On-assignment photoessay: Preparations

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When on assignment, there are images you shoot to the brief, and the bonus ones you shoot for yourself: sometimes they aren’t really corporate safe or commercial-clean, but they have a something – texture, light, grit – that appeals to something personal. I always try to respond to these scenes in an instinctive way: just shoot, sort them out later, and package separately for your client in the hopes they might use them, or at least see and appreciate even if they don’t (because they don’t fit the look and palette you’ve already established). Still – I think all photographers need to feel moved in this kind of way; if you don’t, then the desire to experiment and create might not be as strong as it should be… MT

Images shot with a Nikon Z7/24-70 and D850/70-200/4, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: nocturnal impressions of Hong Kong

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You know a place has something on you if you want to go out and shoot to relax after spending the whole day…shooting on assignment. In this case a very different sort of work, and the kind of thing one can shoot in flow/ stream of consciousness; you react instinctively and don’t think too much about the scene. I look at the structure and the main highlights – note, not subjects, since the image is more of a vignette of a feeling than a specific description of a subject – balance the composition, and then shoot accordingly. There’s one kicker: I shot everything at ISO 64, handheld, relying on the stabiliser of the Z7 and the large amount of ambient light. I must have been inspired by Robin’s experiment some time back, but in this case I was deliberately seeking out motion, layers and wimmelbild to convey the impression of busyness and activity, but with the sort of surreal detachment that a monochrome presentation suggests. The emotional impact of color is not present, and one feels a bit colder and more objective or separated from the scene; an observer rather than a participant – which matches my feelings in places like this. I shot something like 500 frames that evening. This is my selection. MT

Images shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. There are also one or two camera JPEGs in there, and I now have a very similar SOOC picture control pack available here.

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Photoessay: Cityscape Hong Kong

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It turns out this one was a lot tougher than I expected – mainly because of the sheer volume of starting material. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Hong Kong during my photographic career; and inevitably you land up staying somewhere with a relatively interesting view or two even directly from the hotel room, let alone once you start wandering at street level. The sheer density and rate of change of the city means that these two elements themselves are constants in the overall impression left; only on top of that can you layer the other details. The interesting thing is the details become recursive at multiple scales, resulting in a very dense urban wimmelbild of texture; it was tough to decide where to draw the line between cityscape and street during the curation. It’s also equally easy to get lost in the concrete canyons and forget that there are actually a lot of open green areas around the islands, and of course water. Regardless – there’s a lot to see here, and I’m pretty sure there are no end of arguments as to exactly what constitutes a ‘comprehensive’ interpretation of Hong Kong…

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS Workflow III.

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On Assignment: High speed rail underground

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I recently was commissioned to produce a status update of sorts and small vignettes of documentary covering work in progress for the construction of the HK-Guangzhou-Shenzhen high speed rail link. The vast majority of the Hong Kong portion of this lies underground, which makes sense given both the lack of space and need to have a terminus somewhere centrally downtown. Fortunately, Hong Kong’s underlying geology is very friendly to tunnelling – I’ve always had the impression a good chunk of the island and Kowloon peninsula is really hollowed out given the number of subways, tunnels, malls and utilities hidden underground.

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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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Reminder: Opening party for ‘Un/natural’, tomorrow (5/12) at 4pm

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Crucible

Hope those of you who are in Hong Kong are free tomorrow afternoon – a gentle reminder that my exhibition ‘Un/natural’ with Stephen King opens tomorrow at Alisan Fine Arts. The reception is at the gallery from 4-6pm; hope to meet you there! MT

The full press release for the exhibition can be found here.

‘Un/natural’ runs from 5 December 2015 to 9 January 2016 at Alisan Fine Arts, 2305 Hing Wai Centre, 7 Tin Wan Praya Rd, Aberdeen, Hong Kong (+852 2526 1091). Sebastian Turner and
Daphne King Yao
are representing me for this series of images, and all are limited to an edition of eight pieces each. The opening reception is from 4-6pm on Saturday 5 December; I’ll be there and all are welcome – please drop in and say hi if you’re in town.

Last exhibition of 2015: Un/natural, with Stephen King

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Stormcloud

I’m pleased to present my final exhibition of 2015: ‘Un/natural’, a joint show with one of my students – Stephen King*. It runs from 5 December 2015 to 9 January 2-16 at Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong. This follows ‘Connection’ at the Hong Kong Arts Center in June, and ‘The Idea of Man’ at the Rangefinder Gallery in Chicago last month in October.

You might have already guessed from the title image that this is going to be something very different from my normal work.

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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…]

Photoessay: Hong Kong Urbanscapes II

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Rebirth

Following on from the previous photoessay, I’d like to present part two as a counterpoint – both visual and metaphorical. Whereas the previous photoessay was semi-decay and urban wear and tear, this series of images is the shiny, soulless face of modernity. We are still devoid of humans because the environment has almost become inhumanly clinical, yet somehow there remains a sort of stark beauty in what is left behind. Enjoy the idealised utopia!

This series was shot with a Leica Q and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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