On Assignment Photoessay: Koenigsegg, part II

Behind the scenes at Koenigsegg

In the previous post I brought you the results of the aerial shoot for Koenigsegg; today’s long series of images is the second part covering the story of the making – behind the scenes at the factory. Almost everything is made in-house, and a tour of the compact but comprehensive facility will yield everything from CNC machines turning engine blocks, to people laying up complex carbon wheels, to a paint shop, alignment jigs, leather stitching and cutting, wiring and electronics and everything between. Even though the cars are astronomically expensive – EUR2m and up from what I understand – I actually wonder how Christian can still make money given the amount of specialised labor involved, and the length of time required to complete one car – they make fewer than 30 per year. The attention to detail is quite mind boggling – if you order a clear coated car, for instance, it’s not merely the epoxy matrix of the carbon that’s polished, but a dozen layers of clear lacquer applied by hand over the top, polished between each application, and each carbon panel’s seams must line up perfectly: and be symmetric on both sides of the car. Today is really a celebration of non plus ultra – both in the subject, and in using the H6D-100c to shoot it. Note: lighting looks natural, but is really a careful balance between ambient and a single Broncolor Siros 800L triggered wirelessly, and mounted on a voice activated light stand*. Enjoy! MT

*A tall assistant.

A big thank you to Koenigsegg for support and logistics. This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50 and 100mm lenses, and a single Broncolor Siros 800L balanced against ambient. Postprocessing was completed using the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow.

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On-assignment photoessay: Underground again

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Part I, Central Wanchai Bypass

I found myself back in the tunnels under Hong Kong again a couple of months ago. I’d previously visited both locations in a much less complete state – the Central Wanchai Bypass was a trench with a lot of bracing holding the seawall at bay, and Whampoa MTR station was a bare tunnel with no platform and no liners – just a large cavern. The former is now a neatly lined tunnel and roadway awaiting the final finishing touches for ventilation, M&E ducting and lighting; most of this portion of the contract has been or is about to be handed over to the next contract to be finished. The station is now in pretty much recognisable form – even the information counters and ticket kiosks are in, though without their final cladding and not fully cleaned up. At this point you could certainly imagine rush hour passing through, though – even if the work dust everywhere gives things a slightly post-apocalyptic feel. From an execution/ equipment standpoint, I think this assignment was tougher than my first documentary assignment with the H system – Thaipusam 2016 – mainly because the brief was tighter, light levels much lower in some places, and frequently the subjects more conscious of being photographed. For some odd reason, it was much easier to photograph religious festival participants…

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Photoessay: Klang Valley MRT work in progress, part II

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We continue with the tunnel borers – this time reverting to monochrome for the aboveground portion of the monochrome documentary (underground was here here, focusing on the workers). A sense of scale is needed to appreciate the extent of the project, and this was the purpose of these images. I shot this with a mix of equipment over an extended period of time – mostly Nikon D800Es, however. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: Klang Valley MRT work in progress, part I

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Today’s photoessay follows on from the last On Assignment; it’s the aboveground portion to the earlier underground portion focusing on the workers. A sense of scale is needed to appreciate the extent of the project, and this was the purpose of these images.

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Photoessay: Underground workers in mono

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Today’s photoessay contains images I initially shot for a client much earlier in the year; the German tunnel-boring specialists Herrenknecht and MMC-Gamuda for the greater Kuala Lumpur mass transit project. The project itself will bring a unified rail system to Klang Valley over the next five years; in the meantime, it’s utter chaos while everything is being dug up or diverted so overhead pylons can be put up. I was hired to document some of the underground work.

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Workers of heavy metal – a combined On Assignment Film Diaries Photoessay, part two

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The second portion of this photoessay concludes (part one is here) with a plenty of images and couple of final thoughts: firstly, another huge thank you to the client for giving me this opportunity – he’s a reader of this site too – very rarely do professional and personal creative goals mesh with such rewarding results. Secondly, I think there are a couple of things I need to look for in future assignments: it’s a bit abstract, but basically one needs to have a subject with potential and a client who’ll trust you enough to let you run with it – without either, the ensuing images will always be a compromise. MT

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Workers of heavy metal – a combined On Assignment Film Diaries Photoessay, part one

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The welder.

If ever I had a dream assignment, this has got to have been one of them. (And the job isn’t quite finished yet; there are a few other outstanding items that need to be taken care of.) Imagine being presented with a scene of near-infinite photographic opportunity by a client who says ‘I hired you because I like your work, and I don’t want to restrict your artistic vision – so go ahead and shoot as you see fit.’ Then throw in the ability to shoot with the system(s) of your choice – including film – and a couple of good lunches to boot. And a chauffeured 7-series to and from the location. I swear a) I’m not joking, and b) this doesn’t happen often, but hey: if it did, we certainly wouldn’t be able to appreciate it.

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Book review: Workers, by Sebastiao Salgado

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One of my favorite photography books of all time is Sebastiao Salgado’s Workers, published by Phaidon. There are various printings around – some hard cover, some soft; the one I have is soft cover with a dust jacket. I actually find these easier to read, but I do worry about the long term durability of the bindings. Groups of pages are stitched together then held in a glued matrix at the spine – this kind of binding has given me some issues in the past, if the quality of the glue isn’t up to par.

But I digress. The book is about the photographs, and to a lesser extent, the printing; not the binding.

Brazillian-born Salgado is a photojournalist who needs no introduction – his long and distinguished career has included a stint at Magnum before founding his own agency, Amazonas Images; he’s also a UNICEF ambassador and has worked with the UN, WHO and other NGOs. He’s one of the few people who’s even had a special edition Leica set produced for him, which I believe was eventually auctioned off for charity. (As of late, he also seems to be a Canon brand ambassador.)

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Salgado has a preference for megaprojects – photographic assignments that last for years, or decades, rather than mere days or weeks; his latest and final project, Genesis, begun in 2004 and supposedly nearing completion. Workers was shot on medium format and Leicas; he has recently switched to a digital capture workflow, however, physical negatives are made from the select files and printed the old-fashioned way – which undoubtedly contributes to how his images have such a unique look.

That look – best described as tonally rich, with well-executed dodge and burn in the highlight and shadow quarter tones – is extremely distinctive, and highly textural. You can usually tell at a glance if an image is a Salgado. What elevates Salgado into the great photographic pantheon is his ability to combine perfect presentation with perfect framing, dynamically strong lighting and emotionally arresting subjects – each image provokes an emotional reaction in the viewer – anger, hope, pity, awe, fear – sometimes all at once, even.

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The content of Workers is very much encapsulated in the title – it’s a look at the people who keep the great economic machine turning over; curiously, there’s very little seen of the ‘managers’ and clerks; you get the impression that he either doesn’t think they’re worth bothering with because they do little to no real work. The reality is probably a mix of that, and the fact that piles of paper and meeting tables in faceless offices don’t typically make arresting photographic subjects. What you do get is a very intimate view into the spectrum of physical labor – from sulfur mining with bare hands to the construction of the Channel Tunnel. Nothing is clean and industrialized, perhaps with the exception of an auto production line; Salgado’s images portray reality: dirty, oily, textured and visually stunning.

The book itself contains several hundred images in black and white – I don’t think Salgado has ever tried working in color – there’s very slight bronzing to the printing, but I personally feel it adds to the overall look and feel of the images. I’ve had the privilege to see original prints at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and feel these are very authentic indeed. The density of printing is also excellent, with blacks being extremely deep and the rich tonal variations faithfully reproduced. There are also numerous foldout pages for larger subjects.

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If you have a single photojournalistic bone in you, Workers and his other books are highly, highly recommended – it’s a book I go to for both compositional and tonal inspiration. Even if you have no interest in photojournalism, it’s difficult not to be awed by Salgado’s images; they show us a side of the world that few get to see, but for some people forms their entire reality. And hopefully, that incremental understanding and tolerance we take away from seeing into the lives of others goes beyond the enjoyment of the images. MT

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Photoessay: Workers, in the style of Sebastiao Salgado

This is a continuation from an earlier post with one image. The back story is not quite what you’d expect: I was killing time at a culinary academy in Singapore while waiting for one of my classes to start (I was teaching food photography, not cooking, though at some point I’d love to attend a proper cooking course, however, I digress) and happened to notice a building site out of the window. The 6th floor was a great vantage point to get far enough away to see the entire scene, but not so far that you’d miss out the details. Add in that wonderful directional light that comes immediately after rain when clouds just clear and the sun starts poking out (plus the textures and wet reflections) and the light was utterly gorgeous. Colors were still muted, and this was one of those occasions that just screamed ‘B&W’. Just another example of one of those times when you don’t plan to shoot, but somehow an opportunity presents itself – enjoy the results for yourself. On an unrelated note, I’m really loving the square format, too. Or maybe I’m just lazy to turn the little camera sideways. MT

This series shot with a Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium.

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