There are cities and places that never run out of inspiration or material to photograph because of weather, seasons, light, change, or sheer scale – no matter how many times you go back. Then there are cities and places that you exhaust in a day or two. And others that have hidden depths to plumb. And still others where you have to methodically work through all of the not so nice stuff in the hope that you may eventually luck out with good light and stumble upon some little interesting unknown vignette on the day you happen to be out. Perhaps I’m jaded, but Kuala Lumpur falls into the latter category. Despite being tropical, our weather is mostly overcast and hazy; bright, directional light is rare and lasts only a few hours at most – usually when you’re not in a position to make the most of it.
Urban environments are characterised by people: creators, masters, users. They are odd when empty simply because they were never intended to be empty. What is left can be whatever you want it to be; sinister, lonely, a mere abstraction of form and color. Sometimes I wonder about the whole creative circle underlying these locations and objects: somebody had to design and make them, and they had to find the inspiration from somewhere else. We then in turn find something of interest in their forms – but probably not what the original creator intended, especially when taken in concert with environment and other unplanned or juxtaposed objects. Or perhaps I’m thinking too much. Make of these what you will…MT
This series was shot over a period of time with a wide variety of hardware and processed with the fine art technique in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5.
It’s been a little while since I’ve posted any of the more conventional street photography with identifiable individuals. I suppose that’s a consequence of a change of creative direction towards images that are perhaps less literal and more everyman; photographs that can ask a question and make you have cause to contemplate them for a long time without really having an answer. Images that stick tend to be ones that are graphically shocking (could be positive or negative) or those that require some further digestion. Nevertheless, I still do make these images but instead curate them even more heavily than usual; today’s set perhaps more so because they’re made in what is a very familiar environment to me. What’s interesting is that many of these still come from a very small radius of places I’ve covered literally hundreds of times – I suppose that continual change is one of the joys of photography. This set spans some time, and as a result, quite some equipment too – from a first-generation RX100 to the CFV digital back to the D810. Postprocessing was mostly with PS Workflow II. Enjoy! MT
I personally find one of the most challenging things to do is make compelling and different images in a situation that is a familiar one: your home city, your usual equipment with nothing particularly special or capable of making a distinctive look (or another way of looking at it is a general purpose tool with a very versatile shooting envelope), challenging weather, and to top it off, conditions that are not ideally conducive for creativity*. These were shot during a private workshop as examples; I have to simultaneously apologise to and thank my student at the time: firstly, I felt I could have made better images with a bit more sleep, but the conditions pushed me to really look for something different. In the end, I think this set fit the bill: I am happy because these are images that I have not only not produced in some form or other before, but images that I never conceptualised because I was not looking in those places either – even though it wasn’t my first time there. Enjoy! MT
*Prolonged lack of sleep from a newborn and a small apartment full of relatives.
I honestly have no idea how many times I’ve posted images from KL. It might be 56 or 30 or 128. I don’t think it matters, anyway. I find quality of vision, and the ability to see, follows a bit of a camel hump: you need some time in a place in order to not be surprised and enraptured by every little thing that breaks your version of normality; a little objectivity and distance helps with quality. A bit more time, and you’re comfortable enough to explore, and have found things off the beaten path to the casual visitor; too much time and you’re jaded. The bigger the city, the longer this takes; but for a relatively small metropolis like the one I live in, that’s not very long at all.
Today’s post is about a job I did at the start of January – the world’s premier maker of tunnel-boring machines, Herrenknecht (there are actually quite a surprising number) hired me to document the operation and breakthrough of their first variable-density boring machine*, which happened to be at work underneath Kuala Lumpur as part of the greater Klang Valley subway/ mass transit project. Up til this point, we have a pretty pathetic train system and monorail that doesn’t cover more than 3-4km; we don’t have a unified public transport system which combine with poor traffic management creates legendary jams**.
*Kuala Lumpur has a mix of rock and clay underneath it; you need a special machine to bore through both simultaneously – the machines for rock are too slow with clay and it also clogs the outlet ducting, and the machines for clay simply won’t cut rock.
**In the past, it has taken me up to 2 hours to travel the 1.5km from home to office at the wrong time. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just walk, try doing that in 35 C heat, 80+% humidity and the business suits that you’re expected to wear – not that clothes mean you’re any more or less competent at doing an office job…
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.
A few places are left for the Melbourne and London Making Outstanding Images workshops. Please click here for more details and testimonials from previous workshops, or if you’d like to register, please send me an email.
I’m pleased to announce dates and details for the first half of 2014’s workshops, starting with the first Masterclass in Kuala Lumpur during the Thaipusam festival, followed by Melbourne and London! Click on for more details, or if you’d like to register, please send me an email.