This post will not make any sense at first, and certainly not the title image – but I’ll get there. As a photographer – and a person trying to find something different and visually/aesthetically pleasing under sometimes challenging situations, it’s important to be aware of things that can limit or aid us. From a general life standpoint, the things that inspire us also tend to be the ones that put us in a good mood – and in what way is that bad? Having spent time in a wide range of places which cover all portions of the inspiration scale, there are definitely places that stand out as being better than others – but often for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. But you do notice it in the way the locals smile, have a spring in their step, tend to be encouraged and happy to run their own small businesses, and generally seem happy. In contrast, places that stifle or are not conducive to creativity tend to be missing that ‘zing': everything is transactional ends at the next buck.
Perhaps this set should have been called ‘seeing the wood for the trees’ – often in a situation where there is so much going on, it’s not easy to pick out and compose for individual details. There’s a sort of cognitive deception going on – there appears to be a lot of areas of interest, but in reality you’ve got to be very careful because it’s really the juxtaposition and perceived density that makes the scene interesting – without the context, you don’t know it’s one tree of many, or that the level of detail continues on to increasingly smaller scales, or that a particular rock formation is out of place. A good rule of thumb is that the detail of interest must be markedly different from the surrounding areas in order to stand out and hold audience attention. That of course means including the surrounding areas…
Is an image good? Bad? Ugly? Beautiful? Art? Everybody has an opinion, and those are based on the expectations formed by the biases created as a result of one’s own existence and experiences. What is considered beautiful in one culture may be hideous in another, or unremarkable. Art is in the eye of the beholder (or more importantly, the person signing the cheques). For anything that is subjective, there can be no absolutes. Take taste, or ambient temperature, for instance. There are preferences, nothing more. It is therefore perplexing that the whole industry is so hung up on both comparisons and seeking the lowest common denominator.
Advance warning: this post may be considered a rant by some.
Hrubá Skalá is a tiny little village around a castle, located in the Český Ráj (Bohemian Paradise) area of the Czech Republic. It’s about an hour or so north of Prague and very much in the countryside; farmhouses there change hands for EUR 20,000 or thereabouts. It also contains some of the most interesting rock formations on earth – a mixture of limestone and sandstone towers in fantastic shapes that remained whilst the surrounding soil eroded away. In places they protrude out of the forest forming a cliff line; in others they are so near to each other that canyons which never see any light are formed. Walking between them is quite otherworldly – not just because of their scale, but because you pretty much have the place to yourself.
I’m pleased to announce my second exhibition of 2015: The Idea of Man, which runs from October 2-31 at the Rangefinder Gallery at Tamarkin Camera, Chicago. Though the previously intended book didn’t happen (yet, we’re working on it) – a good selection of the images will make it into this exhibition as Ultraprints, which will be for sale in a limited run of 10 per image.
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.
Given we’re in the first day of the Cinematic Masterclass with Zeiss in Hanoi, it seems only appropriate that I bring back this classic post for another round – with new images, of course!
Soft, diffuse light from an overcast sky; directionality to darkness brought on by narrow alleyways; perpetual twilight indoors necessitating the use of artificial incandescent light all the time. Sounds like a photographic nightmare? Not quite; I’ve revised my initial philosophy of ‘you always need great light to make a great image’ to ‘there’s no such thing as bad light: just inappropriate light for the subject and vice versa’. November in Venice is almost nothing but this kind of light – one can either put the camera away entirely and stay indoors, or make the most of it by finding the right subjects.
I’m currently finishing off some retouching from my last assignment before preparing for the Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass with Zeiss, but once again, as curiously happens the same time every year…it’s my birthday so I’d like to celebrate by giving you all a little gift – a thank you for your support over the last couple of years.
For the next week, using the voucher code ‘MING2015′ gets you $30 off any video or bundle on the teaching store for purchases over $100. There’s no limit on the number of vouchers per person – use as many as you like in combination with whichever videos you wish – but the total number of vouchers is limited. First-come, first-served and valid for one week until 23.59 KL time (GMT+8) on the 25th of July 2014 – or the vouchers run out, whichever comes first. So if there are any videos you’ve been curious about, or need to complete your set, now’s the time :)
And as a gentle reminder, there are some places left for the Chicago workshops in September/October – won’t last for long though, I’m sure!
26 July: the week is now up, thank you all for your support! MT
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.