Today’s photoessay is a continuation of the previous monochrome series of hand-held tilt shift work from Chicago; it is in color and I personally believe has a more immediate, present feel than the monochromes – hence the separate presentation. Enjoy! MT
While my students were out completing assignments during the Chicago Outstanding Images workshop earlier this year, I was working on a personal project of my own. I wanted to see how practical it was to shoot fully perspective-corrected architectural work handheld – in decent light, of course. Up til this point, I’d always done this kind of work on a tripod because of the need to use live view. As many of you who’ve tried to use a tripod in general urban situations will know, this isn’t always possible due to property restrictions and city ordinances.
Today’s photoesssay is a continuation of the Verticality Project photoessay. I see this as an ongoing study of architecture. The aim is to replicate the feeling you get when you stand at the base of one of these things and look up: a sense of overbearing monolithic massiveness. The choice of a black and white square with no building base is deliberate: the sense of size remains because off the perspective, and the mood is maintained regardless of the color of the sky.
The majority of these were shot in San Francisco and Chicago, with a Pentax 645Z. Enjoy! MT
Havana’s buildings are a mix of a bit of everything: colonial spanish, modern, neoclassical, Soviet brutalist concrete and a whole bunch of other things I can’t even begin to identify. All I know is that the visual contrasts are extreme, and the range of textures quite sublime – especially in that wonderfully strong and directional Caribbean light. How could I resist photographing the buildings – more than the cars?
Summer is a good time for architectural photoigraphy. From a photographic standpoint, colors of course become more intense, but the contrast is also helpful for monochrome photography, and with the right filters (film or digital), extra punch and contrast can be given to skies. Given London’s relatively high latitude, even during the height of summer the sun doesn’t go perpendicularly overhead as it does in the tropics – which means not being quite so restricted about shooting during noon.
The face of London has changed so much in the last few years since my previous visit – 2010 – that frankly there are parts of the Square Mile I no longer recognise. (Never mind the fact that it’s also spread northwards towards the Barbican.) I have to admit that driving through it was an extremely strange feeling – as though an American, or perhaps Japanese (due to irregular street layouts) city had been plonked there with towering edifices of steel and glass. As you all know, I like photographing these things, so a return trip had to be scheduled.
For a fan of abstract geometry, form and texture, Melbourne is an absolute paradise. Being a relatively new country, Australians seem to be far more open to experimentation with modern architecture, progressive design and integration with the unique landscape; the result is an interesting mix of 1940-s feel Chicago in places, Blade Runner and Utopia in others. The result is a place of extreme contrasts; you can see the evolution of postmodern architecture from simple geometric solids – cuboids, trapezoids, cones – to more complex shapes that appear to be formed of recursive application of those shapes. Any decorative elements are simply a further scaling and evolution again of that; there doesn’t appear to be much ornamentation in a classical sense. Perhaps that in itself is a definition of the current architectural gestalt.
I was in Singapore a few months ago both on assignment and for a private workshop; one of the things I’ve always enjoyed photographing is abstraction in reflection: there is no simpler decomposition of the image to shape, texture and colour than this. Fortunately, the weather was obliging on one of the days, and there’s plenty of such opportunities in Singapore. Despite what you might think, I shot quite a lot more than just the usual buildings in buildings…in fact, you’ll notice the second half of the set is quite a bit more whimsical and less brutalist/formalist.
‘Project’-type photography – images shot to a theme as an exercise or assignment or with a view to an eventual exhibition – is generally a good way to motivate you to shoot if you’re stuck for inspiration. It narrows down the entire universe of possible subjects to just a few, or one. Or a single style. That restriction prevents the mental anguish of overload: either too many things to shoot, or nothing that really stands out in a visual barrage. If you’ve extensively shot the place you live in, it’s probably the former; the result is that you don’t land up photographing unless you take a trip or there’s an event – i.e. something out of the ordinary. The latter is what happens during that trip: perhaps there’s no inspiration, or there are just too many possible subjects, which result in a photographer losing focus and making a weak portfolio. Focus of effort is therefore generally a good idea. Believe it or not, this is actually the first intensely focused project of its sort I’ve attempted.