For the first exercise of Part 3 of the course, I will be using my images from Danwon High School. I approached this shoot with this module in mind, and this fits into the first exercise brief nicely.
I had previously photographed the interview of two fathers whose children had perished in the Sewol ferry disaster in April 2014, and this project followed on from the interview. Myself and one more photographer were permitted access to the school to shoot the classrooms of the students who were lost last year. Most of the 2nd Grade perished in the disaster and many of the classrooms sat completely empty of students and teachers for the remainder of the year.
The focus of my images was to be the classroom space itself, the school the students spent so much of their time learning and growing into young adults. An empty school is slightly eerie but knowing why these classrooms stood empty was harrowing and shocking. I aimed to get across the design of the space and how it is intended to be used. I found the functionality of the classroom – empty chairs and desks, unused books, lockers with students names on – takes on a new, special significance when set in the context of the terrible events of last year, and my images convey something of this meaning to the viewer.
See the project write up here:
And in Photographers in Korea magazine:
As well as working on my course exercises, I recently helped out on a documentary project on the April 2014 Sewol disaster in Korea. Sewol was a ferry carrying nearly 500 people to the holiday island of Jeju. Amongst the passengers were over 300 students and teachers of Danwon High School. The incident has caused huge controversy in Korea, not least because of the terrible loss of 300 people including 250 students from Danwon, but also because of the captain and crew’s abandonment of the ferry. The government have also come under heavy criticism of the handling of the disaster and the rescue operation’s failure to save more lives.
This was a hugely sensitive project and I entered the school to find the classrooms as they had been left a year ago. I was moved by the flowers and sentimental tokens such as letters, photos, and snacks left on the students’ desks, but I found myself intrigued by the feeling of emptiness in the school and the fact that nothing had really been moved or touched since before the tragedy. My series became much more of a focus on the space of the school and the memories it holds for the parents of the victims, and the survivors.
The full series can be viewed here: