In Margaret Condon Taylor’s snapshots of 1969 Korea, we are provided a glimpse of a nation on the brink of rapid transformation, a moment of seeming stillness before the spectacular growth to come. The U-M Nam Center for Korean Studies’ presentation of Accidental Photographer: Seoul 1969 is an inconspicuous showcase of Korea through the muted tones of Taylor’s photography, revealing the unique beauty of a Seoul in transition.
Whether they are knowingly turned away or amusedly confronting the camera, Taylor’s focus is undoubtedly attuned to the humans that make up the city. Her shots do not intrude upon their lives, but rather attentively and diligently document the aesthetically opportune moments that she witnesses through the photographic medium.
Taylor’s images are illuminating, and the ethereal whites, blues, and other muted tones of her photographs, captured on Ektachrome film, envelop viewers with their light and airy quality. There is a clarity to the photographs that is remarkable and each picture, despite lack of individual labeling or background information, feels like something more, a glimpse of a deeper, important narrative hidden underneath.
Beyond the visual beauty of these photos, there is the added significance of their timing. Taylor has documented here a Korea that is recognizable, familiar even, yet is now inaccessible in many ways. However, the instants of time captured by Taylor’s camera, though ultimately restricted by temporal boundary, are revisitable through this exhibition, presenting the human essence of a 1969 Seoul that we as viewers pray still persists today.