Photoessay: Serious Tokyo

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I can only surmise this is a cultural thing, or I’m going to the wrong places – in the ten years or so I’ve been regularly visiting Tokyo, the majority of people, the majority of the time – appear to have quite a load on their minds. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the government, maybe it’s because they don’t see a way out from whatever they’ve been doing for the last 30 years – oddly, though Japan once felt so societally, culturally and technologically different from the rest of the world as to be light years ahead like some porto-future, I keep getting the impression that everywhere else seems to have caught up in the last couple of decades. There is no longer this sense of wonder when I arrive, but more like a comfortable familiarity and a search for something hidden – which I can never quite quantify, but occasionally find in the form of something very traditional (think hundreds of years of continuity) or reinterpreted (hundreds of years of continuity but with modern influences). I’ve always found it interesting that Japan can be such a philosophical paradox: on one hand, so traditionally rigid, and on the other, still rather freeform and kooky. Or perhaps I’m just not being allowed into the wilder karaoke and hostess bar places… MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: On the verge of anonymity

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An experiment of sorts, today: more ‘stream of consciousness’ style photography, but this time shot through my left eye instead of my (usual) right. The idea is to test the hypothesis of left-brain-right-brain influence on structure, order and general perception; personally, I think using the non-dominant eye tends to result in somewhat more organic overall structure and composition. That, and significantly more skew for some reason – I didn’t seem to hold the camera straight in any of these. It’s also been a long time since I’ve had the time to go out on my own for a day or two with no objective other than to wander around and shoot the streets; Tokyo is of course a great place for this with no end of possible material. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Dissolving Prague

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Today’s series is a continuation (and partial overlap of) the Through the looking glass post of last week. It’s a little less human and a little more physical; a metaphor for a place undergoing accelerated change and perhaps a little cultural dilution at the same time, too. I can only hope that feeling of authenticity doesn’t eventually disappear entirely. Note: no double images were used here; merely strategic reflections. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Idea of man in Prague

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I see this series as a somewhat looser development of the original Idea of Man; relaxed to fit the people and where possible, looking for natives rather than visitors – insofar as a rolling cast of visitors have now become the natives. Unlike the original series, you’ll notice there are identifiable individuals in some of these images; I felt that was necessary to be able to differentiate between local and tourist – which is nearly impossible to do on the basis of silhouette or profile or shadow alone. Personally, what really made this set work was the very hard shadows; not only does it lend an additional degree and visual interest to certain compositions and scenes, but metaphorically it also introduces ambiguity and uncertainty – which certainly tied in to my feelings about Prague during this recent trip, and this despite many of these images being shot outside the main area of attraction. More than ever, I felt like the city was in danger of losing its identity and becoming a giant theme park. Let us hope future visits prove this wrong. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Through the looking glass

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I think of this set as Idea of Man, with inspiration by Saul Leiter. The whole thing comes together to be a little bit surreal, but more intense than you’d expect with full-fat color left in. I’ve deliberately used longer perspectives in most of these images to intensify that feeling of stacking, and having the world vying for your attention. To my eyes, it has the same level of distraction from your intended focus as a walk through a really cosmopolitan city would do in real life; especially one that’s somewhat new and unfamiliar to you. In such situations, the familiar catches your eye, as does the very unfamiliar; there’s the constant tug of war between trying to figure out and experience the new, and putting it in context with that which you already know. And before you’ve managed to place things in your own mind, something else (usually unexpected) cuts through the stage and demands your eye. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Inconsequentiality, part I

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I had an odd feeling walking around Prague on this last trip – something that was not there the first time I visited in 2011, nor subsequently. Perhaps it was the sheer number of tourists; perhaps it was the lack of locals. But I couldn’t shake the sensation of walking around in a very big museum; everything preserved just so, architecture restored to beyond its original heights, yet somehow just tipping over that point where the residents live in the buildings to the residents living for the buildings. The stage itself was nicer than it had ever been; but somehow…something was missing. A degree of isolation came into play, and perhaps the friendliness was just a tad more forced than the last time I was here. Chalk it down to collective fatigue; perhaps: when everything is special, nothing is special anymore. Just soft people trying to fit into a rigid environment.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and various lenses and 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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Photoessay: separation in Singapore

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Big city, bright lights, teeming crowds…yet the quest for individuality is perhaps stronger than ever. Yet we’re social creatures, so we want to fit in. But where? How? Here more than ever, people felt transient, subservient, temporary. Native is not native and you’re on the way somewhere else. The stage stays; the actors change. Here more than ever, I’ve always felt like I was just passing through – even the times where I was based here for months. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Lisbon monochromes I

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He who watches the watchers

Few words today, just a series of singles from Lisbon in the style of Idea of Man. It’s too late to put them into the first series because that now has a mature and complete narrative; they don’t really fit the second series because I changed the presentation style – so they stand alone. You might wonder why I still photograph in this style given the first two statements; in this case, partially because I was demonstrating for a couple of students at the Lisbon Masterclass, partially because I felt the aesthetic suited the feeling at some of the starker and heavier locations – Oriente station, for instance. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, various lenses, a Leica Q 116 and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Lisboan melancholy

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Despite the sunniness of the weather and the outward happiness and enjoyment of most, there was definitely something brewing under the surface: a slight undercurrent of unhappiness or unease. Perhaps a reflection of an economy still not fully robust and recovered, or a city that felt a little bit too big for the number of actual residents; quiet lanes and grand old buildings that had seen better days that were waiting for restitution that might not come. Or uncertainty over the future, mortgages, employment, the rising costs of living – the social divide that’s not unique by any means to Lisbon. Or maybe it was just because the next day was Monday. It’s the juxtaposition between that mood, the facial expressions, the body language, the dress as though expecting rain – and the wonderful warm sunshine that I found so intriguing. That tension followed me subconsciously through the city that day, and here is the result…MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50mm and 100mm lenses in Lisbon, Portugal, with a couple of supporting images from a Leica Q. Postprocessing follows Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and The Weekly Workflow.

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