Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes

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Yin-yang tribute to Fan Ho

I actually prefer to think of these as little stories, or vignettes – I suppose that should really be the objective of street photography; to capture an transient and narrative element of life in a documentary way. That little slice of time might not be significant to anybody other than the main players, but it’s no excuse for a lack of story. I’m going to complete my version of the story by adding titles…even if audience preferences may differ🙂 Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D5500, 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis, and Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also get your weekly dose of PS right here

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Photoessay: Motion in Tokyo/ The Idea of Man II

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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.

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Photoessay: Life in Porto, part I

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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

Shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and 28, 100 and 50mm lenses except for one image, which was shot with a Leica Q. Postprocessing was with the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow.

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Photoessay: Architectural leftovers, part II

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Somebody, somewhere, had to put in the work into designing these places. Somebody had to build them. Somebody paid for, used, and in most cases, still use them. Some are decayed and awaiting decommissioning or demolishing. But the impression I get is that not all were loved even in their prime, and are certainly not loved now. Here is a tribute to the architectural leftovers of Kuala Lumpur (and one or two from other parts of Asia): and in case you haven’t noticed, we seem to have quite a lot of them. This is the start of a of a new project: photograph old, decaying, ugly buildings as fresh ones. Even though some of these structures are new or even under construction, they still have the feel of decay – which I find quite remarkable. How much is presentation, how much is bias, and how much is simply expectation? MT

Shot with a wide assortment of equipment over a period of time, mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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Photoessay-WIP: Architectural leftovers, part I

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Today’s series of images is going to be a bit looser in curation than previously; it is the beginning of an idea which I intend to explore further in the future. We tend to photograph very new, very old, and generally well-kept buildings in a sort of formalist style which everybody thinks of as ‘architectural’; it is not too different to the artist’s perspective-controlled rendering. We aim for the vantage points as the architect imagines them, even if they are almost impossible due to access and sight lines being blocked by existing structures. We focus on that which is aesthetically beautiful, unusual, functional, or generally an ‘ideal’ of the type. What we don’t do is acknowledge the ugly, the incomplete and that which is in generally poor repair. It isn’t the same as a picturesque ruin; I suppose it’s the brutally functional edifices that are built to a budget. The kind of thing you pass every day and don’t linger by because it’s somehow unpleasant. The leftovers. What results if we treat them with respect? It isn’t going to be pretty, but it could be dignified. MT

This series is ongoing and was/ will be shot with pretty much everything under the sun.

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Photoessay: last of the Nilgiris landscapes

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Last of the Indian landscapes shot in the Nilgiris mountains around Ooty and Coonoor for today. They are standalones and I think actually work as a single set to demonstrate the diversity of the region – everything from untouched virgin forest to a hybrid cultvation of tea bushes to a little entropy and human evidence in the margins. Enjoy! MT

Except for one image, this series was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-50C and mostly the CF 4/150.

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Photoessay-gallery: the story of sushi

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Regular readers will know that Tokyo is one of my favourite destinations both as a city and a photographic locale. Sushi is inseparable from Japan, and probably the only food I could eat every day without getting bored. I’ve visited Tokyo at least once a year for the last ten years; almost every time I shot at Tsukiji Market, the clearinghouse for a huge portion of the high grade seafood caught. It didn’t occur to me to try to curate these visits into a coherent documentary until before my last visit; at the same time, I found out that Tsukiji was going to close and be relocated to a new site in preparation for redevelopment for the 2020 Olympics. It would be the end of an era in more ways than one – and most of the proprietors I spoke to inside the market sadly agreed that things would never quite be the same again. Tsukiji is in so many ways an insular community unto itself, and a Tokyo institution. Today’s presentation is my tribute to that: a reasonably complete journey of fish to sushi, via Tsukiji.

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On assignment photoessay: Chinese University of Hong Kong Library

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One from the archives for today – I thought I’d posted this a long time ago, but turns out it sat in the ‘draft posts’ folder. Oops!

Inspiration begets inspiration. At least that’s my own theory of creativity. If you’re in photographically inspiring surroundings, it’s unquestionably easier to make an interesting image than otherwise – or at very least feel that you’ve got far more possibilities to hand. There are some assignments where one must fall back onto professionalism and the motto of the US postal service* to get the job done, but then we also have those where you couldn’t stop shooting even if it were forbidden. This assignment was most certainly the latter, and appropriate given the subject was the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s new library space – which in itself is presumably meant to be inspiring to its students.

*Come rain, come shine, dogs be damned etc.

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Photoessay: the monochrome Nilgiris

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I was having a discussion about the presentation of landscape and color use the other day with one of my students – which in turn got me thinking about why we see so few modern landscapes that work in monochrome, typically unless the shooter is trying to imitate Ansel. My theory is that it’s much, much harder to make a compelling image of nature without color – there is the tendency for the scene to look dead, rather than vibrant and alive. You also lose all of the delicate color gradients in skies and the like – which further deadens the scene. But as with all monochrome, surely we could also use these properties to imply a sense of timelessness, surreality or detachment?

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Photoessay: Paradise Lost, part III

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Today’s images are I think a little darker and sadder than the previous two (part I, part II) – but not quite over the edge into full-blown depression. I see it as being analogous to one of those portraits where we want to enhance the lines on the subject’s face. I can see the final presentation of this series going in waves, with grouping and pacing a mirror image to the way we have different moods depending on the day – though I feel the impact of this particular set is lost in color, and mixing the two is somewhat odd unless the presentation medium is conducive (e.g. separate gallery areas, or sections in a book – but not as a continuous scroll or all at once. The ‘break’ is required to prevent a jarring visual discontinuity. What do you think? MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-50C digital back, 4/50 C T* and 4/150 CF T* lenses. Postprocessing follows the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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