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
Today’s photoessay contains images I initially shot for a client much earlier in the year; the German tunnel-boring specialists Herrenknecht and MMC-Gamuda for the greater Kuala Lumpur mass transit project. The project itself will bring a unified rail system to Klang Valley over the next five years; in the meantime, it’s utter chaos while everything is being dug up or diverted so overhead pylons can be put up. I was hired to document some of the underground work.
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.
This is part two of this mini-series. It’s simply impossible to go to Tokyo and not do any street photography; between the overall camera-friendliness of the people, the unusualness of the settings and the quality of light…
It’s simply impossible to go to Tokyo and not do any street photography; between the overall camera-friendliness of the people, the unusualness of the settings and the quality of light…
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.
Following on from the previous article on improving the digital B&W workflow process, it’s only fair that I show you some examples. I’ve chosen near-field landscapes – effectively, trees – as the test material, because I’ve always felt that this has been the most difficult subject to capture in a convincingly natural way*.
*Yes, I know, nature is in colour and monochrome images are by definition unnatural, but bear with me here.
Today’s photoessay is the precursor to isolation and the concept of man – to be the subject of a future photoessay. People seek each other’s company and now congregate in their individuality – no man is an island, and all that. This is an intermediate, transitory stage before people become deindividualized again: at the end, they flow like water. And like water, even though at the microscopic level there is discreteness, at the macro level, there isn’t. Perhaps it is inevitable because there’s simply not enough space; perhaps it’s inevitable because fundamentally, humans are social creatures and deep down, most of us need some sort of affirmation and acceptance. Remember, I did say some time ago that we photographers are really also philosophers as a consequence of the way we interpret, filter and re-present the world…MT
The making of a lot of these images, and the ones in the previous photoessay, were featured, deconstructed and explained in detail in How To See Episode 2: Tokyo and Street Photography Episode 1.
Sometimes, you can’t help but feel that the mood of a particular event or evening fits a particular camera; some time back I was invited out to a casual evening jazz concert/ jam session. There is something about black and white film and jazz; I don’t know what it is exactly, but I think the two compliment each other perfectly. Perhaps it’s the way the smooth richness of the brass instruments is the auditory compliment to the rich 3/4 tones of film*; or perhaps it’s because the whole affair invokes another, earlier, era. That said, the relatively low light was challenging due to the inherent sensitivity limitations of film, traded off against image quality – the tonal look I prefer for film requires mid tones, which tend to be pretty thin with faster emulsions. Not to mention the challenge of focusing under such low light – fortunately, I had the F2 Titan, whose focusing screen is really quite excellent – snappy, and easy to discriminate the focus transition even with very fast lenses. I hadn’t used that camera in so long, I’d forgotten how transparent a photographic experience it was; your view of the world is reduced to what’s inside the large finder, and your fingers are only the three controls – focus, aperture and shutter, with a thumb cocked around the winding lever to help secure the right-sized body, and nothing more. It’s what the Df should have been.
*A discourse on the relationship and similarities between photography and music is something I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but I’m still trying to learn enough about music to have enough descriptive language to adequately convey the concepts. Increasingly I’m starting to feel that the written/ spoken language really is inadequate for the description and explanation of visual ideas; perhaps that too is another article for another time.
Today, we’re taking a little break from the travel-themed images I’ve been posting of late, and return to nature somewhat. I’ve always found something compelling about trees; I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s some deep-rooted part of our subconscious that calls for an occasional visual break from the uniformly geometric concrete we live in, and an embracing of the naturally fractal and chaotic world for a change instead. Judging from the feedback on previous images and photoessays, I’ve also found this to be the case with a lot of other people, too.