Photography, philosophy and psychology

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In a sense, this entire site has revolved around these three topics*: the way we experience it and share this experience with others (psychology, and to some degree, physiology), and the way we interpret it (philosophy) – expressed by means of a static, 2D visual medium (photography). Today I’m going to attempt to tie it together in a deceptively simple way in today’s post: photography is capturing a still image. Good photography is capturing something unique or transient and sharing it; really exceptional photography says something meaningful about the subject and the interpretation – and in a way that an external audience can understand.

*Despite what others may think about my views on or approach towards hardware: that is merely a means to an end, and I think sufficiently resolved now to the point of being effectively unimportant.

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Photoessay: Cliches and observations

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During the time I was in Berlin, I found it difficult to escape the history and cliches of the war – though nearly 80 years ago, the memory seems to be still raw in the collective mind of the city, if not really surfacing when actually talking to the locals. I can’t help but think the aftermath and societal guilt is something that has become so deeply rooted now that it will forever become part of the city. I suppose in a way this is rightly so, but I couldn’t help shake the feeling that the Berliners took everything just a little too seriously as a result – and any fun was very much hidden underground (there’s probably something in that, and bunkers, too). I don’t pretend to understand or appreciate any of this beyond the most superficial level afforded to a visitor, nor do I honestly ant to care the baggage. All in all, a very curious-feeling and not easy to visually capture experience, to say the least. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 85/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls.

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Photoessay: Geometric color

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Today’s architectural mishmash is a hodgepodge of abstracted geometries and colours from a variety of locations and a variety of styles, scales and palettes; other than poor assortment jokes, the only thing they have in common is a decomposition into pure form. I admit I like the idealism, the abstraction and the inherent optimism of having a structure that appears perfect and un-messed by its occupants, even if this is completely at odds with why it was built. In another life, I was probably a magpie, a collector of shiny things…now I am merely an accumulator of abstract colours and shapes. It harms nobody. It costs nothing. Some others may derive joy from it. That’s not a bad thing, surely. MT

Shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, some SOOC, some Workflow III.

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Inspiration and creativity in times of crisis

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There is a cliched saying “necessity is the mother of invention” – I’ve always felt this to be only partially true. Reality is probably closer to being that solutions are found in times of desperation when there is no other choice, but this is only possible if some latent seed of imagination exists in the first place. Without that, no amount of need is going to force an intelligent answer or inspiration to materialise. This is true whether it’s something as vital as escaping from captivity or saving a business in time of crisis or finding something to cook for the evening with the ingredients to hand or even just staving off the boredom of being confined under COVID lockdown. I think it’s probably both easier and harder to survive this period for those of us wired to be creative – on one hand, we have a surfeit of time to sit down and get on with it without the usual interruptions or social expectations, but on the other we also have not just limited resources but limited inspiration. As we’ve discussed previously – creativity isn’t something that can be switched on and off at will, nor is it something that operates in a vacuum. At one end, you have the inclination, resources and inspiration and something gets produced, or you are missing any one of those elements and you feel frustrated. Or – lack inclination entirely. The bit that concerns us most in the current global situation is probably the inspiration part. But maybe it isn’t entirely hopeless…

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Photoessay: Recurring theme

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I was recently re-curating my set of work from Germany in late last year, when I found something I hadn’t previously noticed: this recurring theme of looking upwards (slightly, or a lot) at a building’s edge with a symmetrical midline and a graphically 3D left-right split formed of textures and light. I didn’t intentionally go out of my way to shoot any of these, nor did I have an intentional theme beyond whatever was already sitting in my subconscious – and being eleven out of 200 or so final images, is easily not noticed especially if not sequential – but somehow this compositional layout kept popping up. I have been having the nagging feeling of late that there are only a certain fixed number of compositional layouts for any given angle of view/focal length, and effetely all compositions shot with that can be distilled into one of these categories. I don’t have any concrete way of describing this yet, but I’ll put up a post once I do. As for this particular layout – my guess is there’s something about the converging lines that creates tension and draws your eyes into the centre of the image; the symmetry provides inherent balance which remains calm and aesthetically pleasing. Beyond that, microtextures in the subject itself leave points of interest to hold your attention and reward further viewing. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: 250 GTO, part II

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Today’s post is a continuation of the virtual photography described in the last post; it would be almost impossible to do in the real world, much less in the matter of a few hours. But in the unlikely even I had access to such a car, and these locations…well, I’m honestly not sure I’d have produced things any differently. Sure, there’d be a studio setup of the type I’ve done in the past with the Cayman R, M2 and Z4; but that’s as much me making use of the resources to hand as anything else. All I suggest when viewing this set is suspend disbelief, and subject and locations aside – if you weren’t told these were simulated: would anything stand out as ‘not real’? Even if so, does it detract from the visual enjoyment at all? MT

Images were ‘shot’ with Gran Turismo Sport on the Playstation 4, and lightly edited in Photoshop with Workflow III.

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Photoessay: A magic hour, part II

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Both this and the previous set were shot within a single very productive hour. Though diverse in style, there is some crossover in style and content (expected given the location). To be honest, this kind of productivity is extremely rare; especially given I am by no means new to photography, the subject, or the location and am not trying to ‘check boxes’. I only shoot what I see or find interesting these days; there’s more than enough of my own work and that of others that being repetitive is rather pointless. That said, when one is shooting ‘in flow’ – you lose track of time and everything but what’s in your viewfinder. You remember pretty much every single image you shot, but that total number invariably lands up more than you expect (my total count was about 750 for that hour, pared down to perhaps 40-50 final selects). Those of you who’ve seen my earlier work will see shades of quadrants, Idea of man, wimmelbild and probably some hints of the previous negative-space-heavy photojournalistic style I used prior to this site. If nothing else, you are the sum total of your path-dependent history… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 16-50 DX pancake and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: A magic hour, part I

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A little while back, between meetings and a lull in the protests during elections…I found a magic hour early by the Kowloon side of the harbour. Almost completely absent of people, but with a clear, intense blue sky and strongly directional light that highlighted the geometric, abstract forms of the buildings around the Space Museum, Cultural Centre and Museum of Art. It felt like wandering around a giant child’s building blocks. Compositionally, each became an exercise in pure spatial balance; I didn’t see window or roof or wall so much as shapes of a certain visual weight that needed to be offset by other spatially opposed shapes of equal prominence. I felt them best presented in the midcentury, high-contrast monochrome style that Brasilia was first photographed in; the forms had the same sort of monumental weight tempered by idealist curves. Curiously, though I’d passed this location many times on my countless visits to Hong Kong, this is actually the first time I’d had the opportunity and the light to shoot here. I have to say it exceeded my expectations – and yielded more than just geometry, as you’ll see in part II… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 16-50 DX pancake and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Popular reactions to art

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A few months back, the touring Leonardo Da Vinci reproduction exhibition “Opera Omnia” made a stop in Kuala Lumpur. Whilst obviously not the originals, 17 decent reproductions were made on transparent canvas and backlit to simulate the experience of viewing a well-lit painting as closely as possible. I say ‘decent’ because the method was quite clever, but close up some of the the reproductions clearly lacked the print resolution required to really capture the subtlety of the originals – both Da Vinci’s own extremely fine brushstrokes on areas such as hair, but also the ageing and craquelure that’s a large part of the experience. Obviously, the “3D-ness” of real paint were not reproduced, though I suspect with a little less diffusion on the light used for the initial reproduction, some shadows of surface texture might have been captured. Interestingly, even behind barriers, glass, and at a greater distance – the originals somehow feel much more textural than the reproductions. But I digress – this is not so much about the reproduction method as more general commentary on the public and the way art is seen/appreciated/interpreted in general.

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Photoessay: Nighthawk

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I think it’s very difficult to be in the US and not subconsciously influenced by Hopper, especially when walking around Manhattan; little vignettes rear their head and intrude into your field of view. One is powerless to do anything but raise the camera, and hit the button. Repeatedly. Then put your own twist and context on it, and try to parse it in a modern context. It’s actually quite easy to see where the painters of the era got their inspiration. Despite being painted nearly a century ago…it seems the mood hasn’t changed that much – or at least at the time these were shot, pre-COVID, that was the feeling I got. As with all of these things, I wish I’d had more time…what you see is but the briefest impression of a transient. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls.

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