Photoessay: Old normal

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It’s hard to imagine this set was shot just a month before COVID threw a wrench into everything – I wonder if we’ll ever see the same kind of energy and vibrancy again, or if we do, how long it’ll take to overcome the collective paranoia that the person coughing next to you might be about to give you a fatal disease. If nothing…it hopefully marks the start of a better respect for hygiene, personal space, and a recognition that a lot of jobs don’t require everybody to be in the same place at the same time. Maybe we’ll see decentralisation, affordability of real estate, more international cooperation and some sort of balance between universal basic income and people doing their part. Or maybe we’l just have a greater divide between those who can afford healthcare and those who can’t, and more power grabs by governments instituting states of emergency over the slightest thing. We can only live in hope, and be thankful to have been fortunate enough to remember that freedom not so long ago. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, a 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Florentine nights

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Even in the off season (and what now seems like another lifetime ago) – Florence felt like it could easily challenge New York for the title of ‘city that never sleeps’. Thanks to jet lag, we’d go out for a late bite or an early walk and still find crowds; you had to go quite far off the regular thoroughfares and find small residential alleyways before approaching anything deserted. And even then, somebody would come along soon enough. Being a pedestrian scale city following a layout from the time before cars, it’s hard to imagine the city without people – just like Venice. I for one never thought I’d say this, but sometimes, you actually miss the crowds. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Humans of New York

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Few cities I’ve visited can compete with NYC on the basis of diversity…and then there’s that extra layer of intensity and motion which Tokyo and Hong Kong perhaps match, but don’t do so with the kind of density and spread of New York. It’s always amazed me that there’s such a wide variety of stages possible in a layout of grid streets – I can’t think of anywhere else that offers a hunting ground this rich for the social observer. I was only here for a week, shot infrequently, and still managed to come away with interesting images. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 and my custom JPEG picture controls, and a Fuji XF10 and Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: NYC cinematics, part II

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Continued from the daytime series

In a way, I actually found it more fluid to shoot the first set, even if the varying color palette here carries a bit more emotional weight. In some ways I also felt this set was a bit more stereotypical ‘New York’, given there’s not much control the photograph has over timing affecting light and mood – daylight is a lot more transient than neon. That said, I’m still quite happy with the individual frames capturing the mood of their particular corner of the city – sometimes a couple of blocks really does feel that different… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: NYC cinematics, part I

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Whilst of course there should be no reason to limit cinematic-style photography to just low light work with shallow DOF, there is definitely a tendency towards this as it’s much easier to create a controlled atmosphere with very directional light than during daytime. However, the conditions during my trip to New York late last year made for something similar while the sun was up: long shadows and strong sunlight, with intense contrast and pools of both mystery and stark exposure. It’s probably the first time I’ve been motivated to try cityscape cinematics with bright light. Even though I’ve been given similar light in dense urban environments before, I think NYC is unique in the layout of the streets and the way they cut light up into patches – this doesn’t happen with the more organic layouts of say, Tokyo or Lisbon. Admittedly, it wasn’t a photographically-focused trip – being customer events for the watch company – but I still got a couple of hours in. Naturally, this continued after dark… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Quotidian for some

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Where I live, making images that are vignetted observations of life in the style presented today is very difficult for one simple reason: people tend not to walk much or use public transport; the former because it’s just too damn hot and society still expects you to wear a suit (and as a consequence, the whole city isn’t very pedestrian friendly in the first place), and the latter because it doesn’t really exist outside of a small network. You land up with a lot of cars and not much human interaction – and thus nothing much to photograph. It’s for this reason that whenever I travel to a place where there’s a lot of human life at street level – I tend to gorge myself photographically and amass a lot of material in a very short space of time. This reptilian approach to photography is not intentional but simply a consequence of circumstance. It does also have the happy coincidence of forcing one to break creative anxiety – every situation is constant reminder that your expectations are probably invalid, and to always be open to serendipity. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70/4 S, with my custom SOOC camera JPEG picture controls available here.

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Photoessay: Tokyo life

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Trying something a little different with the curation this time: think of today’s presentation as a sequence of places visited and a journey rather than a similar collection of images. Note the rhythm of transition between indoors/outdoors; bright/dark; intimate and detached. It is a series of interactions between observer (me) and the environment and people around me; I experienced first and shot second, rather than focusing purely on photography. Trying to put my new approach to travel and image-making into practice… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and SOOC with my custom Z7 Picture Control profiles.

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Photoessay: Tokyo Teleport

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When you have a subject with a title this good, one is simply compelled to use it – even if it means some heavy curation, some redaction, and some vicious cuts. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved the alien-dystopian-ness of this series, combined with the motion and slightly shadowy figures. It’s both surreal and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, with solid blocks contesting against ephemerally transient reflections and ghosts. If it gets chaotic, just go with the flow. Welcome to both yesterday and the future. Embrace the cliche. Welcome to Japan. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Photoessay: Life in the fishbowl

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With the amount of glass (all flawlessly clean, of course) in Tokyo, the number of tourists and the close proximity of everything…I can’t help but wonder if the residents sometimes feel like they’re living in a giant exhibit, periodically interrupted by gawking visitors with cameras from another realm. They take it with remarkably polite stoicism, unlike say, Venetians, who suffer the necessity of paying tourists with the bare minimum of tolerance. I suppose having industry other than tourism helps; that feeling of the ability to say ‘no’ – even you never do. Even if they didn’t – I certainly felt like I was part of the show. If not diving with the sharks, then at least snorkelling in the aquarium. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Photoessay: Life, observer and observed

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Alternative title: observing people observing the world. Actually, I feel about as detached from these images as the subjects feel detached from their surroundings. In a strange way I feel this coldness of mood works quite well for the given subject matter and creative intent; on top of that, color would have inevitably suggested moods or emotions that are neither appropriate nor sufficiently sangfroid. Actually, on second curation – I can’t help but see can alternative interpretation in a lot of situations. Missing is that feeling of intense focus implied by observation; rather there’s just a sort of blank mechanised obliviousness. This is probably not helped by the predominantly low key tonal palette; I’ve always liked that possibility of ambiguity and mystery suggested by it (regular readers will probably notice a distinct lack of high key monochrome here) – eyes you can’t see tend to mask the thoughts of the individual. MT

Shot over a period of time with a Nikon Z7, Olympus Pen F and various lenses; images are SOOC JPEG using my Nikon Z7 picture control pack, or specific Pen F settings.

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