I was very fortunate while living in South Korea to be invited as a guest to so many different celebrations and ceremonies. This one stands out in my memory. One of the most comfortable weddings I was invited to. Lots of fun…country side fun. Eventually I will post some of the other Korean weddings that I have shoot. Stay tuned.
Every morning I cycle by Saint Michael’s church on saint Urbain. It is my daily ritual to talk with my patron saint. I used to live on Waverly street and I was baptized at Saint Michael’s. As a child I remember being fascinated by the enormous stained glass windows and the statue of the Franciscan Monk with a skull at his feet. I recently stopped in for a visit and say a prayer. It was a welcome home coming. These pictures were taken this past summer when the light was particularly beautiful.
Here are some pictures from the ghetto like white tea farms we visited during our tea buying expedition.
These are pictures from the Chinatown years in Vancouver BC. Taken during the time I had no Camera.Well my Nikon Fm was out of commission and I couldn’t afford to have it fixed.These shots were taken by Al Roy, Arther and myself using their cameras. As long as I had my typerwriters and paper I was fine. I In those days I wrote instead of photographing. Only towards the end of my stay I did some shooting and self portraits using Tri X.But you’ll see those pictures in due time; I’m a tea turtle after all! The Last two pictures are from when I went dark and atmospheric! I’ve never returned to the light since…
I have always been attracted to photographing Asian public markets. When we walk through we witness how people interact with the producers of their foods, a relationship we’ve lost on a mass scale in North America.There is something very humanistic, and fresh, about shopping and buying from those who are directly associated with your food and community. Such a sharp contrast to the Styrofoam, pre-packed, labeled and marketed products that are distributed here by companies. I traveled to China to buy tea and research the Tea Farms. Thanks to my friends I had the perfect opportunity to travel and photograph both urban and rural outdoor public markets. Here are a few pictures from the trip, including a modern supermarket for contrast. Now if you’re actually shopping in a Chinese Market, and you’re a foreigner, have your Chinese friend do the buying if you want to pay the actual cost. The closer you stand to your Chinese friend the more you pay.
When our eye’s first encounter traditional Korean tea sets they might think that they are defective in some way. The cups are not perfectly round. In fact they’re lopsided, and the hand painted sets seem to have been thinly and sloppily applied, with runs dried into place. But all this is done Intentionally.So what does all this mean? In many respects we have been brought up with cookie cutter standards of perfection; at the first sign of imperfection we say: “hey how about a discount!” Most of the products we buy are exactly that: products, identical and devoid of any humanness. We cannot see or feel the artists uniqueness or the energy they put into creation. If we feel anything at all it’s the fragmented process of the assembly line.
The Korean potters that I have met and spoken with have told me that it is their intention to draw our attention the imperfections so that we may reflect upon them. Life is imperfection. A bump for example, may remind us of a beauty mark; it’s a apart of us. However, for some a beauty mark is a defect, and they seek surgical solutions.
Korean potters reconnect us with our own nature through the use of simple, familiar shapes and the elements that are used; through earth, water, wind, and fire we can identify and contemplate our own humanity. For that reason potters are special artists, because they create functional art from which we can sense ourselves and our relationship with the world we live in.
Design, color, texture, and the energy I feel in a tea set reflects mood, mind and personality of the potter; but more than that the tea set represents and connects me to the universe. When I examine the delicate and intricate crack lines in the pouring bowl, or the cups, it is like looking at the lines in the palms of my hands, or like looking up at the constellation in the night sky and seeing the connections. And this reminds me of the phrase ” a butterfly in Hong Kong affects the weather in New York.”
The tea sets that these Master potters make are not destined for museums. Museums are like the catacombs. They displayed dead objects under glass for spectators who pay an admission fee. It is only by using the pottery, by holding it in our hands that we can feel it’s energy, and gain introspection into our own lives and existence.
traditional tea sets are our teachers. They are vessels that instruct us in the meditative process of drinking a single cup of green tea. Tea is not about consumption, it’s about the process; that links us to the moment, to our true being, and the universe in which we live.
Finding and buying some of the best tea depends on relationships and introductions. Last year when my partner and I were purchasing tea in China, we were fortunate enough to have been introduced to the West Lake region and where the real Long Jin / Dragons Well Green Tea is grown, harvested and produced. Here we met a fantastic tea farmer and his family who indeed had some of the best quality Long Jin Green Tea. Timing is everything during harvest time as the tea quality changes quickly. We were able to buy the 1st and 2nd flush / picking and it was a real treat. Human hands mean love, and we could taste the hard work and pride in his superior green tea.
After the tea is picked and shade dried, the leaves are baked using this cauldron. Here lies the art of baking the leaves to bring out the full character of this delicious green tea.
We all find teachers when we need them.Lessons are all around us, but we have to know where and how to look. I used to think how the teachers in the school system failed me terribly, but really they taught me very well, only not in the way I expected. Traveling through this world I have met many true teachers living according to their truths. I have been really blessed in my journey, and have met some wonderful mentors. While living in Korea my Korean older brother Lee Jae Young introduced to his Master, a Buddhist Monk by the name of Doe Sung Se Nim. Doe Sung Se Nim is a very special man for me. Just by looking into his eyes he could confirm the truth I carried inside myself. I would travel a long way to his temple with my head full of questions, but the moment I sat before him they all evaporated. I realized there was nothing to ask. His presence comforted and explained without the use of words, and to this day his warm eyes and happy face shine still for me. Deep down inside i know the path i must take, yet I resist still: like when I would listen to the sound of his Mok Tak and chanting at 2.45am, still laying on the warm floor under the blankets in the cold mountain air,conscious, awake, but still sleepy, clutching at every minute of comfort and warmth. Every thing in its own time. Anyways, here is a portrait I took of him for our Tea Zen label. I hope his picture inspires you daily as you drink your delicious tea .
After spending time with Do Sung Si Nim, a Korean Zen Master, I returned to British Columbia and landed on the shores of the Sun Shine Coast. I soon found a little cabin in Hopkins Landing, and set up the Live Like Water Tea Room. Steep by steep I met the locals, and many wonderful relationships blossomed.