What I’ve always found amazing is how completely inconspicuous and transparent mobile phones are. They’ve become such an ubiquitous part of daily life that they’re not noticed; like hats in the 20s and 30s. Not having one is the exception. Surprisingly, I’ve also found that aiming your phone at something to take a picture – complete with awkward stance, delicate ‘I’m-going-to-drop-this-thing-becuase-the-ergonomics-are-bad’ finger poses and device held at arms’ length – is completely ignored even though it’s a lot more obvious than using a camera discretely. Have we learned to filter it out during the few short years of mobile photography? Evidently so. I’ve gone from seeing a cameraphone as completely useless to a curiosity and masochistic challenge to an interestingly stealthy way of observing the world: it has properties that cannot be replicated by other cameras, which in turn result in fairly unique images. First of course is ubiquity and stealth; second is silence; third are generally fast/intuitive interfaces (tap to focus, expose AND shoot!). You can get in close and not be seen. Or be seen and nobody feels intimidated, at least in my experience. I find this odd since you’re far more likely to post on FB with your iPhone than your 4×5… In any case, I present today a series of what I’d think of as observations – both as observer, and observed, and an observer observing the observers. Enjoy. MT
Following on from an earlier article about light and mood in monochrome, I feel some examples are in order. Though these were all shot in San Francisco, they are from different eras in my career. Nevertheless, I believe the feeling I personally experience in San Franciso is consistent – one of possibility and excitement reinforced by the weather and tempered by something slightly along the lines of wondering if you’re going to live up to the standards of the city or stand out like a hick – there’s this sort of sophistication and modern edginess, I suppose. And nights are quiet rather than being lively (or I’m simply going to the wrong places). Enjoy! MT
This set was shot with a diverse range of equipment, but processed using the techniques covered in the Monochrome Masterclass workshop video.
Today’s photoessay is not quite varied Idea of man so much as man overwhelmed – we construct these grandiose environments for ourselves to use, but then land up almost being slave to them. It’s a slightly odd state of affairs in which I feel the human gets rendered somewhat irrelevant and overwhelmed. Who is the real master? Where did we lose control? MT
This series was shot in various places with various equipment (mostly a D810) and curated over a long period of time.
My initial idea for this post was to examine where street photography is going today; on further reflection, I think it’s perhaps more a question of addressing some overdone stereotypes perpetrated by camera collectors and social media warriors – not photographers – to see if we can get a bit more understanding into a) why those stereotypes exist, and b) if we want to produce visually different and better work, what needs to change. Read on, but only if you don’t believe everything should be shot from close range and monochrome contrast is solely binary.
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
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.
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
In part one we looked at why images of people fascinate us, and the nature of portraiture. However, this only covers half of the possibilities for ‘images of people’: instances where the subject is a conscious and cooperative part of the process. What about the other possibility: where the subject is not aware the photographer, or only aware of them in the most fleeting of moments before any conscious self-image or rapport can be built?
The images in this article are all candid: unposed, unplanned, and with subject unaware. Even if it appears they may be looking at the camera in certain situations, it is a result of conscious timing, observation of something behind me, and/or a particular moment rather than catching a long stare. None of them showed any acknowledgement of my presence before or after the shot was taken, which was actually quite surprising in some situations. They saw me, but my presence didn’t register.
Tokyo ranks extremely highly on my top places in the world for street photography – the sheer visual difference notwithstanding, it is also an extremely tolerant society to photography, and photography of random people in public. Everybody is doing it to the point that nobody notices anymore; however, unlike in other parts of the world where camera phones dominate, there are plenty of people using more serious equipment, too. Blending in has never been much of a problem. That difference I mentioned earlier is eroding somewhat, though. Once again, globalisation has meant that a lot of the more unique ‘character’ areas of the city are becoming clones of international streets (or vice versa) or even other parts of Tokyo; the area around almost any major railway station is the same, for instance – an agglomeration of fast food eateries, convenience stores, and one or two major chains plus a business hotel. It’s a formula that probably works for practicality, but not so much to keep the world an interesting place for its inhabitants.
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.