Low Street: Seoul Photography by Dayv Mattt

Dayv Mattt, also known as Chiam, is a photographer I've admired for quite a while now- he's had a handful of different blogs, and can currently be found at

Disclosure: he contacted me and offered to send me a copy of his book for free, in exchange for a review. I insisted on paying for it, because I admire his photography and want to support it, and because I still don't want my readers to feel like they have to doubt my writing because I've used my blog to get free stuff.

But more to the point... I simply love his photography. The man seems to wander around the same parts of Seoul that I do -- not to say the same parts geographically, but the same types of corners and  neighborhoods seem to attract his camera's eye. The search for a good subject leads him up hillsides and into alleyways instead of down the main streets - the grittier and more crumbled, the better, so his photos end up showing a Seoul that City Officials and Official Guidebooks rarely highlight in their urgent attempt to dazzle visitors with shiny lights and huge displays of pointless technology: places that pretend war in the long past, dictators in the nearer past, and poverty and class strife right goddamn now have never touched Seoul, which is a well-meant, but an outright lie.

Mattt's camera's eye also gives clear evidence that he has lived in Seoul for a long time, paid his dues: the tourist would not notice from their hotel room, or not realize how important and common an element of Seoul life they are, to include uniformed school kids swarming into the streets when the hogwans close, or the way people react when a pigeon explodes into flight. It takes a long time living here, and an observant eye, to know that some of the things documented in his book, actually are important parts of living in Seoul: more so, even, than touchscreen thingies on streetsides in Kangnam, or the ornate corners of austere hanok buildings against blue skies - which you have to go looking for, rather than walking by them on the way to the subway stop every day, and which even tourists can  catch in a point-and-click, and feel like they've captured something about Seoul that matters.

The crumbling stoop where somebody's grandmother is husking garlic cloves, the side-alley where middle-school kids linger between hogwan classes, or taxi drivers pull over for a smoke and a piss, where even the chicken delivery guy gets lost; random stoops decorated with drunken salarymen and graffiti-covered police buses get perceptive, and even loving treatment here, and this is why High Street Low Street is a new favorite book of Seoul photography.

The book is huge - A3 size, for those of you who feed paper into photocopiers, and beautiful, glossy and rich in color, with around a hundred full color, heavy paper pages. Mattt has self-published these beautiful editions, and is selling them independently, to help himself buy a replacement for his old camera.

Maybe the best thing I can say about the book is this: after spending some time with it, I feel like DayvMattt lives in the same Seoul I live in, and I bow to him for capturing in images the feelings of the Seoul I've lived in, and loved, cracks, uneven cobblestones, blind corners with sudden night views, pig faces and foul-mouthed middle-schoolers and night streetlights making old houses magical, and all.

I highly recommend this beautiful book of Seoul street photography. I will protect it from my baby for as long as I can, and I recommend you buy a copy at his website, through bank transfer or paypal, to support an artist trying to make something beautiful on his own terms.

The "buy my book" link. You won't regret it. I might order two more copies for my dad and step-mom when they come to Seoul.


Roboseyo said...

Thanks for the wonderful write-up. I'd like to mention that this week, I am having a sale on the book to help get some copies out the door. 

From my blog "My journey to Sri Lanka is soon approaching. I hope offering a saving of $10 a book will help sell a few more copies. The more books I sell this week, the closer I am to getting a new camera. If you want a pretty dope book of Seoul Street Photography, order one this week by emailing me at BE COOL" 

In Korea 20,000 includes regular Korean mail.
International $30 includes surface shipping anywhere in the world.
International $40 includes air mail shipping anywhere in the world.

Roboseyo said...

Your blog is great...

and I really loved Dayv Matt's Photography... 
Wish him all the best...

Roboseyo said...

Please do!  We look forward to seeing it when we get there in October.
Dad & Step-Mom

Roboseyo said...

thanks for sharing.