And to put into practice yesterday’s theory on wimmelbild: some images from Porto which I think best illustrate the concept. Porto itself is a curious city, because it looks very different from a distance vs. close up, and in ‘good’ sunlight vs overcast cloud. From further away – ideally, the opposite bank of the river – and in the evening sun, the romance is present. You can imagine the traders and merchants and intrigues over your glass of wine from the terrace on the side of the hill; but when it rains and you’re in the middle of the old city being panhandled by people who look as though they match the state of the buildings, it’s quite another matter entirely. Parts of the town felt as though the inhabitants were the last of their tribe, passed on and were never replaced; children went elsewhere or simply never existed. Many of the buildings do not appear straight because they were not actually straight – who knows how many are structurally unsound. Restoration is possible, and has happened in places, but within the limits of conservation set out by UNESCO – and the limits of the current Portugese economy. Chaos? Entropy? Decay? Wimmelbild? Perhaps all of the above. MT
Something a little less intellectual today: nothing more than boats at rest along the Douro, running through Porto. I honestly have trouble finding the romance in the whole notion of sea travel (it just seems a slow way of moving anything that can economically be transported by plane, and an inefficient mode of relaxation since space, supplies and locations are constrained) – but they are undeniably attractive objects to photograph. As always, the challenge is how not to repeat something that’s been done before – and I think you can tell from the emergence of the little blue and white dinghy that my thoughts continually strayed to the graphic and abstract… MT
Today’s photoessay is a study in color and texture. I’ve always been fascinated by the deep richness of oil painting on canvas, and tried to replicate at least some of that feeling and tonal palette in photography. Admittedly, this is tough given that the medium itself is adding considerably to the impression of texture due to the semi-reflective and three dimensional nature of the surface; we can however at least partially simulate this with our choice of subject and light. It’s already tricky enough to do consistently with static/abstract subjects, let alone scenes and people since we are really not in control of the macro light over the whole area and the subjects themselves (some may not have suitable surface texture) – so we must start small…MT
Whilst the previous companion photoessay deal with the people of the location at a more macro scale, the aim of today’s conclusion is to convey a feel for the place itself – the power of the sea; the repetition of the waves and the romanticism of the coast and nautical travel. There’s the certainty that the waves are trying to pound the human intrusion into submission, but for now the manmade is holding steady – yet in the long run, nature always wins. My choice of presentation for this set was deliberately painterly in nature – there’s something about those 18th century oil seascapes that I personally find both fitting and appealing… MT
This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, various HC lenses and processed with the Cinematic workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5.
‘Sinister’ is perhaps the best description for the undercurrent that you feel when walking through the old town of Porto at night or under a cloudy sky; it’s as though the dilapidation and decay is hiding a sort of madness or mania – the anguish of knowing that survival is not assured, or that one’s best days are perhaps past. Color speaks of faded glory and perhaps a bit of whimsy/ nostalgia – but monochrome does much better in conveying the weight and ominosity…MT
I’ve always found the Atlantic coastlines to be a little melancholy: there’s the beauty of nature, but often something heavy in the sky and a bite to the wind that makes you glad you brought your coat and hat. People still go because they’re attracted to the sea and presumably wondering what’s over the horizon; in this case, we’re at one of the westernmost points of the European continental mainland, and there’s pretty much nothing until you hit the coast of America. This series of images was shot in the space of a couple of hours. Porto’s old town proper had proven rather depressing, and the weather hadn’t helped; we took a chance and headed to the coast with the hopes of one last hurrah before returning to Lisbon. I’m glad we did, because I think it paid off – even if it meant using a lot of damp towels later to carefully dissolve the dried salt off our equipment. Despite the huge amount of moisture in the air and seawater splashing everywhere, the Hasselblad didn’t miss a beat – though curiously there was a lot more dust on the sensor than normal, perhaps sticking as a consequence of humidity.
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