Today’s photoessay is a series of detail images from Lisbon – small vignettes and scenes which I feel give a reasonably representative flavour of the older parts of the city. Yes, there’s a modern surprise in there about halfway in, but in many ways, this is also typical: there’ll often be an unexpected bit of architecture or facade tucked away in amongst the antiques, too. I’m sure more than a week here would have yielded a tighter distillation, and there are almost certainly interesting local pockets I’ve missed out on, but I also felt I had the benefit some pretty exceptional light; interesting how those light coloured buildings tend to bounce, reflect and fill each other so there are actually very few really deep shadows – even in narrow alleyways. Lots of textures, too, ranging from what I think of as ‘cheery Mediterranean tile’ to ‘Eastern European patina’. Enjoy! MT
For some odd reason, I’ve always thought these two buildings* to be amongst the most difficult to photograph in Singapore – partially because they’re such iconic landmarks that there’s almost no angle or light or weather condition that hasn’t already been exploited; you’re almost afraid to take a photograph because there’s a high chance you’ll just be doing something unoriginal. On top of that, the structures themselves are oddly shaped and the perspectives available at ground level are somewhat limited so that they look very similar from a wide range of vantage points. In the end, I landed up going back to basics: what is the essence of the form and feel of the structure? The result was a series of abstracts of each building. I’ve left what appears to be an unconnected ‘conventional’ image to divide between them, for the simple reason that under the skin: the hardware and M&E doesn’t change. MT
*If you aren’t familiar with Singapore architecture, the two buildings are of Art Science Museum and the Parkroyal on Pickering.
Unconsciously, I must have been searching for Mondriansque architecture – with a touch of diagonal Rothko thrown in by the shadows. I can’t really think of a good reason why, but it came through in the post-shoot curation. Perhaps it’s because those two artists decomposed form into nothing mor than shape, colour and luminance, and for the last few years I’ve been seeing the world not as ‘tree’, ‘car’, ‘person’, ‘building’ but ‘triangle on rectangle’, ‘organic contrasty shape on circles’, ‘matte organic shapes, round on rectangle’ and ‘coloured regular/ recursive squares’ – which I suppose fits in with their gestalt. It feels like visual reductionism, but isn’t – because I don’t consciously search for purely clean forms to the exclusion of some of the more textured and wimmelbild aspects of reality. I also don’t think it’d have worked as well in a location with less directional light and more faded colour – a certain blockiness/ solidity is required. MT
This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50mm and 100mm lenses in Lisbon, Portugal, with a couple of supporting images from a Leica Q. Postprocessing follows Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.
Barriers are obstructions, blockages, things preventing us from getting what we want – or foreground hiding background that might be of desire or interest. They prevent elements from mixing and communicating. I would argue that whilst undesirable, sometimes it can be for our own good. But that does not prevent us from questioning why the barrier is there at all. Perhaps though, the barrier itself can be sufficiently distracting as to be interesting or monotony-breaking. This of course has very little to do with the subject matter in the photoessay – on the face of it. Though I felt quite excited to be in the architectural paradise of Chicago, there were times I also felt constrained by the massive blocking of the surroundings: people, traffic, thought, even air was being channeled through defined pathways by these giant deflectors – barriers. From some angles, they just looked intimidating. I would say enjoy, but that’s not necessarily the aim here…MT
This series was shot with a Leica Q, Nikon D810 and Zeiss 28 Otus, 180 APO-Lanthar, Sony A7RII and Zeiss 85 Batis. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.
This post is probably going to read as odd to a lot of people, and I apologise in advance if any local Lisboans are offended by it.
During the week or so I spent in Lisbon, one thing kept nagging at me: what is the ‘essence’ of the city? After a lot of walking around, I came to three observations: firstly, there were a lot of cars – especially for an ‘old’ city with narrower streets and lots of elevation changes. Secondly, ornate architecture, some in good repair, some not. Finally, a surprising absence of people – I’d expected more inhabitants, but as it turns out, population contraction and economics issues have meant that there is far more real estate available than people to fill it, let alone people to buy it. If Lisbon were viewed from space by another species, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that more than many other cities – except perhaps LA – that the dominant species was the car. And here we have the genesis of this photoessay, which I personally feel was quite representative of Lisbon. Visually, I feel the juxtaposition between classical/hard/strong/colorful buildings and more organic, curved and ‘cleaner’ cars is quite interesting; there’s a sort of flow between them that is suggestive of water and progression of time. MT
‘Sinister’ is perhaps the best description for the undercurrent that you feel when walking through the old town of Porto at night or under a cloudy sky; it’s as though the dilapidation and decay is hiding a sort of madness or mania – the anguish of knowing that survival is not assured, or that one’s best days are perhaps past. Color speaks of faded glory and perhaps a bit of whimsy/ nostalgia – but monochrome does much better in conveying the weight and ominosity…MT
Somebody, somewhere, had to put in the work into designing these places. Somebody had to build them. Somebody paid for, used, and in most cases, still use them. Some are decayed and awaiting decommissioning or demolishing. But the impression I get is that not all were loved even in their prime, and are certainly not loved now. Here is a tribute to the architectural leftovers of Kuala Lumpur (and one or two from other parts of Asia): and in case you haven’t noticed, we seem to have quite a lot of them. This is the start of a of a new project: photograph old, decaying, ugly buildings as fresh ones. Even though some of these structures are new or even under construction, they still have the feel of decay – which I find quite remarkable. How much is presentation, how much is bias, and how much is simply expectation? MT
Shot with a wide assortment of equipment over a period of time, mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow II.
Today’s series of images is going to be a bit looser in curation than previously; it is the beginning of an idea which I intend to explore further in the future. We tend to photograph very new, very old, and generally well-kept buildings in a sort of formalist style which everybody thinks of as ‘architectural’; it is not too different to the artist’s perspective-controlled rendering. We aim for the vantage points as the architect imagines them, even if they are almost impossible due to access and sight lines being blocked by existing structures. We focus on that which is aesthetically beautiful, unusual, functional, or generally an ‘ideal’ of the type. What we don’t do is acknowledge the ugly, the incomplete and that which is in generally poor repair. It isn’t the same as a picturesque ruin; I suppose it’s the brutally functional edifices that are built to a budget. The kind of thing you pass every day and don’t linger by because it’s somehow unpleasant. The leftovers. What results if we treat them with respect? It isn’t going to be pretty, but it could be dignified. MT
This series is ongoing and was/ will be shot with pretty much everything under the sun.
One from the archives for today – I thought I’d posted this a long time ago, but turns out it sat in the ‘draft posts’ folder. Oops!
Inspiration begets inspiration. At least that’s my own theory of creativity. If you’re in photographically inspiring surroundings, it’s unquestionably easier to make an interesting image than otherwise – or at very least feel that you’ve got far more possibilities to hand. There are some assignments where one must fall back onto professionalism and the motto of the US postal service* to get the job done, but then we also have those where you couldn’t stop shooting even if it were forbidden. This assignment was most certainly the latter, and appropriate given the subject was the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s new library space – which in itself is presumably meant to be inspiring to its students.
*Come rain, come shine, dogs be damned etc.
I still have places available for the Singapore Architectural Masterclass from July 1-6, 2016. It won’t be your typical masterclass: there’s a bit of a twist. In fact, this will be structured a little differently to the usual Masterclasses and about as close to a crash course in architecture photography and an actual commissioned assignment as it gets. By the end of the week, you’ll be turning in both an assignment and a portfolio. Interested? Click here for details, and to book.