Das Wimmelbild in der Fotografie

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During one of the many discussions on composition that took place during the Lisbon Masterclass a few months ago, one of the participants suggested that my compositions were reminiscent of something called Wimmelbild in German. Loosely translated, it’s the concept of ‘teeming pictures’ – or a composition that is extremely full of detail and sub-scenes within the main composition. Two of the better-known examples of wimmelbild are the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and childrens books by authors such as Richard Scarry, Ali Mitgutsch, Rotraut Susanne Berner, and Eva Scherbarth – and of course the ‘Where’s Wally’ series by illustrator Martin Handford. If there’s a single gestalt that best describes the nature of most of my compositions – wimmelbild would be it. So it’s probably worth spending a little time explaining exactly what it is…

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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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Layering

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There are two obvious definitions to layering: the literal splitting of the frame into planes of different distances, and the metaphorical addition of implied meaning through careful choice of subjects and subject placement. Ideally, an image should employ both to reward the viewer on further contemplation and to provide a visual that isn’t overly literal or one-dimensional. Unquestionably, a degree of ambiguity is required too, especially when working with implied meaning. But how can we consistently make images that fire on all cylinders?

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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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Repost: the value of having a muse

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This has been another one of those tricky articles to write – mainly because a lot of self-reflection went into it, and as we all know, it’s very difficult to do that and remain objective. The essays is illustrated with images that are representative of experiments that worked – things I was inspired to try with various muses, and in turn learned something from.

What is a muse? In its purest form, a muse is perhaps best defined as something that triggers inspiration in an artistic or creative sense. It doesn’t have to be an inanimate object; most artists’ muses tend to be people; in fact, most artists tend to land up romantically involved with their muses. Creativity is impossible to separate from inspiration, and inspiration is a very close bedfellow of attachment – attachment to an idea. (I know this sounds like Inception, but bear with me here.*)

*On an unrelated note, that movie contains one of the most spectacular dining rooms I’ve ever seen – from a design and architectural point of view. And I suspect it would be pretty cool as both a photographic subject and backdrop, too.

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Structure

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I’ve put off writing this article for a very, very long time for the simple reason that there are visual things that I have to figure out how to explain which somewhat transcend the limits of the written language to describe. Even defining the meaning of ‘structure’ in a photographic sense is tricky: we understand it to be a system of support that is not necessarily seen but underpins what we see on the surface – both physical and metaphysical. It is the means by which order is created out of chaos. Photographically, I like to think of ‘the structure of an image’ as the flow or visual rhythm of elements. Controlling the structure of an image controls the order in which the elements are read, and in turn the idea or story implied by those elements. Without conscious management of structure, it is therefore very difficult to consistently create images with anything more than a very literal impact.

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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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