A Return to Namgwang Hospital, Gwangju

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I’m sorry to say the return to Namgwang Hospital is not a physical one, but a trip down memory lane. The hospital itself has been gutted and is no longer the vandalism magnet it once was. Namgwang Hospital was a treasure trove of medical equipment and left behind cancer jars. It was quite the exploration! I had moved up to Seoul by the time (July 13 and 14, 2019) we accessed the place, but if I had still been a Gwangju resident, you bet I would have been checking it out every weekend. It also had a dubious story, which you can read here in the January 2020 issue of Gwangju News. I wrote about our weekend visit here and here. My trusted explorer friend also wrote about his experience, which can be viewed here and here.

I give myself the Herculean task of trying to recap this hospital in two pictures. An impossible task, but I will try nonetheless. Visit my previous posts to catch a glimpse of the place. Due to the sheer level of photogenic material, Namgwang Hospital might be my favorite exploration in Korea, only slightly beating out the Nightmare Lab.

I am revisiting Namgwang because I want to share something I’ve been sitting on since our visit. I have been waiting for the perfect time to show you these pictures. In this sense, the ideal time means obtaining a flatbed scanner to scan Polaroids I took from that day. Well, that day arrived, as I am now the owner of said scanner. I experienced a first for me that weekend; I found an abandoned camera and used it the same day. In the past, I’ve discovered undeveloped, even unused rolls of film before. I’ve even found dusty, neglected cameras, but the camera gave up the ghost a long time ago, perhaps sitting in the owner’s house for years before they relocated.

Now, I consider myself a film camera collector; I have numerous 35mm, medium format, and even a few 110 film cameras. Despite owning one instant film camera, I’ve never gotten too much into Polaroid/Instax cameras. While exploring the dental labs of Namgwang Hospital, I came across this; A Polaroid Spectra.

The day was quite exciting even before this discovery.
I found the expired film and camera in the dentistry area of the hospital. I think the camera took its last picture in the nursery.
I found more Polaroid film in the dentistry area, but this was for a different model of camera. I left it there.

The Spectra was on life support, as you can see from the pictures. I wasted most of the film packs trying to get it to fire correctly. The ten photos above are the only ones that resemble images. Although it died a slow, lonely death, the Spectra went out in a blaze of glory. Its final pictures are engaging in an artsy, psychedelic way. And, no, I didn’t take the camera; I gave it a twenty-one gun salute and went on my way.

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