Create or document?

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From the series ‘Gravitation is relative’

I’ve come to believe that all photography falls into one of two categories: created, or documented. It’s also rather difficult to switch between the two, and people tend to find either one or the other more intuitive. I suspect this may well have something to do with left brain-right brain dominance, too. This underlying split is important because it dictates the kind of photographer you are, and the kind of work that best suits one’s intuitive vision. It isn’t a continuum, because the one thing that splits the two sides of the divide is binary: was something in the scene added or removed at the control of the photographer, presumably for the express intent of translating and communicating the vision of the photographer to the audience?

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Photoessay: Cinematic vignettes from Japan, part I

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The first part of this series is a sort of composited rush from one city (Tokyo) to the next (Kyoto) – it’s admittedly a bit discontinuous since the curation was made of a set of discontinuous 2.4:1 widescreen frames grabbed without the premeditated intention of being put together into a story; that said, I think they flow together quite well. If there’s one thing missing it’s a critical objective or action or something of that nature – but perhaps also quite indicative of what happens when one passes through a city with non-photographic objectives in mind. Shooting 2.4:1 is quite challenging without any guidelines – there is no mask or crop mode in the D850 for this, and one simply has to guess (it’s roughly half the frame height, plus a bit; I use the limits of the AF area’s outer box as a guide). 2.4:1 compositions really only work in two instances: when you’ve got a very full (‘wimmelbilt’) frame that spreads out horizontally, or a very empty one. The latter tends to be good for tighter human images, which this set is deliberately lacking – it’s about the place, not so much the people. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 5. Visit Japan vicariously with How To See Ep. 2: Tokyo.

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Review: The Canon G1X Mark III, an impulse buy

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I picked one of these up on a recent trip to Japan (for some reason, none were available locally). Though Japan is one of the few places where the larger stores have virtually all models of camera on demo/display, with batteries and storage and lenses and in essence ready to play with to your heart’s content – that tells you very little about how something will perform in the field, in practice. Motivations? I was seduced on impulse by the spec sheet.

Disclosure note: I currently work for Hasselblad as Chief of Strategy, which means I cannot objectively comment on or review anything that might be competition. But since we don’t make a consumer level APS-C compact, there’s little conflict of interest here: I too am simply looking for the perfect pocket tool as much as the next photographer. As small as the X1D is – for medium format – it’s not exactly pocketable.

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Off topic: Presenting the MING 17.03

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I’m pleased to report that my horological venture has very much taken on a life of its own, and though it lives on its own site, I’m also aware that there’s quite a bit of crossover between photographers and watch enthusiasts. I also owe a big thanks to those of you who’ve supported this venture in its first and second iterations. Our latest piece is a sportier everyday wearer, with automatic winding convenience and a second timezone for travel. It’s also highly luminous in the dark.

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Photoessay: The beginning of the end

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I suppose it depends much on your own personal perspective: it could also be the beginning of your new life, should you be one of those people who bought into the starter (or not so starter) home. But I find something rather sad in this series – which is ironic as we were staying at a neighbouring high-rise that undoubtedly was cleared out of the very same jungle not so many years before. I accept of course that change, progress is necessary, and there’s an ever-increasing number of people for a finite amount of land: yet there’s also a rather strong melancholic feeling that sometimes we are chasing our own tails in the pursuit of an ever-receding and increasingly nebulous goal of happiness, but only in the form that social media deems is correct. That said: exactly then same thing could be said about the very first people to carve a space out of the jungle for themselves, and the same thing again about the wildlife and jungle that came from the ooze: who’s right? The one thing I take away from this, and especially again in a photographic sense: change is constant, and relativity is subjective. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-50c, 80 and 150mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Long term review: the Hasselblad X1D

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It’s been a long time coming – over a year since I first used the camera – and I will apologize for two things in advance: both the length of time it’s taken to complete, and the absence of any kind of objectivity since somebody will point out I work for Hasselblad. But I’ll remain a photographer first and foremost, and I have the luxury of a little distance as the X1D as a product predates my tenure, but the harder task to assess what the real impact of the X1D as a new product category has been some time after release. The two main reasons for the delay are because I also have a H6D-100c in the stable, which serves as my primary camera (and whose files are understandably seductive to both photographers and clients – and yes, I probably need to do a mid term on that one, too) – and, at the risk of getting fired – until recently, I haven’t felt like the X1D is fully complete. Let me explain…

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Photoessay: Tokyographic

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In a city with a very high visual density – any sort of design has to shout quite loudly in order do differentiate itself and stand out. There are two ways of doing this: be more retina-searing than the next object, or be so plain as to create a sort of hole in space. I’ve always been fascinated with the dichotomy of Japanese design in general, and the translation to life and various classes of objects; there are examples where a design stands out but ages poorly (cars), it doesn’t stand out but is functional and occasionally clearly designed by an engineer, not a user (consumer electronics), and other times where design is so minimalist but elevated to the level of art (any traditional objects such as lacquerware, fabrics, etc.). In the case of this photoessay – we see it in the detailing and the block forms and colors used to accentuate what might otherwise be quite plain. I suppose these examples actually tend more towards the minimalist than the ornate, simply because they can all be reduced to fairly simple elements cleverly interlinked – given the large number of these kinds of photos in the archive, it would  probably be safe to say this is what resonates with me as a designer and photographer…

This series was shot with a mix of equipment including a GX85, X1D and D850 and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III. Travel vicariously to Tokyo in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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The rise and decline of popular photography

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I don’t normally write counterpoint articles, because honestly, you’re not going to change people’s minds most of the time; nor do I write ones in agreement because most of what can be said has been by the original author. However, Paul Perton’s post on DearSusan about the world hitting ‘peak photo’ – in much the same sense as ‘peak oil’ – struck a chord for a few reasons. First and foremost – I think it’s true, but not necessarily for the reasons stated in the original article. Secondly, I have to correct some inaccurate assertions made about myself. I’m also selecting my post title very carefully here, too: decline, not fall, because we’re in a period where interest in pictures, picture-making, picture-showing and the photographic ecosystem for the vast majority of people* seems to have dropped off; it’s not a case of decreased growth; everybody I speak to at all points of the value chain says the market** is actively contracting, has been for some time, and will continue to do so in future. What I’m interested in understanding is why, and what this means for the rest of us who instead doubled down and got more serious.

*Audience, creators, consumers. **Pros, manufacturers, retailers, studios etc.

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Photoessay: Watercourse

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Being an island, water is of course unavoidable pretty much everywhere you go in Iceland – it shapes the country and often emerges in spectacular form from the least expected of places. Volcanic rock is of course extremely hard and resilient, but eventually the water wins; what I found most mind-boggling about the landscape wasn’t the scale, spectacle or extremes – but the fact that it will continue to change dramatically. What we see is but an instantaneous snapshot of a work in progress that will only get more spectacular with time, assuming a) we as the human race are still around to see it, and b) we haven’t somehow messed it up ourselves. I do realise the irony in that thought – and I’m sure many people will point out that I’m directly contributing to b) by merely visiting. Yet without more of us going and exploring to know what ought to be preserved, we can’t preserve it – or more importantly, give the landscape enough visibility in the wider social context so that people are aware that it needs to be preserved. Curiously, quantum mechanics is correct again even at this scale: we influence the outcome by measuring (recording) it…MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Exhibition: Idea of Man, part II at the Ilford Galerie, Kuala Lumpur

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I’m pleased to announce my first exhibition for 2018, and the second instalment in the long-running Idea of Man project – part II premieres together with the opening of the Ilford Galerie in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a continuation of my exploration into the transience of modern life – human figures are anonymous, on the move, and in a built environment, there is separation but no individuality, and every situation is a familiar one which we have probably been in at one time or another. They could be us. The perspective is one of conscious observer rather than participant: a deliberate acknowledgement of human nature in self-awareness and our tendency to as “why me – and how am I any different?”.

The event starts a 1pm on Saturday, 20 January and features prints made by my usual partner in crime, Wesley Wong. Please come and say hi if you’re in town.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here

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