If there’s a much-buzzed about event going down in the ROK, Brent Sheffield and his digital partner-in-crime are probably not too far away. It was only about seven months ago that Kimchibytes entered into Korea’s blogosphere. Brent exposes us to bright hues, deep contrast, and sharp images, straying away from Instagram-looking photos that he feels are taking over social media. With weekly posts featuring events such as Korea Burn, Mud Fest, the Korean Grand Prix, and his own personal adventures, Kimchibytes has certainly created quite a name for its self.
Brent and I met at Dillinger’s Bar in Itaewon and over a beer (plus a failed attempt of us trying to hide our much-frowned-upon shot of soju) we spoke about his love for science fiction, how he wouldn’t exactly deny a ballet show invite, and the conflict between his two very lovely girlfriends.
Above photo: Brent Sheffield, photographed by Emily Ann Hodges.
Chincha: What made you realize that photography was a passion of yours?
Brent: When I first started college I was a photography major. That was over ten years ago. But I didn’t think I was that great and my father gave me the impression that I couldn’t make a living off of it so it was just something I dropped.
Then I went to Boracay, Philippines this past April. I just had my iPhone and a real cheap camera and I started taking pictures and I was like “Holy crap. These are really decent pictures.” I put them online, and I was really excited. It was fun to see people’s responses. For me it was kind of a reconnect with my past.
I loved the Philippines. It’s a beautiful country and I met a few people there that were very motivational. They were very outgoing people with good heads on their shoulders, especially a girl named Jane Tabada. She is a very successful entrepreneur in the Philippines. It was her encouragement and belief that really inspired me to start Kimchibytes. She was just very positive after sharing my pictures with her. So I bought a camera and just started taking photos. Everything just grew from there.
Chincha: What is your reaction towards the positive responses that you’re getting with Kimchibytes?
Brent: Part of me is surprised and part of me isn’t. I was kind of at a low point in Korea. I think everyone hits a wall here sometimes or you get sick and tired of the same routine. For me my blog was really just a positive outlet to express who I am. Also, I don’t just do photography on my blog. I love to write as well.
I put all my energy into it. Originally I called Kimchibytes my girlfriend because I had no social life. All my spare time went into learning about blog writing and editing my photos. It really was, in fact, my girlfriend. [laughs] The problem is I actually have a real girlfriend.
During this past Chuseok I spent everyday updating the blog and I gave my girlfriend one day to hang out with me in Everland, and the rest of time I was just working on Kimchibytes.
Chincha: Of all forms of art, why did you choose photography?
Brent: I love waking up 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and choosing an area to shoot and just being by myself, just me and my camera and seeing what I can capture. Also, I can’t draw. It’s easier to push a button than draw. [laughs.]
I love the way pictures can move someone or make them happy or change their mood. To me that’s really powerful and I like having the ability to create those reactions. It is one of the very few things in life that comes very naturally to me. I taught myself how to break dance a little bit…but that took ten years.
Chincha: Which set of photos have you gotten the biggest response for?
Brent: I had over 10,000 views after Mud Fest. Then I received a similar response after Korea Burn. Mud fest was the first time I tried to go public and the first time I decided to do something professional with photography. I knew William Cho from WinK travels and I asked him “Hey do you want me to take pictures of this event for your group?” He said yes. Up until then it was kind of just always practice.
That was my little test to see. In the back of my head I was thinking “I think I’m kind of good enough to actually do this.”
Chincha: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Brent: I think I draw my inspiration from things that I like. I draw inspiration more from pop culture, whether it’s watching Dexter, Game of Thrones or playing Final Fantasy video games. I also love sci-fi. I’m a total science fiction nerd. All those things really move me because they’re really strong visuals and carry powerful stories. I love watching how it’s set up; the special effects and the way they shoot things. Those are really the things that are in the back of my head when I’m taking a picture.
Also, dancing. I love dancing. I love hip hop culture. I love graffiti, b-boxing, and break dancing. Actually when I was in college – I’m not that great at it – but I did participate in a few b-boy competitions. I also like other forms of dancing. The lines you see the dancers make is definitely inspirational. My girlfriend was actually surprised because she asked me if I would go see a ballet with her and I didn’t even flinch. I said yes. I absolutely love Cirque du Soleil. I think those visuals just stay with me and are always in the back of my head.
Chincha: In one of our past Shot of Soju interviews, Paul Stafford said he made a pact with himself to not teach English while living in Korea and basically stuck to it for about three years. I know you’re a teacher, do you feel that this effects your photo work or do you feel like you are easily able to separate the two?
Brent: I’ve gotten in trouble a little bit with this. I’ve been caught editing pictures at work. I also got caught leaving work fifteen minutes early to go on a trip with WinK to do the Formula 1 event.
But I guess you can say I disagree with Paul a little bit. If you find the right job it doesn’t have to be stressful and it gives you that financial cushion to really pursue what you like doing. I think it’s really positive in that aspect. And yes, we would all love to work full-time on doing what we love, but anything in the arts or writing can be difficult, and you can’t exactly start off full-time. You’ve got to work your way into that. So in that aspect I think teaching is great. Especially since you can still have a place to sleep at night and food to eat. Which is always a plus. I’m not a big fan of being a starving artist. Paul’s hardcore. I’m a mama’s boy. [laughs]
Chincha: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned as a photographer that you would like to share with our Chincha readers?
Brent: If you want to improve your photography, know what your subject is in the picture. Have an idea of what you’re trying to say before taking the photograph. If you take a picture because it looks cool, which I admit I do all the time, then you won’t really have a good photo. Have a reason for what you’re shooting.
The easiest way to do that is to shoot something that your passionate about. If you’re passionate about dancing, shoot dancing. There are a lot of people who love street photography. Some people are into landscape photography. Do that. If you shoot something you’re really interested in, it’s just going to naturally come out in your pictures and people are going to really appreciate it.
Check out Brent’s photography and writing on Kimchibytes and visit his .
Above images by Brent Sheffield, Kimchibytes Photography. Featured image by .