On-assignment photoessay: the face of construction

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Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had the chance to shoot quite a number of contextual portraits of the people behind construction – some I’ve presented previously, and thus are not shown here. Almost all of the images in this set are new, and the result of a much larger curation project I’ve been meaning to do for some time. Even as extensive as a single shoot for this client tends to be – thousands of images over a week or so – the subject matter and light conditions are so diverse that you seldom have a chance to shoot a thematically and visually consistent sequence; thus the only way to make a project like this work is over a longer period of time. It also ties in nicely with some monochrome portrait experiments I’ve been doing over the last couple of months. Interestingly, the main challenge with this body of work overall was not opportunity, but the fact that construction workers in Hong Kong seem to all be exceedingly shy… MT

Images shot with various hardware over the last three years, but all post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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On Assignment: The face of construction

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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…

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On Assignment photoessay: Man Machine Monochromes

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I thought I’d present this set a little differently, in the vein of variations on a theme: one with, one without man, in similar situations. They might or might not have been the same subject, they but I think each pair of images is somewhat interchangeable depending on the end use intent – sometimes, you want the people, sometimes, you don’t. Each image is of course optimised for the subjects that did eventually get included – compositionally and presentation-wise. You cannot simply add or remove one element and expect the rest of the composition to remain balanced. Construction is a messy but never ending and necessary business so long as the needs of the people keep changing; whilst some images may look familiar, they’re part of a very long term and ongoing project for the same client. One of the challenges during assignments like this is to keep a level of consistency of visual style, but at the same time with little riffs and variations on it to stop the material from becoming repetitive or boring – more so when you’re dealing with the same subject that’s changing at at relatively slow pace because of the scale of the project. Not easy, but very rewarding…MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and H6D-50c and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. With thanks to Chun Wo Construction Holdings Limited, Hong Kong.

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On Assignment photoessay: Overpass

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My biggest challenge with projects and assignments of this scale is always adequately capturing them and conveying that scale – too wide or too far away, and you lose identifiable detail; too close and you don’t get a feeling for the immensity. There’s no way you can keep an identifiable and isolated human figure in the shot and show the whole extent of a 3km+ long project; even with a silly-sized print from a camera of extremely high resolution. This is where the narrative comes into strength, but also poses challenges. It’s much easier to give a complete impression of something by detailing critical parts; however, with the narrative in mind, you’ll find that there are certain ‘filler’ images required for continuity that might not necessarily stand on their own – and similarly, certain hero shots just don’t flow with the rest of the sequence. This of course leads to a very focused curation, which may well change massively should the intended message also change.

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On assignment photoessay: Construction, part II

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I’m presenting the second part of the Construction photoessay today – here, the individuals slowly recede into the context of the greater project and become important contributing parts of the whole. The ‘context’ is so large it often overwhelms everything else – I personally find the coordination part of the work amazing because once you’re on site, it’s very easy to get lost in the details. Large prints would of course work best to show the scale of many of these developments, but there are still limitations to the internet 🙂 [Read more…]

On assignment photoessay: Construction, part I

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This series of images comes from my body of work from the last year-plus for client Chun Wo in Hong Kong; they are the largest local construction company and are mainly involved in large infrastructure projects, including the airport and Central-Wanchai bypass that spans most of the prime waterfront. As many of you will have seen from previous photoessays and posts, my brief with them is an ongoing on that covers several aspects: 1) documenting work in progress in the greater context of Hong Kong, as a historical record; 2) documenting and celebrating the workers who make it all possible; 3) recording the finished projects. Earlier in the year, we held a successful charity exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Center which showcased a limited selection of the work – something like ~100 out of about 1,500 images delivered. I’ve been asked many times if we could share some of those images online for those who weren’t able to make it in person, so here we are. [Read more…]

Singles: Portraits of excavators

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Herd. The body shapes, the low contrast, dust in the air, and buckets waving like trunks combined to give the feeling of a family of mechanical elephants. I decided to work in monochrome for this one to reinforce that feeling and remove the distraction of color. The lead ‘elephantavator’ has deliberately slightly more contrast than its brethren.

Sometimes I make an image (or four) that doesn’t quite fit into a photoessay, but appeals to me in some way – this marks the beginning of a new series that will present just a single image or two with some thoughts as to what I saw and why they appealed – think of it as a bridge between the photoessays and something a little more explanatory. Enjoy!

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Reminder: ‘Connection’, at the Hong Kong Arts Centre – 11-17 June

MING X ChunWo_Poster_A4Just a gentle reminder in case you happen to be in Hong Kong from 11-17 June – my first exhibition of 2015 and first exhibition in Hong Kong will be showing at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Wanchai, in conjunction with Chun Wo Development and Engineering. I should be there most days, so please drop by and say hi! MT

More information can be found in this post.

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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My first exhibition of 2015: ‘Connection’, at the Hong Kong Arts Centre in conjunction with Chun Wo Development

MING X ChunWo_Poster_A4 I am very pleased to announce my first exhibition of 2015, in partnership with Chun Wo Development of Hong Kong: Connection. The theme is “constructing bonds to improve life”, and it features a body of work that is largely documentary in nature which celebrates the efforts and labours of the workers who create the places in which we as people live and work. They are more than buildings or roads; they are enablers that bring people together and provide a conducive environment to build relationships with others – the connection. It features my work on 102 large canvas prints made by printmaster Wesley Wong, some of which are up to 6x9ft in size, together with a special contribution by fellow photographer and company chairman Derrick Pang. The purpose of the exhibition is both a showcase as well as a charitable effort in support of LifeWire, Chun Wo’s children’s medical foundation, and the Hong Kong Construction Workers’ Charity Fund. There will be a charity auction of one-off signed prints during the opening night, and individuals or organisations may sponsor a print (please contact me for details). The exhibition will run from 11-17 June at the Pao Galleries, 4/5th fl, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wanchai. I will be in attendance for most of the days, so if you’re around, please drop by and say hello! MT [Read more…]