Photoessay: The beginning of the end

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I suppose it depends much on your own personal perspective: it could also be the beginning of your new life, should you be one of those people who bought into the starter (or not so starter) home. But I find something rather sad in this series – which is ironic as we were staying at a neighbouring high-rise that undoubtedly was cleared out of the very same jungle not so many years before. I accept of course that change, progress is necessary, and there’s an ever-increasing number of people for a finite amount of land: yet there’s also a rather strong melancholic feeling that sometimes we are chasing our own tails in the pursuit of an ever-receding and increasingly nebulous goal of happiness, but only in the form that social media deems is correct. That said: exactly then same thing could be said about the very first people to carve a space out of the jungle for themselves, and the same thing again about the wildlife and jungle that came from the ooze: who’s right? The one thing I take away from this, and especially again in a photographic sense: change is constant, and relativity is subjective. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-50c, 80 and 150mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Long term review: the Hasselblad X1D

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It’s been a long time coming – over a year since I first used the camera – and I will apologize for two things in advance: both the length of time it’s taken to complete, and the absence of any kind of objectivity since somebody will point out I work for Hasselblad. But I’ll remain a photographer first and foremost, and I have the luxury of a little distance as the X1D as a product predates my tenure, but the harder task to assess what the real impact of the X1D as a new product category has been some time after release. The two main reasons for the delay are because I also have a H6D-100c in the stable, which serves as my primary camera (and whose files are understandably seductive to both photographers and clients – and yes, I probably need to do a mid term on that one, too) – and, at the risk of getting fired – until recently, I haven’t felt like the X1D is fully complete. Let me explain…

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Photoessay: Tokyographic

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In a city with a very high visual density – any sort of design has to shout quite loudly in order do differentiate itself and stand out. There are two ways of doing this: be more retina-searing than the next object, or be so plain as to create a sort of hole in space. I’ve always been fascinated with the dichotomy of Japanese design in general, and the translation to life and various classes of objects; there are examples where a design stands out but ages poorly (cars), it doesn’t stand out but is functional and occasionally clearly designed by an engineer, not a user (consumer electronics), and other times where design is so minimalist but elevated to the level of art (any traditional objects such as lacquerware, fabrics, etc.). In the case of this photoessay – we see it in the detailing and the block forms and colors used to accentuate what might otherwise be quite plain. I suppose these examples actually tend more towards the minimalist than the ornate, simply because they can all be reduced to fairly simple elements cleverly interlinked – given the large number of these kinds of photos in the archive, it would  probably be safe to say this is what resonates with me as a designer and photographer…

This series was shot with a mix of equipment including a GX85, X1D and D850 and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III. Travel vicariously to Tokyo in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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The rise and decline of popular photography

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I don’t normally write counterpoint articles, because honestly, you’re not going to change people’s minds most of the time; nor do I write ones in agreement because most of what can be said has been by the original author. However, Paul Perton’s post on DearSusan about the world hitting ‘peak photo’ – in much the same sense as ‘peak oil’ – struck a chord for a few reasons. First and foremost – I think it’s true, but not necessarily for the reasons stated in the original article. Secondly, I have to correct some inaccurate assertions made about myself. I’m also selecting my post title very carefully here, too: decline, not fall, because we’re in a period where interest in pictures, picture-making, picture-showing and the photographic ecosystem for the vast majority of people* seems to have dropped off; it’s not a case of decreased growth; everybody I speak to at all points of the value chain says the market** is actively contracting, has been for some time, and will continue to do so in future. What I’m interested in understanding is why, and what this means for the rest of us who instead doubled down and got more serious.

*Audience, creators, consumers. **Pros, manufacturers, retailers, studios etc.

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Photoessay: Watercourse

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Being an island, water is of course unavoidable pretty much everywhere you go in Iceland – it shapes the country and often emerges in spectacular form from the least expected of places. Volcanic rock is of course extremely hard and resilient, but eventually the water wins; what I found most mind-boggling about the landscape wasn’t the scale, spectacle or extremes – but the fact that it will continue to change dramatically. What we see is but an instantaneous snapshot of a work in progress that will only get more spectacular with time, assuming a) we as the human race are still around to see it, and b) we haven’t somehow messed it up ourselves. I do realise the irony in that thought – and I’m sure many people will point out that I’m directly contributing to b) by merely visiting. Yet without more of us going and exploring to know what ought to be preserved, we can’t preserve it – or more importantly, give the landscape enough visibility in the wider social context so that people are aware that it needs to be preserved. Curiously, quantum mechanics is correct again even at this scale: we influence the outcome by measuring (recording) it…MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Exhibition: Idea of Man, part II at the Ilford Galerie, Kuala Lumpur

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I’m pleased to announce my first exhibition for 2018, and the second instalment in the long-running Idea of Man project – part II premieres together with the opening of the Ilford Galerie in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a continuation of my exploration into the transience of modern life – human figures are anonymous, on the move, and in a built environment, there is separation but no individuality, and every situation is a familiar one which we have probably been in at one time or another. They could be us. The perspective is one of conscious observer rather than participant: a deliberate acknowledgement of human nature in self-awareness and our tendency to as “why me – and how am I any different?”.

The event starts a 1pm on Saturday, 20 January and features prints made by my usual partner in crime, Wesley Wong. Please come and say hi if you’re in town.

IOM2 opening


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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Creative integrity – or, the Struggling Artist Myth explained

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For the past six years, I’ve shot for pay full time, and occasionally for the better part of the preceding ten years before that. During the last six, the proportion of images of any sort shot with my own creative vision as primary motivation vs those shot with somebody else’s – i.e. for a client or as part of a commercial assignment – has swung from 100-0 to perhaps 5-95. This is expected, and both good and bad. It’s what actually had me stumped in my early pro days: every time I met a successful or established photographer, they almost never had a camera with them – or if they saw something spontaneous, they’d use their phone to shoot it. I wondered why, especially given their access to ‘better’. I think I know the answer to this, and to be honest: I’m not sure I or anybody else is going to like it. Read on if you dare.

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Favorite images of 2017 (or The Year in Review), part II


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June, Ginza, Tokyo. GX85, 35-100mm

Though this looks like part of a Koenigsegg from the previous post, it’s pure coincidence – I shot this through a window at the Nissan salon in Ginza whilst walking past on the way to another meeting. The textures and shades of red really appealed – and I’m actually surprised the M4/3 sensor didn’t cook the color channel.

(Continued from Part I)

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Favorite images of 2017 (or The Year in Review), part I

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January. John Rylands Library, Manchester. X1D-50c, 45mm – place aside, think of the concept of a library: the preservation and sharing of knowledge – which itself needs to be nuanced, detailed, solid, and illuminating at the end of the visit: this scene translates all of that into architecture, and subsequently a physical location. What could be more appropriate?

Let’s indulge in a little retrospective curation today. Being the start of the new year, I generally find it useful to review my output from the previous year for a couple of reasons: firstly, to see how things have moved in general (often, you have the intention to shoot something but not necessarily the opportunity or discipline) and secondly, to determine where to go from here. It always makes sense to know one’s strengths and weaknesses, not to mention an awareness of just how much of photography is down to serendipitous luck. I suspect we’ll find that the planned/ commissioned work is pretty much as expected with few wildcards, but the spontaneous stuff is both less in overall volume (simply due to not having time or opportunity) but higher in spontaneity (because the few opportunities that remain are really NOT planned.) It also doesn’t help that the more you shoot – the higher the thresholds get. There’s simply a lot more history to overcome: what you produce now needs to be ‘better’ than what you did previously in the same subject or style category; yet it’s precisely this sort of precuration that kills experimentation. And we’re not even counting what I think of as the ‘craftsman’ type jobs where the client defines precisely what they want, and there isn’t much scope for creativity – those of course almost never hit the radar.

Interestingly, I landed up with more images from more recent shoots – which suggests that there’s definitely temporal bias even after a few months; either that or I’ve simply forgotten work from earlier in the year. Even so, there are only 29 images in this set, each of which I think would pass the ‘would I print and hang it’ test. With that preamble out of the way, let’s go to some images. I won’t leave much commentary other than precisely what appeals to me in the image and a little context. Even so, it’s going to be a fairly long post – so I’ve broken it into two parts. MT

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Discussion points: photographic rules

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Much has been written about photographic guidelines or rules that are supposed to guarantee you – or at least lead to a high chance of success – an interesting or balanced image. I’m not about to reinforce those, but neither am I about to dismiss them completely. Instead: let me offer you an alternative take on The Pantheon of Photographic Dogma like ‘the rule of thirds’ and ‘best light at dawn and dusk’ and ‘blur only your backgrounds’ etc. Important: it is not to be confused by the limitations imposed by the physiology of the way we see: we cannot help notice bright colours because this is the way our brains and eyes are wired. We cannot help but notice abrupt highlight clipping (but not black shadows) – because we cannot change the way the cells in our retinas are laid out. Apply some scepticism to internet pundits who can’t differentiate between man-imposed rules and those which are physiologically limited. With that, let’s move on to the discussion background.

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