Photoessay: Paradise Lost, part II

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I’ve been continuing to work on the Paradise Lost project for some time now; at some point I will have to curate a consistent body of work to a theme and declare the thing ‘finished’, but in the meantime I’m still experimenting with the presentation. As mentioned previously, I’m treating this project as an ‘open book’ so you can see what goes into the creation of something like this. My current dilemma is a question of mood: is it a happy retirement, or a sad one, or a melancholic one? Or perhaps somewhere in between the three?

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Choice of mood impacts choice of style and vice versa. Picking one certainly makes it easier to keep the story tight, but on the other hand, it might result in a one-dimensional emotional feel. Moreover, my gut tells me that this kind of thing shouldn’t be quite so straightforward – we all have good days and bad days. The risk of mixing styles is of course confusion of any audience who isn’t willing to spend a bit more time looking, thinking and recognising that the emotional conflict/variety is indeed deliberate. Regardless of which option I choose in the end, the story still has holes in it – those will have to be filled in due course. The main thing that’s missing for me now is a series in the rain or just after it – metaphorically, it’s all a bit too sunny now…

The next post will be a deliberately very different presentation to allow you to see what I mean. Part II (here) has not shifted that far from part I. The impression I wanted to create was a sort of ‘vivid imagination’ in which the heroes think they are still young…but their bodies tell another story. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 45/2.8 P and Sigma 20 Art. Postprocessed with the ‘commercial’ style in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 5.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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  1. David Lupton says:

    A question of mood, interesting question, its personal to the seeing, the idea and the reflection the subject and surrounds throws back, mood seems more associated with light these are all neat clean images, moody, not yet. To me they are explorations, unpacking for sure. These are grounded things, precise skies, precise tight framing, free things imprisoned by a photographic precision, do the images fly, resonate a mood, I am not convinced.

    How do they give the impression, create the connection, tell the story of these young heroes dreaming imagining youth vividly in old grounded bodies?

    How to animate this in the seeing and processing?

    BW or colour grainy or seamless toned or as is, night or day, stars or inky blackness, wet grey or blue, clouds or not, sunset sunrise the colours of imagination of a re dreamed youth …what are they?

    This is an incredibly difficult thing to photograph.

    I would be curious to see wider shots, different framings, different relationships, different ways of unpacking the thought,
    the tight empty cockpits framed against clouds are not enough, enough to start yes, yet vivid is a bigger word in its feel to my mind, a key to how the images should be tackled? I wonder if the cloud space should be taller much taller, the cockpits smaller exploring the spacial freedom and the anchored reality in a different way, a way that lets the imagination soar.

    I think the challenge of this project is that the end product might be so different to the way you photograph and think now that you abandon and discover something that is raw soulful loose yet tight, free yet constrained dense but light, something completely different to anything you may have done before, I think it will take a long time possibly a couple of years to unpack this, what a great project.

  2. Michiel953 says:

    For all those that find issue with these images of “instruments of war”: I find some of these to be very poetic. All that dented, rusted, worn by standing around idle in a field metal, that was once put together with a very severe and “manly” purpose.

    Touching in a way.

  3. Michael says:

    Others beat me to it in commenting. Early on, I felt a definite disconnect between between photos of decomposing military aircraft and any semblance of paradise, lost or otherwise. These were machines of death and destruction. Any shred of paradise associated with them may have existed somewhere on the ground they flew over — until they bombed and shot it to bits, leaving the dead and mutilated in their wake. Now, however, it appears that what may have been a few civilian planes have been added to the mix. That just produces a sense of confusion when trying to wrap my head around the title of the collection and what it contains. There may be some transcendent theme here which escapes me.

    • They also never saw action. It’s about the pursuit and defense of an ideal that never was.

      • Michael says:

        Let’s set aside my reaction as being a bit over the top. I’ve been somewhat hung up on Man’s inhumanity ever since my well-intentioned tax dollars were used to obliterate the MSF hospital in Kunduz.

    • Michiel953 says:

      How can you ignore and deny the unmistakable link between the pursuit of ideals and warfare? Some historical awareness, instead of moral indignity, is justified.

  4. Lucy March says:

    I’m curious as to how you got those angles. Did you have a ladder?

  5. Per Kylberg says:

    Lost paradise – and photos of war aircrafts!!?? Is war = paradise?

    • No. It never has been. They’ve also never seen action. War is fighting for an ideal…the ideal is paradise, but if there’s no fight then where’s the ideal?

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Oow.. [ “War is fighting for an ideal…” ] .. there is a lot buzzing around in that Pandora’s box!
        Maybe we shouldn’t peep too far inside here and now.
        Anyway, ideals – and, even more, principles – can and do kill.

        But I find other associations to the title now that you have added photos of more derelict craft.
        There are also the associations between the aging or rotting of the tools and of historic change and of ideals …

        And Paradise no more is what it used to be.
        And will never become what it is.

        • I think the whole concept of paradise is really an illusion: it doesn’t and can’t exist, because it’s a goal, not a physical destination. Human nature means we will always find something to complain about – which means it cannot possibly be paradise…

    • I notice all the comments are in English – not German. Need I say more about he utility of war?

  6. Love the brutal mechanical prowess of each image. Another phenomenal set, Ming!

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