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.
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…
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
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
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.
Continuing my ongoing exploration of the Idea of Man theme in Lisbon has lead to a bit of a divergence – on one hand, we have the very social areas where the tourists and residents congregate and interact; on the other hand, there’s also definitely a sense of isolation and a city that’s a bit too big for the number of people living there. The wistful dreaming at the transition point makes me wonder – nostalgia or perhaps not quite a true desire to escape, but certainly a strong drive to see what’s over the horizon? 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 II and The Weekly Workflow.
I’ve spent the last week producing some material for Hasselblad with a pair of preproduction X1D prototypes; I’ve teased the results of that in this post and the full content is in final production right now. In the meantime, I wanted to share some images from that shoot and thoughts on use of the X1D for street photography/ documentary. The portrait samples go up first because I’ve received quite a lot of mail asking about a) bokeh; b) available light performance; c) people.
I view The Idea of Man project as mostly complete; the story is tight and stylistically consistent. But I’ve been thinking a lot about its sequel in the time since the exhibition; to begin with – is there one at all? Where does one go from the story of the individual finding their place in the world? The answer came to me after some long exposure urban landscape: it’s in community, in groups, in the flow and interaction of individuals. And that idea will be at the core of The Idea of Man II.
I came away from Porto with a bit of strange feeling about Porto. From a distance, and on the opposite bank of the Douro, the old town looks charming and quaint, with a vibrant revival immediately around you. The sun is shining, the tourists are enjoying their wine tastings, and the locals are eager to please. Go back over, however, and a cloud seems to settle; edifices that appeared charmingly quaint are really decaying very badly and somewhere between neglected and derelict. There are few locals left, and those who are are very elderly and not in much better shape than the buildings. Smiles are absent. Tourists are tolerated or seen as targets. It is altogether a very different Porto from The Other Side. It seemed to me that most of the locals inhabited a sort of zone between the two – a monotonous grey transience between the two states of decay and forced tourist joviality. They lived lives subservient to their environment and took what little joy where they could find it – a drink here, a smoke there, a bit of sun when it showed. It honestly felt a bit sad. These are the impressions I left with of life in Porto. MT
Half an hour before we were to meet our contact from the wildlife preservation department, we arrived in Coonoor, the Nilgris range, India, to find the town sleepy and barely stirring. Sunlight was just hitting the very tops of the highest buildings upslope, and the few residents stirring were dragging their feet – a massive contrast to the scene a couple of hours later, which was so different you could not imagine the place empty. As we did a quick walk through, I felt like I was observing the aftermath of the night before…a sort of crime scene worker, if you will. What follows is from the body of evidence, filed under ‘environmental context’. MT