All images copyright Tony Maniaty
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THE RED CENTRE, WITHOUT THE RED
Until the middle of the last century, nearly all photographs of nature were published in monochrome: at the higher end of the scale, the awe-inspiring perfect vistas of Ansel Adams, and, at the lower end, general ‘souvenir’ books of travel locations. The spread of inexpensive, high-quality color printing in the 1960s (think National Geographic magazine) changed the way we looked at the world around us - less to do with the primacy of natural forms, and more with the vibrancy of nature’s spectrums. On a recent trip to the very centre of Australia, around the great rock Uluru and the MacDonnell Ranges, I returned to ‘black-and-white’ as it used to be called and re-discovered its value in capturing the natural environment. (Of course it suits the gritty nature of urban life, but the grit of the Australian Outback is something altogether different.) When I first started publishing these images on Facebook, I was intrigued by the positive reaction, until I realized that many had probably never seen the so-called ‘Red Centre’ - the heartbeat of this vast continent - portrayed without color, and with such starkness. It’s a landscape of extraordinary beauty and spirituality, and for eons the home of proud indigenous peoples.
URBAN RENEWAL: RUST NEVER SLEEPS
Sometimes urban renewal planners get things right. New York’s High Line, Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, Liverpool’s Albert Dock. Add to that Ballast Point Park on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour. On a weekend visit to what used to be the Caltex oil storage depot, I was struck by the raw beauty of this former industrial site, located a few kilometres from the Sydney CBD – a beauty enhanced by retention of much of the site’s rusting commercial history. Not everyone agrees: former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating was among those arguing for erasure of this ‘industrial vandalism’ and a return to the site’s ‘pre-European-settlement’ natural state. But sanitation of history isn’t the answer; recognition of the past and its truths (good and bad) has to be an integral part of renewal projects like Ballast Point. This time they got it right.
ATHENS UNDERGROUND: ANCIENT CITY, MODERN METRO
Is there a sub-set of street photography called ‘metrography’? The world of subterranean railways is a great locale for people watching, with a compressed and distracted humanity in peak hours hurrying to get from one place to another. At other times, metro stations are eerily quiet, filled with a sense of uncertainty (‘When’s the next train coming?’) and anxiety (‘Why is he taking my photograph?’). Without the griminess of many undergrounds, the Athens system, built for the 2004 Olympics and cloaked in endless marble, is efficient and clean, generating its own sleek look for the camera…
JAIPUR: 'THE PINK CITY' IN BLACK AND WHITE
Shooting spontaneously, I tend to favor black-and-white. For years I shot in monochrome Kodak Tri-X, considered de rigueur for street photography with a Leica. Then I switched to a Nikon F system and Ektachrome color film for a decade or so. Now I'm using a Sony Nex-7 digital body with Nikon prime lenses, and an iPhone 6S - fluctuating between both and between colour and monochrome. Covering this year's Jaipur Literary Festival, I used the iPhone in 'noir' mode, capturing the mood and faces of the young Indian crowd. The iPhone is ideal for getting right into the action - without seeming to be anything but another festival-goer...
ATHENS: THE BEAUTIFUL, DIFFICULT CITY
'Wherever I go, Greece hurts me,' wrote the poet George Seferis. I feel this same conflict whenever I return to my father's homeland. It seems Greece can never escape its destiny, of being beautiful and tragic at once. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the capital itself; in the early summer of 2017, Athens conveyed a sense of both falling apart and coming alive. The graffiti everywhere shouted anger at the endless financial crisis, while the streets and cafes were filled with entrepreneurial young Greeks determined to make a fresh start from a decade of despair. Roaming about the city, using only the iPhone, I experienced the same buzz at photographing its many facets and faces as I did on my first visit as a teenager.
'VERTICALS': MONOCHROME PORTRAITS
In 2016, I embarked on a long-term project to photograph friends, family and acquaintances in the creative sphere. I'm shooting in monochrome, vertical format, full body and full frame, as much for insights into the persona of the subjects as for visual impact. Two of my 'sitters' were Americans who settled in Australia - Sydney sculptor Tom Arthur, from the East Coast, whom I first met in 1982, and Adelaide image maker Ed Douglas, from the West Coast, my photography mentor. All these images taken with a Sony NEX-7 body and Nikkor 20mm lens, one of my favorite set-ups.
In the Khrushchev era, from the mid-Fifties to early Sixties, Moscow experienced a postwar building boom of standardised workers' apartments, know even today as 'Khruschovka' blocks - rapid reinforced-concrete construction, five stories high, with modules of 20 apartments (four per floor) that could be multiplied to create entire new neighbourhoods. Progressively these Khruschovka blocks are disappearing, replaced by tower blocks 20 or 30 stories high. The stairwell of this block, in the south-western Zyuzino district, had just received a fresh coat of near-luminous green paint when I arrived. The afternoon winter sun coming through the windows did the rest...
THE LAST THING YOU’LL EVER SEE
What might death actually look like? I'm not a particularly spiritual being - like one of my literary heroes, Albert Camus, more a humanist - but I'm drawn to the notion of death, if not the actual event! (Poor Albert suffered his far too early, in a 1960 car crash with his publisher Michel Gallimard.) Last year I spent an idle day in hospital for tests, which turned up nothing of concern, but lying there with an iPhone in hand and endless time to spare, I tried to capture a sense of what those final moments might look like, given that most of us will probably end our lives in a hospital bed. The results were morbid and maybe funny too.
THESE KINSHIPS STRONG
The remaining marine and timber yards dotted around Sydney Harbour face an uncertain future as property developers move in. The workers talk of fighting back, but their days are numbered. When they go, two centuries of waterfront tradition will go with them, along with their working-class spirit. I took these images on assignment for a Magnum photojournalism workshop I attended in Sydney with veteran Magnum Agency photographer Ian Berry.
THE EMBASSY OF DISAPPEARANCE
In its 20th year, the Sydney Biennale featured an incredible cross-section of contemporary art and design practice. My good friend Ben Strout was the Chief Executive Officer and this, his first Biennale, was a major success. I arrived late afternoon at the Carriageworks venue, termed the Embassy of Disappearance, and played with blinding sunlight pouring into dark spaces.