Photoessay: May Day in Havana

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Against the crowd

And now for something a bit different, both from an experiential standpoint and a content one. As part of the Havana Masterclass, I arranged a massive demonstration of communism to create a realistic photojournalistic scenario we attended the 1st of May parade at Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana – perhaps the biggest socialist event in the entire Cuban calendar. Rather than being observers of the parade, as I’d expected, we got sucked into the enormous number of participants – I would say easily in the hundreds of thousands, covering the entire length and width of Plaza de la Revolucion and beyond. And as you are no doubt aware, the best images are made when you’re not just watching it, but actually in it.

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Photoessay: Urban vignettes

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Late night negotiations

I’ve put together this set as a sort of compilation of singles that worked at the time, but perhaps needed company to work as a photoessay; the problem is, it’s not exactly the kind of thing you can go out and look to shoot specifically: it either happens, or it doesn’t. It’s taken me some time to accumulate a decent number of images to present as a series here. I like to think of them as little slices of life, with both a bit of whimsy and perhaps something to make you think; beyond that, there also has to be something aesthetically pleasing about them – a sense of balanced tranquility, if you will. Enjoy! MT

Shot with various cameras over the last year and a half, including some I was merely testing and others I no longer own.

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Photoessay: interior detail whimsy

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I’ve always been a big fan of minimalist ‘design’ photography that matches the philosophy of the object being photographed; usually something sculptural with few external features in light materials on a light background with subtle use of light to highlight the contours of the object. It’s not something I’ve done much of because my product photography style leans more towards one of ‘controlled richness’, however this doesn’t mean one can’t experiment. Today’s photoessay is a little experiment over the course of many months/ cameras with some injected fun randomness; it’s a break from my usual work. The EXIF data of some may surprise you. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: Dengue, personalized

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Dengue fever isn’t fun, as we discovered a couple of months ago. Perhaps the worst thing about it is the fact that there’s actually very little modern medicine can do for you other than paracetamol to alleviate the high fever, saline drips and other fluids to help rehydrate…and if things get really bad, a blood transfusion to boost your platelets and white blood cell count – falling counts are a consequence of the virus and dangerous because secondary infection or haemorrhaging. Beyond that, you’ll feel very easily fatigued for weeks afterwards. Everybody else can’t do much but watch and help you through the normal ablutionary tasks that suddenly become enormously difficult with low energy levels. My wife was unfortunate enough to have gotten it a few months ago – right before we were supposed to go to London, which resulted in me travelling alone – and she describes it as an incredibly bad non-stop fatigue – once the discomfort of the fever goes away, and before the itchiness of the tertiary rashes set in.

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Photoessay: From the streets of Kuala Lumpur, part 57

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Reminiscences of the last supper

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.

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Photoessay: Singapore architecture

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Formal pond

I think I’m a formalist at heart. I need that sense of logic and control to feel relaxed; I suppose some people will call that being anal retentive or a control freak. Or that my images lack soul and are flat and boring. I defend that by knowing that it’s all personal opinion, anyway. Perhaps this is why architecture appeals to me. On one hand, really interesting architecture is both visually satisfying and at the same time usable by the people it was designed for; on the other hand, there’s a lot of architecture that’s unnecessarily complex adornment over a basic structure that wasn’t very well thought out – doors on the wrong side of traffic routes, for instance; passageways and lifts that don’t connect; rooms whose internal layouts you can’t make work without special furniture, and facades that are impossible to clean or maintain. Photographically, finding order and balance in the disorder – especially when the surrounding environment is taken into account – is not as easy as it looks. A building or space is in reality fluid and never really remains in the perfect state envisioned by its creator – he or she cannot foresee exactly all of what might happen in its environment in the future.

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Photoessay: Melbourne architecture

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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.

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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: Reflections on Singapore

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Central

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.

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Photoessay: Urban evenings

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Not much to say about this one: I, as much as the next guy, love a good sunset. I can’t honestly think of a better way to end the day. You may well find several of these to be in an eminently painterly style, too. Enjoy! MT

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