Argus Paul

Taking to Heart

How to feel time’s presence when a king dies? Infinite moments collect, reverberating in my teeth. The back of my jaw grits closed from sadness, while the curtains of my cheeks push out an empathic smile.

It’s the same tight smile received whenever the King’s name appears here in Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok.

Yes, indeed, the eyes do tighten and see things differently when someone loved is gone. Suddenly, collective visions and experiences vibrate with absence, as if realizing a single puzzle piece is missing and perhaps irretrievably lost forever. The air seems painted in ripples. Not so much like a stone cast into a lake but rather how water curls and follows ducks or paper boats on a slow steady river; the wake of water from those who journey on it, the wake of King Bhumibol in the city’s spirit, the wake of grace, dignity and humanity in the hearts of the Thai people. I allowed the wakes to guide me. They spoke in waves of light and said: “Push past the layers behind the laundromats, mannequins, and flowers – be open and free.”  I was photographing like a kite in the wind whose line was cut loose by something stronger than myself. Thoughts of the king and his city tightened and squeezed my eyes into diamonds, showing me everything was priceless.

To Bangkok: No one truly disappears when they fall into the timeless river. They live under the surface, ready to reflect the depths of character for those who traverse it. Reach into the water and retrieve the puzzle piece – it’s not misplaced – it still remains within grasp. There is an invisible silken string that weaves the multiple facets of Bangkok’s soul together in an unbreakable net. It catches everything and nothing is truly lost. Tied together, our hearts beat immeasurably in the boundlessness of now; in the boundlessness of time’s presence.





Argus Paul is an emerging photographer with an MFA in Studio Arts, currently based in Seoul, South Korea. As a Korean-American who grew up in a rural area near Charlottesville, Virginia, Paul has a unique perspective of Korean identity and its relationship to both global and regional communities. His street photography seeks out and investigates the unseen, unacknowledged citizens of Seoul: cosplay groups, back-alley wrestlers, and underground drag queens. Meanwhile, by having documented the notorious Sewol Ferry Tragedy of 2014 and also the loss of a close family member, Paul has had humbling and life-changing opportunities to explore the subjects of death, grief, and loss on both an international and personal scale.


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8 thoughts on “Argus Paul – Taking to Heart”

  1. Funny, when I got to the last picture and looked at it big on my iMac 27 inch screen, I could smell fixer. I haven’t smelled fixer in a long time. I’m certain the image was digitally printed and no fixer was involved, but it somehow evoked the smell. Maybe because of the stark black and white.

    I concur with John.

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  3. Congratulations on this excellent, effective and expressive essay! Looking around the web, I gather this came out of the one week DAH/Sobol Magnum workshop in Bangkok. Quite an achievement.

    In line with the comments above, I feel that the artist’s statement seriously detracts from the effect of the images, almost derailing the viewer’s appreciation. Can’t help thinking that the photographer would have been better served by a one sentence statement that the essay was shot in Bangkok shortly after the passing of the king…The impact of these photographs is so strong that no more than that needed to be said.

    I also came across an interesting statement by Argus Paul that he likes to use the sensibility of film as a reference of what he wants to get when shooting digital. Frostfrog’s olfactory sense is on target in smelling the fixer.

  4. Great to see some current stuff instead of EPF could have been essays that drag the chain.

    Agree with Mitch a sentence would have been sufficient no need to babble on.

    Great how hands tie the images together

  5. Yep, hands down one of the more interesting works of late, handily surpassing so much of what we see around the web. You have to hand it to the author for handing us a unique perspective on the feelings and vibe resulting from the death of the King in Thailand. Despite the fact that the entire concept of “royalty” is ridiculous and that nobody should give a shit more about the death of one than the death of anyone else on the planet; the photographer definitely deserves a hand of applause.

    I jest, but I really like the recurring focus on the hands. It would be nice, however, if there were some connection – some kind of subtle handshake, perhaps – between the focus on hands in the photos and the dead king thing in the writing. Instead, the text focuses on painful mental images of other body parts: squeezed eyes, gritted jaw, tightened lips, vibrating teeth. Eek.

    So yea, the writing needs work, but I think the writer has a lot of potential. The text would probably benefit from fewer metaphors. We go from painful bodily sensations to vibrations, ripples, wakes, and waves to silken webs, beating hearts and absence to presence. All that in contrast to the photos, which which effectively use the metaphor (if it is actually metaphorical) of the hands.

    The ripples, wakes, waves, vibration ideas are reflected in the photography. You might consider tightening the text up with that – and the hands – in mind.

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