On Assignment: Ascencia

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A few months back, I was given another one of those very rare birds: a commission that has the holy trinity for a hired gun – an open creative brief, an interesting subject, and most importantly, a great client. This combination is far much rarer than you might think; most of the time you’re lucky if you get one of three, and the industry is not such that one can afford to be choosy (even though this may prove to be a bad idea in the long run*.) It’s a pleasure to work with another creative person: they understand and respect your expertise, and just let you go about it. We know that we won’t hire a creative if the point of view differ and you don’t agree with their work: this does not mean bad, just different priorities. In any case: interesting building, great client, and fortunately – a very small inter-monsoon window in which to make this work.

*There’s always a risk that a client feels like they’re overpaying, you feel like you’re undercharging, you’re asked for a carbon copy of something else that doesn’t work the intended subject, and in the end nobody is happy – the client because they didn’t get what they want (duh, different subject) and you because it was nether creatively nor financially satisfying. The temptation in the current market is to say yes to everything, but I can honestly say that this may do more harm than good in the long run since everybody likes to talk…

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Photoessay: Because it is Tokyo and there must be architecture

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But even though Tokyo is defender of the modern, the minimalist and the avant-garde, it wouldn’t be a fair representation with a little subversive chaotic mess to sneak into the curation somewhere – in many ways, a fair representation of the real city. Whilst most of the quick-expansion concrete boxes are being rapidly erased by more modern and more interesting structures – especially in the more expensive parts of Tokyo – there are one or two left. I can’t help but wonder if in future they’ll turn out to be historical curiosities much like what we think of as ‘traditional’ buildings are today…I can only hypothesise everything is relative. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Facade

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I tend to think of these structures and images as representing the blunt end of modern architecture – they’re the somewhat generic barriers thrown up to segregate a space from the outside world in a somewhat arbitrary and identity-less manner. The spaces promise all sorts of things but in reality must be reusable and take on the inscrutable identity of their many corporate inhabitants. The whole concept of ‘identity’ is somewhat nebulous in any case: how do you translate the personality of a collective of individuals who are mostly there solely because the job pays, not because they have any great vision for the company? Answer: you don’t. And whilst architects continue to play with abstract geometries, geometric forms and more glass, every building seems to get just that bit more anonymous. I can’t think of any better way to show this than the effective blending of one building into the next…MT

This series was shot with a mix of cameras (mostly a Hasselblad H5) and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Architectural leftovers, part II

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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.

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Photoessay: the towers, Chicago

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After the previous verticality projects, I wanted to try to find a different but still coherent approach to photographing large buildings from the human perspective at street level – this is harder than it sounds, given you have little room to back up in most cases. At the same time, overt geometric distortion from the use of a wide lens is not always acceptable. With the exception of two images, the rest were shot from fairly close to the base of the buildings with minimal or no perspective correction and the intention of preserving just enough of the uniquely identifiable aspects of the architecture. Locals or architecture fans should be able to identify the edifices, or I should go back to the drawing board. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116, D810/ Zeiss Otus 28, A7RII and Zeiss Batis 85 and post processed with PS Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay – Architectural details of Aalen and Schwäbisch Gmünd

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A few more images from my time in Germany earlier in the year – there are a lot of geometrically simple yet interesting architectural details dotted around the towns of Aalen and Schwäbisch Gmünd; of course I suspect they might be rather more depressing without the benefit of such strongly directional autumn light. I would consider this set to be mainly studies of form and texture; distillation of a scene into almost unrelated and non-contextural component elements and nothing more. Regardless of the subject, the aesthetics of an image boil down to this – every compositional element has different visual weight and presence that’s contingent on color and the amount of image it occupies, in addition to relativity to the rest of the frame. Sometimes it’s nice to be free from the expectations and preconventions a particular subject might imply – portraits must include the eyes, for example; or buildings a sense of scale. Enjoy, and lastly, Happy New Year! MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis and 2.8/35 PC Distagon. You can learn the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: Shells of glass

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The world is acquiring a sort of homogeneity. I see it when I travel, I see it in the city changing around me. But curiously the little things that used to give a place character – the things that sat silently in the background, like a style of roofing or a type of tile or even brickwork – are slowly giving way to these soulless edifices of concrete and glass. They are the pinnacle of big corporate anonymity: nobody knows what goes on inside, nobody knows who the real owners or the real powers that be are, and the organisation has no personable name or face. Much like the buildings they inhabit: they take on a chameleon-like character and merely reflect the world around them but offer no soul of their own. What goes on within is kept secret behind a mirror. Layers are hidden inside other layers with yet more layers within. Welcome to the fragile brave new world; it’s like walking on shells of glass. MT

This series was shot with various assorted hardware in several cities – from a Canon 5DSR to a D810 and Zeiss Otuses to an iPhone, but all processed with Photoshop Workflow II. [Read more…]

Photoessay: studies in blue

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On an incredibly blue day in central Hong Kong, I could not help but do some modern Magritte-inspired elements involving the urban environment, layered reflections and the occasional cooperative cloud – there is a sort of sameness to the series, but at the same time a little closer attention will reveal that these images are really quite distinct. I think they are really focused variations on a theme. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116 and processed with Photoshop 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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Photoessay: A little Cuban architecture

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La Fabrica.

Havana’s buildings are a mix of a bit of everything: colonial spanish, modern, neoclassical, Soviet brutalist concrete and a whole bunch of other things I can’t even begin to identify. All I know is that the visual contrasts are extreme, and the range of textures quite sublime – especially in that wonderfully strong and directional Caribbean light. How could I resist photographing the buildings – more than the cars?

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