Photoessay: everyday abstraction

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The cloud slicer

We frequently encounter everyday objects or miniature tableaux of objects that hold our attention for their texture, whimsy or simply pleasing nature; how often do we attempt to photograph and capture these? Personally, that answer is not really often enough, so I’ve been consciously going about attempting to do so whenever the opportunity presents itself, with whatever hardware I happen to have to hand at the time. The challenging part isn’t so much capturing the visually interesting bits: it’s excluding the ugly, discordant, incoherent surroundings that distract too much rather than provide contrast and context. Personally, I feel the resulting images actually work best with no context; that way we are able to enjoy them serendipitously without other considerations intruding and ruining the illusion of perfection. This is pure photography – a reduction of the world to nothing more than light, color and form, and a development on the ideas in this article. Enjoy! MT

Images from this series were processed with PS Workflow II.

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Photoessay: The devil in the details

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Today’s photoessay is I suppose about both intention and serendipity: architects intend for certain parts of certain buildings to work with their environment in a particular way, but also for them to be self-contained, individually functional and internally consistent. Whilst the macro environment is always taken into account during planning of the gross features, the way these features interact with the immediate environment cannot always be foreseen; for instance, take large reflective surfaces like glass and metal claddings. If the weather and skies change, so does the entire appearance of the surface. If the surrounding environment changes 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the line with demolition of old buildings and erection of new ones – there’s simply no way this kind of thing can be envisioned at the planning stages. What I find interesting in effectively living in a forest of skyscrapers is that their personality keeps changing with light and evolution of the neighbourhood – on any given day, my surroundings can be really impressive or dull as ditchwater. What I’ve attempted to do with this photoessay is try to share some of that feeling with you – of course, there are limitations of screen in scale and gamut. The sequencing is deliberate and focuses more on abstraction and evolution of form and colour than subject – in this case, the specific individual subject doesn’t much matter anyway. Enjoy! MT

Shot with a wide range of equipment over several months, but mostly the Nikon D810 and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II or The Monochrome Masterclass.

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On Assignment Photoessay: Abstraction in the machine

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Today’s photoessay is something a little different: the curated results from an assignment last year where I had an open creative brief; I was to document and photograph everything and anything at the given locations. The client was a heavy engineering/ construction company with everything going on from schools to subways to airports; it was both one of the most interesting assignments I’ve undertaken as well as one of the most satisfying – and simultaneously challenging.

Some of these images will be part of the larger exhibition in Hong Kong in June, so if you’re around, please come and say hello.

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Photoessay: Urban observations in monochrome

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Fragmentation in the face of modernization

Today’s photoessay is a short series of urban observations and abstractions in black and white; I like to think of them as the things I (and presumably others) notice but either pass by or seldom bother contemplating. They are the little slices of whimsy that can make for an interesting interlude to an otherwise routine day. The captions are integral, I think. Enjoy! MT

This series of grabs was shot with various vintages of iPhone; mostly 5/5s and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Abstraction and reflection in Chicago

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Only one place in Chicago…

I think without reflections, urban photography and architecture would be pretty boring. There’d certainly be no opportunity for the sort of ‘continuity errors’ that make for interesting juxtapositions and impossible geometries; the kind of thing that adds depth, complexity and texture to a scene. These were shot in Chicago with a GR, 645Z, D810 and Otus 85 and processed with PS Workflow II. Enjoy! MT

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What makes an interesting image, part two: illusion and reality

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Inversion I

In the previous article, we distilled down the two components of an interesting image: subject and presentation. We looked at the theoretical implications of both; today we’re going to attempt to address practical application. It will be in a very limited subjective way, as there’s simply no way to do it at an absolute level; I suppose it will be as much a snapshot of my current state of interpretation of the purpose of photography as a medium as much as anything. I certainly would not have had this line of logic two years ago, nor will I probably agree with everything again in another two years. The more we see, the more we experiment, the more our own vision evolves together with the creative philosophy behind it.

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Photoessay: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago

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Chicago can be considered both a city of architects and in a way, a city for architects; despite the huge number of other famous buildings in the city, I found myself particularly taken by the form and execution of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Perhaps it was because it was my first encounter in person with a Frank Gehry building – they’re understandably somewhat thin on the ground in Asia. It probably didn’t do any harm that I also happened to go on a day where the sky was throwing up a fantastic assortment of clouds and light; if you didn’t like the arrangement of cumulus, just wait a few minutes for a fresh one. And of course late September in Chicago means that the light is never directly overhead, because the sun sweeps over the horizon in an arc – making any time of day fair game to shoot.

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Abstract thoughts on abstract photography

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Built on shaky foundations

In my earlier photographic period, I’d often made the mistake of thinking abstract photography was just a catch-all bucket for images that didn’t fit anywhere else; I even had a folder for that kind of thing called ‘Random’. From time to time, during my many photographic excursions, I’d find my eye deviated from the ‘objective’ – not that I had one. Admittedly, at that point, I’d mix shooting with an objective – say wildlife, or street, or architecture – with sessions where I’d just go for a walk with camera in hand and shoot anything that appealed. It was during one of those sessions that I started to be drawn towards arrangements of objects that were visually appealing for reasons I couldn’t understand or put into objective terms; there wasn’t a real subject per se; sometimes, I just found the whole scene/ frame appealing. ‘Click!’ went the shutter, and one more image got consigned to the ‘Random’ folder.

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