One "wanderer" finds beauty in unplanned adventures.
South Korean photographer and filmmaker Hang gab Lee is never sure what he's going to find while traveling. "I really like having no plan," he says over email. Yet his travels do follow one rule: Wander aimlessly. Spontaneity tends to lead him to stunning imagery, Lee has found.
"Wander in Turkey" and "Wander in Vietnam" (below) are two mesmerizing films from Lee's travels. You may recognize some of the sights, like Galata Tower and the Bosphorous strait in Istanbul, or the bustle of downtown Saigon. But the way Lee shoots these areas—and those off the beaten path—makes all the difference. Disgruntled residents pour out of an Istanbul bazaar during a rain shower, and Lee captures a moment charged with life and color. It's Lee's ability to amplify the beauty and meaning of nondescript scenes and residents in their everyday lives that sets his videos apart.
This sensibility is perhaps best exemplified at minute 1:42 of "Wander Turkey." Shortly after exploring the Aya Sofya and Blue Mosque, Lee trains his lens on a rollicking corn vendor hawking his product on a wintry street. "Evet! Evet! Evet!" (Yes! Yes! Yes!) he calls out as he twirls a set of tongs and salts a customer's cob. Street food is a familiar sight on nearly every street of every major city. But Lee's timing and framing create a miniature narrative for this character, making the corn vendor as captivating as any of Istanbul's tourist-stuffed destinations.
Lee's films reflect the idea that free-spirited travel is as much about the strangers you meet and the things you eat and smell as it is about the places you tour. "I think every existence has their own beauty," Lee explains, "not only gorgeous tourist attractions but also normal people and objects. I tried to capture their own beauty."
Lee's wandering series—as well as other work, like his profile of New York street life—demonstrates that anyone can turn their travels into an artistic expression. Each of these projects was self-funded and each captures only 15 days of travel. The most difficult part, Lee says, is finding the right soundtrack.
He plans to wander through his native South Korea next, uncovering beauty in things already familiar.
See more of Hang gab Lee's work here.