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
Today’s photoessay is a series of detail images from Lisbon – small vignettes and scenes which I feel give a reasonably representative flavour of the older parts of the city. Yes, there’s a modern surprise in there about halfway in, but in many ways, this is also typical: there’ll often be an unexpected bit of architecture or facade tucked away in amongst the antiques, too. I’m sure more than a week here would have yielded a tighter distillation, and there are almost certainly interesting local pockets I’ve missed out on, but I also felt I had the benefit some pretty exceptional light; interesting how those light coloured buildings tend to bounce, reflect and fill each other so there are actually very few really deep shadows – even in narrow alleyways. Lots of textures, too, ranging from what I think of as ‘cheery Mediterranean tile’ to ‘Eastern European patina’. Enjoy! MT
Given the clear skies and very strongly directional light we experienced, in conjunction with the interesting shadows projected off oddly shaped roofs and down narrow alleyways…it would be a shame not to make the most of it to add a little ambiguity into the frame. Conventionally ‘good light’, yes, but who’s complaining? I do realise some of these stretch the definition of chiaroscuro a little – especially the somewhat wimmelbild reflection – but I felt they fitted the overall mood of the subject and this collection of images, so MT
This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50/100mm lenses and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow from Making Outstanding Images Ep.5.
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
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
There is a subliminal connection between shadows, mystery, uncertainty and something sinister; probably because we can’t necessarily be certain about what we cannot see. Of course, this can be used photographically to great effect in creating abstraction, geometry and structure – without shadows, we have no way in presenting the illusion of three dimensions in a medium that has two. What I find oddly paradoxical about these images is that the shadows don’t really have that dark and closed-in feeling; perhaps it’s the hard edges and delineation between light and dark that if anything makes the sunniness more obvious – for want of a better term, there’s a positive feeling here. There cannot be shadows without light and all that…MT
This post is probably going to read as odd to a lot of people, and I apologise in advance if any local Lisboans are offended by it.
During the week or so I spent in Lisbon, one thing kept nagging at me: what is the ‘essence’ of the city? After a lot of walking around, I came to three observations: firstly, there were a lot of cars – especially for an ‘old’ city with narrower streets and lots of elevation changes. Secondly, ornate architecture, some in good repair, some not. Finally, a surprising absence of people – I’d expected more inhabitants, but as it turns out, population contraction and economics issues have meant that there is far more real estate available than people to fill it, let alone people to buy it. If Lisbon were viewed from space by another species, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that more than many other cities – except perhaps LA – that the dominant species was the car. And here we have the genesis of this photoessay, which I personally feel was quite representative of Lisbon. Visually, I feel the juxtaposition between classical/hard/strong/colorful buildings and more organic, curved and ‘cleaner’ cars is quite interesting; there’s a sort of flow between them that is suggestive of water and progression of time. 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.
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