Texture is shadows, and shadows are texture: at the micro level, surface irregularities are thrown into relief and colors are intensified. This latter effect is an interesting property of raked lighting: since the pits in the surface structure of an object are in shadow, the overall reflected luminosity is lower. However, there are also small portions that appear brighter because some light may reflect off surfaces at precisely the right angle. End result: microcontrast is higher, colors are deeper/richer and textures are made to appear more real (if such a thing is possible). I love old buildings like these because they are perfect subjects for this kind of light: some surfaces are rendered smooth by centuries of paint; others by centuries of wear; and still others show the marks of etching of pollution etc. It’s an interesting study in color, form and texture…MT
Probably the easiest way to ‘wimmelbild‘ a scene is to add reflections: the more reflections, the more layering and the more complexity can be built in. Of course it then becomes difficult to create structure in the image that allows space for a clear primary subject, and then find a physically/spatially possible way to actually insert that subject – it’s no good if your free space is on the ceiling, for example. The light in Lisbon on severals of the days I was there was just so conducive to creation of these types of images I couldn’t help myself – strong, intense colors, clean plate glass (or car glass) and one or two clear human subjects meant that it was a wimmelfetishist’s dream. I’m sure somebody is going to say I’m being overly pretentious about this, but there’s surely got to be a metaphor in here for life – every person surrounded by complexity and layers of thought, or places surrounded by unseen/ unacknowledged history. It’s a bit more personal than idea of man because the images need the specific individuals to work, and somewhat different to the ‘traditionally expected’ street photography – I find that it’s much more contingent on the environment and finding the right individual to fit your expectation of a story than vice versa. Enjoy! MT
In the last few days since Kevin Raber at LL published his editorial, I’ve received at least 100 emails asking ‘is it true?’ and ‘is this the end?’ Hopefully by now the internet hysteria has died down and most of us can take a collective deep breath and look at the situation with a bit more objectivity, it’ll become clear that the sky isn’t falling. Indeed, it’s quite likely to be the opposite. However, knowing how quick people are to accuse, react and generally come to (often wildly incorrect) conclusions without complete information, I have to state my position clearly upfront:
- Yes, I am a Hasselblad ambassador but am not involved at all in the operations, finances or strategic decisions of the company. I use the cameras, answer questions, and that’s really about it.
- This post was neither solicited nor compensated for by the company or any other party, and solely represents my own opinions.
- Whilst I am only a photographer now, I did work in M&A, private equity and at senior operational positions for the better part of 10 years beforehand. So I do know something about the issues at hand.
- I am of ethnic Chinese descent (why this is important will become clear later on).
- We’ll look at the situation with as much commercial objectivity as possible.
With that, let’s get on with the analysis.
I had an odd feeling walking around Prague on this last trip – something that was not there the first time I visited in 2011, nor subsequently. Perhaps it was the sheer number of tourists; perhaps it was the lack of locals. But I couldn’t shake the sensation of walking around in a very big museum; everything preserved just so, architecture restored to beyond its original heights, yet somehow just tipping over that point where the residents live in the buildings to the residents living for the buildings. The stage itself was nicer than it had ever been; but somehow…something was missing. A degree of isolation came into play, and perhaps the friendliness was just a tad more forced than the last time I was here. Chalk it down to collective fatigue; perhaps: when everything is special, nothing is special anymore. Just soft people trying to fit into a rigid environment.
Today’s subject is a series of aerial interpretations of a tidal formation known as ‘The Tree’ by locals. It is formed of sandbars and the action between the high tide lagoon draining. Due to the nature of fluid dynamics, the current magnifies any irregularities in the channel creating a self-reinforcing turbulent flow which in turn digs certain channels deeper than others. Over time, this creates ever deeper channels – but also channels that may land up shifting when the various flows deposit runoff material and interact with each other in unexpected ways. The upshot of all this is the creation of a pattern that can only really be appreciated from the air both due to accessibility and scale (and there would be no vantage point from the ground). The rate of change is much faster than you might think, too: these images were shot at the opposite ends of the same day, yet there are formations that are visibly different over the course of barely twelve hours. MT
Presenting something a little different from a recent assignment. Firstly, I know I’m not really known for portraiture, though I do quite a bit of it; I suppose it’s simply not something I’ve really publicised much. On this assignment, I had a few things to keep in play: firstly, finding the right faces amongst the workers; secondly, some of them being unwilling or uncomfortable to be photographed*. and thirdly, striking a good balance between a documentary in situ and something posed. Overriding all of this was the need for authenticity: no point in having a great looking portrait but one that doesn’t make sense either from the client’s standpoint (i.e. not representative of actual construction work) and vice-versa. I wanted to mostly avoid the kind of thing where you just have somebody posing and looking into the camera; that negates the documentary aspect to a large degree – and in my own mind always felt as though either the workers weren’t really working that much, or the whole exercise was forced. In the end, I think I managed a good mix everywhere along the continuum from a fleeting smile to posed to something more natural and mid-work.
*Far more often than you might think; either out of fear that they might be caught doing something wrong and censured later, or for Asian reasons of ‘giving face’ and not wanting the exact nature of their work to be known. There is an inexplicably strong desire to work in a corner office shuffling paper, it seems…
I think if I were a painter, I’d probably work in a completely opposite style to the way I photograph most of the time: somewhat impressionistic, with strongly graphic, block structures that are aesthetically pleasing and no more than essential to the mere suggestion of the subject. Forget being explicit; leave that to the imagination of the viewer. It’s much more difficult to do photographically since the medium is one that faithfully records everything that’s there – good and bad and without prejudice towards ‘cleanliness’; you have to hunt quite hard to find something that remains graphic on a macro scale since large objects in an urban environment simply don’t stay perfectly uniform for very long, which in turn breaks the illusion of minimalism. Nevertheless, I think it remains an interesting visual training exercise because it forces you to really observe and distill the essence of an object…even if some retouching is required to clean it up afterwards. MT
With the benefit of an unusually clear evening in the usually quite overcast tropics, it’s possible to appreciate the subtle and wide variety of hues the evening sky transitions through – and the interesting interplay off the mirrored glass and water between artificial and reflected light. People often ask why I like to shoot in cities; it’s partially because of the difficulty in finding similar natural environments which are close enough to allow you to photograph in often, and partially because only the built environment gives you this kind of transition. It’s also a glimpse into somebody else’s imagination and vision to some degree; how did they envision their creation in the existing environment. Even if it’s merely a product of corporate averaging, we still get to see what the collective masses expect and deem to be ‘good’…MT
As promised – here’s the other half without obviously identifiable reference points. I often find that with aerial images, it’s either very easy to abstract or very hard to get a consistent sense of scale – especially when the subject matter is not something that jumps out at us as something our subconscious can pattern recognise. The landscape here is simply so randomly full of formations that you’d have trouble dreaming up. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on the aim of the photograph. I don’t think one approach is better than the other, but it is an interesting cognitive exercise. Personally, when selecting images to fill the walls of the apartment we moved to earlier in the year – I found myself hanging quite a number of the less identifiable ones, and other images which were not an obvious choice based on my own screen preferences; proof printing plays a huge role here (assuming of course you print large enough!) Which do you prefer? MT
I’ve shot in very few places that have this kind of yield or density of interesting subject matter and images you feel compelled to have to make – I guess that either makes them rare, or I don’t travel enough. If at this point you’re wondering why there’s such a focus on this little corner of Western Australia – the simple reason is that it had a huge variety of subject matter, and whether through difference to my normal environment or otherwise – simply forced me to keep shooting. Visual coherence might perhaps only come through in the quality of light and some continuity of subject matter between frames, and I find that quite amazing given the relatively small area covered. Colours may appear surreal, but I assure you that I’ve tried my best to get them as close to reality as possible; I’m sure part of what attracted me to those subjects was the very unusual color (for natural subjects) in the first place. Enjoy! MT