Photographic maturity

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I am immature enough to know that a giant farting cloud elephant is not that interesting to most people and of zero photographic merit other than it exists and was captured in its transience; but I am mature enough to know that I like a window seat on an airplane because looking out helps pass the time, and occasionally you see things like this that give your inner five year old some joy. I also know that it matters not one whit what I shot this with so long as it looked like the intended farting elephant. (Side note: I have been photographing seriously for nearly 20 years now, nine of them as a full time pro. I’ve shot all the things I’ve wanted to shoot, worked with all the people and companies I’ve wanted to, and probably quite a bit beyond – in short, I have the luxury of knowing what I want to do/be/shoot as photographer.)

The journey for every photographer involves a few things:
– Figuring out what it is you want to photograph [motivations]
– Figuring out how you want to present it, or your [style]
– Seeking affirmation
– Not needing affirmation
We’ve discussed the first two items at length here before. We haven’t discussed the last two – and I think it’s about time we did, having firmly felt that I have been sitting in the final category for some time now. Right about after leaving Hasselblad and shifting my primary focus away from the photography industry to watchmaking, actually. It’s no coincidence that once you stop worrying about something, you feel increasingly liberated as to what you can ‘get away with’; it’s the gift and curse that the amateur fails to appreciate compared to the professional. There is fundamentally no need for the amateur to care what anybody but themselves thinks of their own work – yet most do, more intensely than the pro whose paycheck is dependent on client affirmation. Why?

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Photoessay: Ponte Vecchio

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I can’t exactly say why I was so fascinated with this bridge during my time in Florence, but I do know it yielded a great variety of interesting images as light and perspective changed. Originally built during Roman times, it’s been updated and renovated repeatedly until its current iteration dating from around the mid 14th century. The latest addition in the mid 16th century by the Medicis linked the Palazzio Vecchio (Florence’s town hall and administrative centre) with the Palazzo Pitti, and is the covered topmost structure – the Vasari Corridor. The bridge itself is lined with goldsmiths and jewellers – and increasingly, watch dealers – I was a little surprised at this, but it seems this has actually been the case since the 15th century. The watch brand boutiques are therefore merely a quite apt modern take on things… 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: Museum

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There are some places you visit where the weight of accumulated history is so great that you can’t help but feel it everywhere you go; at times you feel like you’re walking through a living museum of sorts. Part of that is probably because of the accumulated objects, part of that is because of the people who’ve been living with those accumulated objects for so long that they’ve become a part of them in a way. There’s no denying that culture and society are both path dependent and self-reinforcing; yet I wonder to what degree popular culture is making things oddly homogenous across a much larger distance than before. ‘Culture’ is an interesting term because it’s come to mean similar things across the world: the arts, the erudition and gentility. I suppose we should be thankful it isn’t the size of your bank balance or number of nuclear missiles…MT

This series was shot with an iPhone 11 Pro and edited in-phone, except for the second image, which was shot with a Nikon Z7, a 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Florentine patchwork

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One thing any place with extensive history seems to enjoy is a patchwork of evolutionary architectural styles and weathering; all of this combines to create a distinctly unique signature that we recognise as being ‘of a place’. The longer that history, the more disparate elements combine – in such a way that could not possibly have been predicted by those who put up the structures could have envisioned at the time. Whilst we’ve had discussions here in the past over how architects build and design with sensitivity to their immediate environment, there is literally no way they could have foreseen what comes in the years that follow. However one can only assume that the following architects would continue to be sensitive to their relative surroundings, thus creating a sort of thematic continuity that whilst perhaps is not seamless – is at least somewhat harmonious. MT

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

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Alternate theories of inspiration

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Anachronism

What do photography, food, time and EDC objects have in common? If you can answer this to your satisfaction, then you probably don’t need to read the rest of today’s article. In the past I’ve talked about the more systematic approach to composition from a structural/ compositional point of view – the Four Things – and how to translate an idea into an image. Both deal with the mechanical part of arranging the elements in your frame and ensuring that they are ‘read’ in the expected way by your audience, they don’t really deal with something a bit higher up the food chain: where do the ideas come from in the first place?

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Photoessay: Vault and arch

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Today’s set is an abstract whistlestop tour of Milan’s interpretation of that most fundamental of architectural features: the arch, and it’s compound, the vault. I’ve always found the interplay of light off the curves and textures to be very compelling as a regular but abstract arrangement, probably because it has many surfaces and lines intersecting at nearly perpendicular. What’s more interesting is the range of interpretations present: from the small-scale to the monumental; from the ornate to the functionally minimalist, every combination of those two axes and everything in between, with the possibility of two or three dimensions to add even more variety. Photographically, flattening or enhancing that sense of depth through the use of shadow and camera position/perspective yields some rather interesting results, as I think you’ll agree. 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: 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: Slanted II

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Assorted scales, assorted perspectives, assorted structures, assorted purposes, assorted locations; the one idea to which all of these images were curated is a sense of tension against regularity and order created by light. The tension is transient and exists for only as long as the shadows stay in place; I admit I’ve become addicted to the heavy sort of shadows that create start new virtual forms that project in odd planes against the regular three dimensions. I like the way areas are thrown into ambiguity, the way the virtual momentarily outweighs the physical and the entire structure becomes something else. Sometimes they are regular, sometimes they aren’t; all the time, the camera and a photographic presentation has the ability to make them more real than real. If you are there for that moment, then the forms are yours alone – come back tomorrow for something different. MT

Shot with various hardware over the last couple of years, mostly processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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The limitations of language, redux

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Cloud I.

I have a bit of a problem. In fact, it’s becoming an increasingly large one. Put simply, I’m running out of words to describe the things I’m seeing and the visual concepts I’m trying to explain; and I don’t know if the vernacular even exists. I suspect it doesn’t, but then again, I’m sure there are English speakers with greater vocabulary than me for whom it does. A large portion of you probably think this is stating the obvious; it is. But we reach a point beyond which it becomes impossible to progress further without some sort of common baseline accurately and consistently describe what it is we’re intending to convey; or more specifically, to ensure that what I’m saying and imagining are the same things as what you’re hearing and seeing in your own mind.

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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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