Photoessay: Museum

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There are some places you visit where the weight of accumulated history is so great that you can’t help but feel it everywhere you go; at times you feel like you’re walking through a living museum of sorts. Part of that is probably because of the accumulated objects, part of that is because of the people who’ve been living with those accumulated objects for so long that they’ve become a part of them in a way. There’s no denying that culture and society are both path dependent and self-reinforcing; yet I wonder to what degree popular culture is making things oddly homogenous across a much larger distance than before. ‘Culture’ is an interesting term because it’s come to mean similar things across the world: the arts, the erudition and gentility. I suppose we should be thankful it isn’t the size of your bank balance or number of nuclear missiles…MT

This series was shot with an iPhone 11 Pro and edited in-phone, except for the second image, which was shot with a Nikon Z7, a 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Florentine patchwork

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One thing any place with extensive history seems to enjoy is a patchwork of evolutionary architectural styles and weathering; all of this combines to create a distinctly unique signature that we recognise as being ‘of a place’. The longer that history, the more disparate elements combine – in such a way that could not possibly have been predicted by those who put up the structures could have envisioned at the time. Whilst we’ve had discussions here in the past over how architects build and design with sensitivity to their immediate environment, there is literally no way they could have foreseen what comes in the years that follow. However one can only assume that the following architects would continue to be sensitive to their relative surroundings, thus creating a sort of thematic continuity that whilst perhaps is not seamless – is at least somewhat harmonious. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, a 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Vault and arch

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Today’s set is an abstract whistlestop tour of Milan’s interpretation of that most fundamental of architectural features: the arch, and it’s compound, the vault. I’ve always found the interplay of light off the curves and textures to be very compelling as a regular but abstract arrangement, probably because it has many surfaces and lines intersecting at nearly perpendicular. What’s more interesting is the range of interpretations present: from the small-scale to the monumental; from the ornate to the functionally minimalist, every combination of those two axes and everything in between, with the possibility of two or three dimensions to add even more variety. Photographically, flattening or enhancing that sense of depth through the use of shadow and camera position/perspective yields some rather interesting results, as I think you’ll agree. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, a 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Design objects

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At the Trienniale in Milan, there is a collection of everyday use design objects from the 20th century that represent perhaps the best and worst of their eras: things that were wildly over designed and over made and overoptimistic for what they would be used for; elaborate celebrations of new technology (like digital calculators) that clearly took a lot of effort and would eventually prove to be quite transient. There are objects that appear to have transcended time because they are still sold and used today; undoubtedly in use because of both form and function, and a testament to how good the original design was. Both sides are very interesting: not just as objects, but as social commentary of the era and what people thought the future might be like. Some were uncannily accurate and foresightful, and some perhaps didn’t even consider the actual use cases or human ergonomics…but all were at least interesting in form and color. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Patchwork abstract

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Today’s set was a tricky one to curate, and honestly tested the limits of my archival system. I’ve always been attracted to textural groupings like the ones you see here; the problem is they seem to come so rarely and are visually distinct enough that I never shoot enough of them within a single period to make up a coherent set. Then, you either land up losing them or not knowing where to file them because they’re so different from everything else, and by the time you’ve found the next image in the sequence – it’s been so long the way you see might have actually changed. Then you have to go back and curate again, looking for the order and evolution of texture and color, and being careful not to cast the net so wide as to lose the original intention. The idea of design and visual evolution as a texture feels…delicate, almost like the pastel tones in some of the elements; too much saturation/ reinforcement and the intent is lost. yet with others, the saturation is required for punch, but just shy of full to still be able to describe nuance. It is control, tension and pure punch all at the same time. MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with Workflow III; some images SOOC.

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Photoessay: Geometric color

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Today’s architectural mishmash is a hodgepodge of abstracted geometries and colours from a variety of locations and a variety of styles, scales and palettes; other than poor assortment jokes, the only thing they have in common is a decomposition into pure form. I admit I like the idealism, the abstraction and the inherent optimism of having a structure that appears perfect and un-messed by its occupants, even if this is completely at odds with why it was built. In another life, I was probably a magpie, a collector of shiny things…now I am merely an accumulator of abstract colours and shapes. It harms nobody. It costs nothing. Some others may derive joy from it. That’s not a bad thing, surely. MT

Shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, some SOOC, some Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Architecture, digested

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I’ve always found Architectural Digest to be a slightly odd publication title; I realise it’s in the same condensed vein as Reader’s Digest in the sense of being a distilled essence of the things you probably want to know. To me, the word has always carried implications of something chewed up, softened and mushed into waste products. Certainly dimensionally collapsed, or in the process of being. Hence today’s long-period curation around the theme unearths and presents perspective-flattened, distilled architectural details; the kind of images that the PR department hates because they’re ‘too abstract’ and ‘not whole building’ but architects themselves love because the details they fought the client to keep actually get appreciated. I’m with the architects on this one – if they can distill the character of the building into one or two interesting vignettes, it ought to be worth highlight. MT

Shot over a long period of time with a wide variety of hardware; mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Slanted

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A series of rises and falls today; topology and mountaineering in urban shadow. An energetic, driving baseline as opposed to something more melodic; think EDM over Mozart (not that I listen to either, to be honest). The beat links the frames together across subject and scale, with occasional visual riffs and explorations of a motif but sticking with this same theme. I’ve probably said this somewhere before, but photography (and any visual art) have always been like music to me; a landscape of texture focused one of our senses. Crucially, both have limitations – music is temporal and one-way only; photography has only two dimensions. But both also have the ability to effect a presentation that transcends the limitations of reality by encouraging us to suspend disbelief and just appreciate what’s put in front of us; we can only see what we are shown. MT

This set was mostly shot with a Nikon D3500, 18-55 kit and SOOC JPEG, with a guest appearance from the Z7 and Pen-F.

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Photoessay: Alien geometry

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Every time an architect tries a postmodern, hypermodern, pseudo-alien interpretation of something – I can’t help but think that the opposite is true. By intentionally shedding societal convention and expectation of what a building or space should be, and given a sufficiently liberal client – all that’s left are the limits of the designer’s imagination*. And unless the designer isn’t of this planet – what remains is if anything about as human as things get. I do realise this sounds somewhat unintuitive at best, and downright hypocritical at worst; but ask yourself this: for something to be truly alien it has to be foreign to you. And if it was created by humans – as all buildings on Earth are – it’s still within the realm of our understanding and appreciation. Different, yes; completely alien, no. Somewhat related segue: not having the dictat and expectations of history is not a bad thing at all when it comes to design; I don’t think I’d be able to create a watch to a company expectation or style, for instance. To the creators of the buildings – I applaud the clients for not saying no (or for insisting son something different) and for the architects and contractors to pulling it off. MT

This series was shot some time ago with mostly the Olympus Pen F and various lenses, mostly SOOC camera JPEG. Some Nikon Z7/ 24-70 thrown in for good measure, too.

*And structural engineers’ ability to execute. I respect/ pity those who work for Gehry, Hadid etc.

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Photoessay: Repetition in high key

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Perhaps repetition is the wrong word; riffs on a theme might be more apt. Pay close attention to the sequencing of the images and you’ll notice the key lines flow up down along diagonals that provide continuity between frames; in this way the repetition and structure extends beyond the individual image to the entire set. The tonal bias is mostly high key and cool, but even then there are slight variations to hint at different moods*. I think of it almost as a rising and falling of music that smoothly transitions between passages. Still, the outer covering merely disguises the fact that the underlying structures themselves are the usual rectangular blocks; it’s simply not economical to make something that isn’t regular (not to mention producing spaces that are highly inefficient). These are after all public buildings in the administrative centre of the country; a little decorative facade cladding is fine, but let’s not go too far overboard. MT

*I’m very pleased with the tonality from this series; there’s something about the light openness of the mid and highlight tones that I’ve only been able to achieve with medium format up to this point – but it might also be because I’ve had a strong preference for darker, richer tones. Think oil painting vs watercolour.

This series was shot with a Nikon D3500 and AF-P 70-300 DX VR, and is a mix of SOOC JPEG and edited raw using Photoshop Workflow III.

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