Today’s series of images is both literal, and not – what’s there is clearly defined, but what’s clearly defined is the product of a little optics and imagination. I’m always drawn to these kinds of subjects because they’re both not literal or ordinary, and of course use the best strengths of the photographic nature of rendering to produce something visually unique. That, and there’s a large amount of information and layering in here which creates a recursive wimmelbild of sorts. One practical note on execution: you need the right balance of luminance between actual subject and reflected subject, plus the correct alignment of reflecting surfaces – it’s not always so easy to find…enjoy! MT
Probably the easiest way to ‘wimmelbild‘ a scene is to add reflections: the more reflections, the more layering and the more complexity can be built in. Of course it then becomes difficult to create structure in the image that allows space for a clear primary subject, and then find a physically/spatially possible way to actually insert that subject – it’s no good if your free space is on the ceiling, for example. The light in Lisbon on severals of the days I was there was just so conducive to creation of these types of images I couldn’t help myself – strong, intense colors, clean plate glass (or car glass) and one or two clear human subjects meant that it was a wimmelfetishist’s dream. I’m sure somebody is going to say I’m being overly pretentious about this, but there’s surely got to be a metaphor in here for life – every person surrounded by complexity and layers of thought, or places surrounded by unseen/ unacknowledged history. It’s a bit more personal than idea of man because the images need the specific individuals to work, and somewhat different to the ‘traditionally expected’ street photography – I find that it’s much more contingent on the environment and finding the right individual to fit your expectation of a story than vice versa. Enjoy! MT
Sophie, the mime: the image resonates and means something to me because I have an emotional connection to the subject, to the setting, and I know the narrative story on either side of the frame. It may resonate with you because you happen to like children, or because the facial emotion is a strong an unambiguous one, or you like monochrome documentary portraiture, or for some other reason. But if it were executed differently, you may feel different about it – but not necessarily or consciously know why. It is up to the photographer to control the unconscious influences in such a way that at least their intended communication is fulfilled, but not in a way that draws attention to itself (and thus breaks that illusion).
After the huge amount of very interesting and thoughtful discussion that ensued in the comments – thank you for your thoughts, everybody – and a few days of settling time, I couldn’t leave the previous article on soul hanging inconclusively. There are few very interesting observations made, higher conclusions that one can draw from the responses here, and further logical leaps from contemplation of one’s own work and raison d’être. Firstly, a clarification though: I’m not looking for a magic formula to ‘inject soul’ into my own work, and I’ll explain why later. I was and am simply seeking to understand why certain images move certain people in a certain way – and if there’s anything one can use there to make a stronger image, given the choice, and providing of course it fits one’s own idea.
The world is acquiring a sort of homogeneity. I see it when I travel, I see it in the city changing around me. But curiously the little things that used to give a place character – the things that sat silently in the background, like a style of roofing or a type of tile or even brickwork – are slowly giving way to these soulless edifices of concrete and glass. They are the pinnacle of big corporate anonymity: nobody knows what goes on inside, nobody knows who the real owners or the real powers that be are, and the organisation has no personable name or face. Much like the buildings they inhabit: they take on a chameleon-like character and merely reflect the world around them but offer no soul of their own. What goes on within is kept secret behind a mirror. Layers are hidden inside other layers with yet more layers within. Welcome to the fragile brave new world; it’s like walking on shells of glass. MT
Following on from the previous photoessay, I’d like to present part two as a counterpoint – both visual and metaphorical. Whereas the previous photoessay was semi-decay and urban wear and tear, this series of images is the shiny, soulless face of modernity. We are still devoid of humans because the environment has almost become inhumanly clinical, yet somehow there remains a sort of stark beauty in what is left behind. Enjoy the idealised utopia!
A conceptually simple photoessay today, focusing on the difference between the real and virtual, hard and soft. Usually, the reflection of something is soft because it is indistinct and formed in a physical object that is clean, polished, crisp, and thus well-defined; however, in the case of Cuba, it’s the opposite. The physical objects are old, not always clean, have decaying or faded edges, and it’s the reflection that becomes more solid thanks to the hardness and intensity of the sun reflecting off them. The idea becomes more tangible than reality; it can be simply an interesting visual juxtaposition, or perhaps a metaphor for something politically stronger – especially in the case of Cuba. Beyond that, Havana itself becomes very visually interesting after a rain: the clouds don’t linger thanks to the sea breeze, and we land up with either a clear or Magritte sky and great texture in everything else. Enjoy! MT
Finally, for those who haven’t seen it: How To See Ep.5, Havana is here, free and in full. 🙂
I was in Singapore a few months ago both on assignment and for a private workshop; one of the things I’ve always enjoyed photographing is abstraction in reflection: there is no simpler decomposition of the image to shape, texture and colour than this. Fortunately, the weather was obliging on one of the days, and there’s plenty of such opportunities in Singapore. Despite what you might think, I shot quite a lot more than just the usual buildings in buildings…in fact, you’ll notice the second half of the set is quite a bit more whimsical and less brutalist/formalist.