Photoessay: small humans, Prague

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The underlying economy

In today’s photoessay, the people of Prague play a secondary role in the proceedings: they are there to provide a sense of scale and a little humanisation to the various urban tableaux. The idea behind this series is that whilst people usually take centre stage, even in a very established human-scale city* they eventually play second fiddle to the spectacle of the environment around them. Ironically, even though we created the environment to serve us, it has outlasted us and in some ways rendered us merely transient. I have thus shrunken the people accordingly. Enjoy!

*Unlike very large modern cities like say, New York

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, Ricoh GR and Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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The idea of a ‘5’

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Drawing down on ghosts. Vysehrad fort, Prague

Most of the regular readers here will be familiar with the concept of ‘the four things’ – this is to say that there are a few elements that are independent of content that every image must have in order for it to leave some sort of impression on its audience. The framework is both a useful checklist and teaching tool to get a photographer to a certain level of proficiency; however, it can be restrictive in the sense that it is still somewhat formulaic. And that’s half the challenge here: if you can fulfil a list of objectives to make an outstanding image, then what is the function of the photographer? Surely these things could be programmed into an algorithm and left to its own devices to make the next hundred great photographs of the century? Wrong. There’s still one last element which will never foreseeably be automated or predicted or planned.

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‘Connection’ exhibition report – and finally, a book – available to order now!

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One big bit of news today: I finally have a book out, at an affordable price, for a good cause! Following on from the Connection exhibition with Chun Wo Development earlier this month at the Hong Kong Arts Center, we’ve also produced a book containing all the images from the exhibition. Like the print sales and corporate sponsorships from the exhibition itself, all proceeds will go to the Lifewire and Construction Workers’ Association Fund charities; we managed to raise over HK$1.8 million net so far. The former is probably one of the first crowdfunding platforms for providing healthcare to the underprivileged, and the latter is for the families of construction workers injured on the job. Click through for the ordering link and images from the exhibition.

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Photoessay: Studies of an old Jaguar

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Imagine this situation: you’ve been invited to photograph in an interesting private residence/art center/ architectural location* and after doing the obvious stuff, you come across something that is neither so obvious nor so well maintained, but very captivating nevertheless. Of course, you photograph it anyway. The ‘something’ in this case is what I believe to be a Mk IX Jaguar; in very proper British racing green and tucked away in the corner of a smallish garage whose other half is also filed with study models of about half of the landmarks of Kuala Lumpur, which its owner also designed. I initially struggled to find a vantage point for this because I wanted to put the whole car in context, until realising that it wasn’t necessary: the reductionist in me reminded me to look just at what was necessary to establish both, and disregard the rest. What follows I suppose are a series of interpretations of entropy – in which an object moves into its environment and over time becomes absorbed into the environment. Enjoy! MT

*The residence of noted local architect Hijjas Kasturi, Rimbun Dahun

This series with shot with a Nikon D810, various lenses and processed with Photoshop Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass.

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Singles: Portraits of excavators

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Herd. The body shapes, the low contrast, dust in the air, and buckets waving like trunks combined to give the feeling of a family of mechanical elephants. I decided to work in monochrome for this one to reinforce that feeling and remove the distraction of color. The lead ‘elephantavator’ has deliberately slightly more contrast than its brethren.

Sometimes I make an image (or four) that doesn’t quite fit into a photoessay, but appeals to me in some way – this marks the beginning of a new series that will present just a single image or two with some thoughts as to what I saw and why they appealed – think of it as a bridge between the photoessays and something a little more explanatory. Enjoy!

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More images from the Leica Q Typ 116

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Today’s photoessay is a mismash of sorts: additional images from the Leica Q, which I’ve had a chance to shoot a bit more with over the last few days in between assignments and preparing for my exhibition Connection which is now open at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. (The original set of images was made with no more than about 8 hours of shooting time in total, excluding bench testing etc. I’ve not got much to add to my original review other than the initial impressions are continuing to hold: this is one responsive, fluid, transparent camera. The edges are better if you avoid focus and recompose, and mid-distance performance seems to be slightly better than infinity. There can be some odd internal reflections inside the finder if you have light coming in from behind, but that’s only happened twice. I’m still very much enjoying shooting with it, as I’m sure you can tell from this set, and the fact that the shutter has racked up close to 3,000 images in six days…enjoy! MT This set was shot with a Leica Q Typ 116, and processed with Photoshop Workflow II. [Read more…]

Photoessay: just outside the city…

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…Small slices of tranquility can be had. Even within city limits, for that matter. The Japanese are quite particular about their nature; like everything else, you get a sense of ordered chaos as an outsider – within defined boundaries, the wilds are allowed to run free. Go a bit further afield, and you might find something that’s actually a little more untamed. Still, there’s a different kind of compositional challenge to be had: see if you can eliminate any signs of man from an environment that might well be entirely artificial; regardless, autumn in Japan is quite a special time of the year because of the enormous variety of colours. It’s too bad timing such a trip is tricky and highly weather-depedant; we lucked out in 2013 when filming How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, but came a bit late last year. Today’s landscape images are a continuation of the unconventional landscapes from a couple of months ago from a slightly more conventional perspective. Half of them were shot in the Tokyo Botanical Gardens; the other half, on the side of a hillside and a river near Mt. Mitake, about an hour outside of Tokyo by train. I’m going to end with one comment on the last seven matched images really need to be viewed as large Ultraprints; hung sequentially the impact is like looking out of a window onto a garden in the full throes of fall. Any image from this series is available as an Ultraprint on request – just
shoot me an email
. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, AI 45/2.8 P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar lenses. Some images are stitched, all were processed withs PS Workflow II. You can also travel to Japan vicariously here, with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo…

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Daily meditations on photography, or, the purpose of instagram

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For a very, very long time, I was against instagram simply because of the mediocrity it perpetuated: run any crap image of a cat through one of our filters and make a masterpiece! Slowly, things changed. You could upload images you didn’t shoot with your phone. You didn’t have to filter them, even if they still had to be square. They actually introduced an editor with control closer to Photoshop than a cookie cutter (vertical and horizontal keystone correction, anybody?). I caved, and as previously announced, have been using it for some time – more than a year, in fact. (You can find me here.) Whilst the purpose for the majority of users is clear – it’s a visual social network, of course – my own rationale for using it has been far less clear until recently.

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The abstraction of an idea

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After all the people have gone home

In a previous post, I tackled the general concept of an abstract photograph. I think it can be refined down something of the following: an image which is balanced equally across the entire frame such at that no one area attracts your attention more than any other area; the eye wanders, takes in the details, and never really lingers. By this definition, there is no subject since no one area or element of the photograph stands out more than any other; however, you could probably also argue that the entire frame is really the subject. Semantics is a funny thing, though, and this isn’t quite the definition of the term: we must think in terms of essences and summaries instead. An ‘abstract’ of a paper or article is really the core idea distilled down to the simplest possible terms; the objective elevator pitch rather than the marketing tagline. Today’s article tackles the visual equivalent of that: how do we take an idea and translate that into something visual?

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Photoessay: From the streets of KL, #72

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Connected isolation

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

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