Giwon Kim+Haena Lee

04.06 2015 INTERVIEW DATE

Owners of Homemade Studio, Photographer

Hagi-dong, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon

Daejeon, a three hour drive from Seoul, is a city located in the middle of the country, sitting as a major transit point where main railways and expressways intersect. Most of who travel across Korea have a good chance of passing this city. The city's population elevated soon after the settlement of the Korean War refugees. It is a city that grew rapidly in such short a time it lacks historical traits nor features attractive enough to draw tourists. Nevertheless, located in the most quiet neighborhood among this rather dull city, this young couple's house is like a jewel in disguise, a concealed home for those living their very own ways of life. The two had a good reason for moving to their nostalgic hometown immediately after ending the glamorous life in Seoul where they worked as fashion photographers; the unknown story of Daejeon, a city with much affection. 

 

Yoonhee Kim

How about we start with a quick introduction?

Our names are Giwon Kim and Haena Lee and we run a photography studio specialized in baby photos called 'Homemade Studio' in Daejeon. It's our tenth year together this year, we have a child who was born last year and expecting another this winter.

Across from the tall, freshly-built apartment buildings, this gathered neighborhood of low-level houses is very interesting. I'm curious to know why you chose to live here in Hagi-dong.  

Hagi-dong is even unknown to Daejeon citizens. That's how silent the town is. It's literally hidden behind the estate of tall apartment buildings which makes it hard to find but is a very laid-back neighborhood. It lies at the foot of a mountain with a continuity of a low hill, a great slope for children with sleds on snowy days like today. I see hip grown-ups on skateboards too. My workplace is only a 10 minute walk from here so there were no reasons not to live here.

 

It is my third visit to Daejeon. Personally, the more often I visit, the more impressed I am and it feels like a great city to live in. To both of you Daejeon-borns, what kind of city is it?

Daejeon is, to our opinion, a very static city. It reacts to changes quite slowly and as a matter of fact, is pretty ignorant to the things going around. For that reason people describe it as a boring city but in the contrary that's what we love about. Should we put it as 'the city detached to changes'. It remains faithfully in its place and in today's time we think this is no longer a disadvantage. It's like a warm tub-once you start living in this city, you'll find it hard to move out.

 

So I guess despite your frequent visits to Seoul for cultural enjoyments, that could be the reason for neglecting to live there. Because visiting and residing are two different things.

Seoul to live in is just too expensive. And we've already gotten used to living in the affordable Daejeon. For us, Seoul is now a fantasy. And if you face Seoul as a tourist, everything feels new and beautiful and exciting. We've always thought of the city a fascinating one.

As a photography graduate, you did fashion photography in Seoul and then came down to Daejeon to run a studio for babies. Was there a special reason for you to do so?

I don't want to put it special, I'd say that I'm a fast quitter. I understood quickly that working day and night with no boundaries between work and free time is not the life I could manage to live in. The least I wanted was the life of my senior photographer. And the unpleasant memory of my childhood spent in Seoul could be another reason. When I was in elementary school, my mom worked in Jongno and I remember clearly the days I'd wander the streets of office buildings in Gwanghwamun, sometimes watching adults play pocket ball or I'd be mindlessly bouncing a tennis ball while she was at work. The city was such a lonely place for me as a kid and it still feels the same way.

 

Looking at your neighborhood and the style of your house, I could picture your taste and lifestyle. Could you share us your ways of life which you seek?

We feel uncomfortable when we possess something we think unnecessary. Instead we feel great attachment to things that are of good use, and we even seek functionality in decorative products. So if we come across unaccustomed things, it feels, well, awkward to hold them in our hands. We basically agree to 'keep distance with the flow of decorative trends and things that are too new' whenever we're off from work.

My first impression of this house was how nice the way every items are put, while it seems indifferent to any decorations at all. What part about this house made you choose it?

I'd rather say that we chose the neighborhood than the house only. We loved the scenery outside our front door, more than we did with the other side. There was no reason to add much to make it look cool and that's why we made our decision with this place. The aged trees out the windows would draw all shapes of shades and create a great view so there wasn't much for us to decorate. To our standards, everything was perfectly set already. The interior is uniquely structured with partitions of walls here and there with an unexpected loft (which I use as a dark room), a bit unrealistic like that of a set of a play, so we let the interior be. For us lazy and less-sophisticated couple, all we needed was to rest well and relax at our home.

Where in this house do you like most?

I like the front deck the most. On rainy days I'd crouch down under the awning with a drink in my hand and listen to Chet Baker. This, I'm aware, won't be a routine when I become a father of two soon enough, which I feel a little sorry about. And my wife likes to sit in the terrace and take-in all four seasons. We realized that our personalities have changed as we cohabit with the wonderful scent of grass and soil, the dirt, the singing birds since day one. Our sharpnesses have become significantly round and the fact that we start living a slow life is the best part. Especially, when we watch people take walks or work on their gardens, it gives us certainty to what to value most in our lives today and in the future.

 

Could you describe your day?

It's a simple one. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is to browse through the websites from my list of bookmarks to catch daily trends. It's ironic, I know, but for my job it's important that I do. When I finish work, I quickly switch into daddy-mode. And as for my wife, we used to work together but soon after our first child was born, she became a full-time mommy.

Your works are commercial but I noticed that you make personal work as well as I see photographs hung inside the house. I'm curious to know why you capture your wife mostly.

I think photography is like hide-and-seek, in the way that I hold, capture that moment when a certain emotion is brought out all of a sudden from a hidden corner somewhere around me. And it's obvious that my wife Haena is always around me but her looks appear differently day by day which I'm often drawn to capture. This is why I mostly take pictures of her.

There must be a favorite place in Seoul since you often come visit to watch exhibitions or concerts and plays.

We're fond of the atmosphere and streets of Jongno. Once I was driving through the area with the song of a folk music band 'One Day' playing and it was one of those moments when it felt like it was the most Seoul-like place out of all parts of the city. I recommend to take walks through Jongno while listening to One Day's first album.

Then where in Daejeon do you like most?

My favorite town is Daeheung-dong and I often go to a pub called 'Bidol' there. The town means a lot to me because it was where I was born. Unfortunately, like many others, a lot has changed. I should instead find the joy of remembering what was there in the past and on finding what's still left.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Sete Records

2F 130 Donggyo-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul (code at entrance 2323)
2 Hapjeong
070-7803-6813
12:00-20:00 (Mon-Sat), 12:00-17:00 (Sun)
"It's a great place to spend quality time and find the joy of browsing through vinyls you can buy for only 3,000 won along with its list of rare singles."
 
Meaning seven in Portuguese, 'Sete' is a second-hand LP, vinyl record shop, specializing in 7 inch single albums. It started out with the owner Jihwan Ryu's ten-year-old collection and is now one of the most favorable places to go among music-lovers for its diverse genre, from jazz, hiphop, classic, rock, soul to world music, and also the rare chance of seeing not only 7 inch but also 12 inch singles. Whenever Kim is in Seoul this is a place he doesn't forget to visit. And thanks to the store's active updates online, it just gets better for him since he lives in the city many kilometers away from Seoul. We advise that you not get confounded to find the lock by its doors. The code to entering the music world is '2323'.