Photoessay: People of Venice

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A touch of longing

Today’s photoessay is perhaps best thought of a series of vignettes of the locals living in Venice – there may be one or two tourists that got caught in the mix, but I doubt most of them would buy raw meat at the butcher’s. There was a deliberate effort on my part to exclude people who were obviously tourists and focus on individuals; that wasn’t actually too difficult since it was a) winter and b) I was in many of the neighbourhoods that pretty much only saw residents. Those who attended my Venice Masterclass in November 2014 may recognise some of these images from the final day’s curation and processing session; in fact, you might even have been there at the time of capture… Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Ricoh GR, 21mm converter, 645Z and 55/2.8 SDM and processed with a mixture of PS workflow II and the ‘fine art’ style in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5: Processing For Style.

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Photoessay: people of Prague, II

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Do we fear what we cannot see?

Part two of the People of Prague photoessay is to me the more exciting bit: it expands the more literal ‘people in sauce’ environmental slices of the previous series of images to explore my favourite personal project, the idea of man. When photographing I’m always looking out for spontaneous ideas as they evolve around me, but I think it’s important to be open to both the literal and the conceptual even if only for practice. And you never know when the former might develop into the latter (the sequencing of this photoessay is the same: we pick up roughly where the last one left off, and take it further). This particular series explores life at two scales, both individual and group; the latter is not something I’ve done much of up to this point simply because the opportunities aren’t always there. There’s also been plenty of feedback going around in the comments on other photoessays on the use of captions; personally I think if done right they can be used to suggest alternative lines of thought and potentially different interpretations of the scene. A little ambiguity is not a bad thing. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot mostly with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with additional contributions from the 24 PCE, 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180 APO and a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also cover street photography techniques in S1: Street Photography and How To See Ep.2: Tokyo

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Photoessay: people of Prague, I

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The slight oppressiveness that is impossible to define

Let’s call this set a mix of environmental portraiture and street photography. People in their native element with minimal interference on the part of the photographer. I did stop and talk to some of them; it seems the Czechs in general are very friendly. Others didn’t notice me; I was just another tourist of many. Being a conscious observer in such an environment isn’t a bad thing; you blend in. And people don’t change what they do. This set is the first part of two reinterpretations of ‘people in sauce’ – we’ll talk about my hypotheses on what it means in a future article. We actually had precious few days of good light during the Prague Masterclass – meaning the majority of these images were actually shot on one day – but it was enough. I am continually reminded of just how rich a hunting ground this is when the light is right…enjoy! MT

This series was shot almost entirely with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with the exception of one image with a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also cover street photography techniques in S1: Street Photography and How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Singapore color

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Singapore: a neatly organized life

Today’s photoessay has no theme beyond the observation of life as a flaneur in Singapore; in this case during in-between time from a teaching assignment a couple of months ago. You’ll notice this set of images is broken up into two distinct styles; the first series is more along the lines of what I do now – humans in environment; life in context; ‘people in sauce’. It is visually flatter, a little more structured, painterly, and perhaps almost aperspective in some ways. I like to think of the presentation as something akin to a more dynamic version of the traditional still life. The second set is unashamedly cinematic.

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Photoessay: Observations of Londoners in summer

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The watcher.

For what feels like no more than a couple of days a year, the entire mood of London changes as the sun comes out and puts (most of) the population in a good mood – it’s as though the vitamin D has a tangible effect on the constitution. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does; there’s no question I feel better after a bit of sun, and not just because I’ve got interesting light to shoot with. There are still a decent number of overcast days, but at least they’re offset by intense sunshine and great shadows.

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Photoessay: Mono street photography from Singapore

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Shadows

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t shoot that much street photography by either time or output; it just appears that way because a lot of the work I do can’t be published for some time (or at all) due to client embargoes; and by the time I can make it public, I’ve honestly just forgotten or realized that the shoot was so rushed that I didn’t get a chance to shoot any ‘making of’ b-roll. Hence the large quantity of street photography. By a similar token, I don’t believe in a conventional definition of street photography; I think of it as something on the documentary spectrum but towards the end where you don’t have a set objective or assignment, and just record what you see. In some ways, that makes it more difficult because you have to make or interpret your own story from a bunch of usually discordant pieces.

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Photoessay: People of Cuba, part II

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Soldiers, I. Apparently you are not supposed to photograph them, or secure installations. When faced with this kind of challenge I invariably have to get an image…

Today’s photoessay is the continuation of the curated collection of people I photographed in Havana – (part I is here) the tricky part was to try to avoid cliches (unsuccessful, I think) but at the same time get a decent representation of activity. I think many of my students did this better – my Asian reserve prevented me from sticking my head into doorways and windows of homes (though that’s different if I’m on assignment) – but beyond that, I prefer to photograph people in a natural state without them being conscious of my presence and changing their behaviour to suit; whatever it was they were doing that was interesting in the first place would almost certainly cease and change.

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Photoessay: The people of Taipei

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An obsession with things on sticks, I

Whenever I travel, I find the people more interesting than the location: they give a place character, and say a lot about the local culture. It is therefore natural that we photograph people as part of a travel photography set, and seek to capture a little bit of everything: some culture, some uniqueness, some context – in essence, the spirit of the location. Things that stand out are behaviours that I find unfamiliar or inexplicable; but this must be balanced with normal people going about their lives to avoid a biased view of extremes and stereotypes. I found Taipei to be a quirky blend of China’s modern awkwardness at attempting to copy the west; Japan’s tech-obsession, and a little of that old dynastic elegance. Enjoy! MT

This set was shot with a Ricoh GR, Nikon D800E and Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/55 Otus APO-Distagon.

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Photoessay: Signs of life: shadows and silhouettes in Prague

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And now for something a little different – what if I took the abstraction of man to the next logical step? The idea of a person, not the specific individual? What interests me is the way man interacts with his environment, leaves his mark, but is ultimately temporal; more so in modern society where the multitudes of us land up mostly being nameless, faceless and somewhat commoditized. What does generic man look like in native habitat? I’m sure it’s soulless, clinical and a little cold, but hey, I can’t help it if that’s the way I see the world sometimes.

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FD Photoessay: Life in Amsterdam

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Sometimes, the film photography gods deign to make life easy for you: you happen to be in the right place at the right time, with the right light, interesting subjects, lots of opportunities, carrying the right camera and lens combination, just enough film to get you through a day with a roll left over as insurance, and even airport security guards who’ll hand check your film so they don’t have to make multiple passes through x-ray machines. The last European trip and workshop tour was one of those occasions for me. I went with my usual small digitals (OM-D, Ricoh GR) for teaching, and the Hasselblad 501C with one magazine, a few boxes of Acros 100, and the 80/2.8*. And I came back with a huge number of keepers. It’s interesting to note that despite its size, shutter noise and conspicuity, the Hasselblad never attracted negative attention – usually curiosity or nostalgia. In that sense, it’s actually an excellent street photography tool in the modern age. No more words are required, I think – other than for me to say ‘enjoy!’ MT

*Some of the rolls were pushed to ISO 200 due to lack of light; with Acros this also has the benefit of deepening your shadow tones. There doesn’t seem to be any grain penalty that I can discern, though – anything up to ISO 800 is fine, but the shadows just keep getting denser and denser. Digitized with a D800E, 60/2.8 macro and my custom rig.

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