Buildings, architecture and abstract geometry are amongst my favourite subjects. Actually, I got that back to front: the idea of abstraction and deconstruction of composition into considerations of pure colour and form is probably the underlying linkage between all of my images. As a result, buildings and architecture rank high on my list of preferred subjects because they are very conducive for doing just that: they’re static, so you can take your time with the composition; they reflect their environments – or not – and change in personality as changing light plays off different surfaces and textures in different ways; finally, there are always interesting details incorporate into the structures which are a reflection of their architects; much as a photograph is a reflection of the photographer.
I’m pretty sure none of the architects or designers involved with this project could have envisioned the sightlines I used for these images, or if they did, it’s almost uncertain that they would have been able to forsee the changes in the environment surrounding the buildings. Some believe that photography is no more than a derivative work of somebody else’s primary creation; I of course disagree – and that will be the subject of a future article.
It’s been a little while since I posted any images from Kuala Lumpur; the truth is that I don’t actually shoot that much in my home city these days. Partially it’s because I feel I’ve really plumbed the depths of most parts of the city; partially it’s because I try to keep some potential in reserve for when I have to go out and review a camera – finding new material in a city in which you’ve shot close to 200,000 frames is actually quite tough.
Following one from part one – part two focuses on the little touches that add character to a building, and if done well, reflect a little of the society that created them. I like to think of them as stamps or quirks of individuality, and something which I consciously look for when I travel to places with a strong design culture.
No words today, just a series of images for you to enjoy. Various architectural details from my last trip to Amsterdam, shot with the Hasselblad 501C, 80/2.8 CF T* on Fuji Acros. Some of you may recognize these images from the November print sale; others may be enjoying a large print on their walls :) MT
These images were made during the October 2013 Making Outstanding Images Workshop in Amsterdam; I will be holding three more of these in Melbourne, Sydney and London later this year. Click here for more info, and to sign up.
One of my favourite buildings in the country is the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque – also known as the Iron Mosque due to its stainless-steel clad structure. It’s a very modern building located in the administrative capital, Putrajaya, that still manages to integrate traditional culture and religious cues into its design. These, together with its scale, location on the Putrajaya lakefront and sight lines, make it quite a spectacular building.
Sometimes, one is given some pretty sweet assignments. Quite near the top of that list is a commission to photograph beautiful buildings by one of the country’s – arguably the world’s, too – leading architects with the rare thing of a completely open creative brief. This is the position I found myself in a couple of months ago, camera bag in one hand, Mother Of All (somewhat portable) Tripods in the other, and sheaf of permission letters and permits from Hijjas Kasturi Associates tucked away safe inside the camera bag just in case.
Rather frustratingly, I’d actually typed out a long history about KLCC, but WordPress ate it and it’s nowhere to be found. Here we go again…
The Petronas Twin Towers – 88 stories, and part of the greater KLCC complex (including a park, two hotels, conventionn center, mall, mosque and another two office blocks) – put Malaysia on the map for megaprojects. Opened in 1998, the towers were designed by Cesar Pelli and completed by competing Korean and Japanese firms. It was paid for entirely by petroleum revenues from the eponymous national oil company; during the Asian Financial Crisis, occupancy was low – again with the exception of the name tenant – these days, things are back to normal and space is at a hideous premium, even on an international level. Architecturally, the site is challenging as it’s a former racecourse with very little bedrock and a lot of clay and porous limestone; this is the main reason for putting the taller, heavier structures around the periphery. Even so, extensive piling and foundation works had to be done, and many of the lower basement levels underneath the main towers are filled with concrete to settle the ground and form a floating slab on which some of the other outlying structures sit.
Tokyo must be one of the best places in the world to shoot modern architecture – between the crazy ideas, traditional influences and availability of money to spend on buildings beyond the merely functional. I suppose the incredibly small plot sizes also force architects to make the best use of available space, but at the same time also stand out from their neighbours. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that all buildings are separated by a small – about 6″ – gap; presumably this has something to do with allowing slip in the event of an earthquake. Still, it does look a little odd at times.
Being personally and professionally interested in architecture, I had a field day walking around the city; a couple were shot with the Olympus OM-D and 12/2 is surprisingly good for this combination, though at times I did wish I had something a little wider – perhaps an equivalent for the Zeiss 2.8/21 Distagon which is my current mainstay for architectural work. The Sony RX100 covered everything else. Enjoy! MT
If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (email@example.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or learn how to achieve a similar look with our Photoshop workflow DVDs. You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!
Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved
Thean Hou temple is a famous Buddhist location just outside Kuala Lumpur, popular as a place of worship during the new year and various lunar festivals. It’s also home to various martial arts groups. The temple belongs to the Selangor and Federal Territory Hainanese association, and was constructed from 1981 with funds donated by the community.
This set shot with an Olympus E-PM1 Pen Mini.