The paradox of commuting in the Philippines is evident in all facets of it’s existence.
Manic, frantic and complex, yet shrouded in a sense of calm, viewing this sense of chaos is bewildering.
Attributed to it’s laid back sense of island life, it’s hard to comprehend the sheer volume of traffic and people that can operate with such a sense of order and tranquility.
Transportation varies in style. From buses and bikes to the unique and iconic ‘Jeepney’ which operates as a truck style bus that get’s loaded, and overloaded with people (beyond what you could possibly imagine), the ways to get from a to b are multiple.
For locals though, financial means can often dictate how people move around.
Throughout Manilla you see constant reminders of the stark contrast between prosperity and poverty, and the sense of divide is embodied in the heart of Manilla by some of it’s main roads.
For those that can afford it, elevated toll based highways offer a quicker and easier route through the city. However, for those that can’t (and many locals can’t), these roads are off limits meaning that the free yet congested public roads are their only option.
The difference between the 2 is mind boggling. Toll roads can see a 20 minute journey, whereas the public road journey along the same route could take up to 3 hours.
This photo essay explores and investigates the themes of TGNM within the Philippines with b&w and colour imagery which seemed befitting of the vibrancy of this amazing part of the world.
As we commute, time ticks on.
What is it doing to us?
Like an extension of our human form; the handset is now at one with us.
We cannot cope without engaging with it.
It is our retreat, our salvation, our comfort, our escapism.
Use all of your resolve to put it down, look away and appreciate what is around you.
We don’t always need to escape.
Looking from the outside in we see the angst, the pain, the suffering.
Looking from the outside in we can see ourselves within the torture.
Looking from the outside in.
In something of a metaphorical representation of what TGNM is all about, this story focuses on the notion of framing within our imagery to really accentuate the sense of human condition at the heart of each image.
Human condition remains at the core of what TGNM is all about and it's what made it something of a unique entity in the documentation of commuting when I started this project back in 2016.
And using this framing device is something I have continuously liked to play with as it can allow us to pinpoint the viewer's focus on our subject(s), and also present other elements which can add to the narrative within the imagery.
The organic sense of framing may come from a window, other people, structures or even a gap between passing trains and in this body of images each image in one way or another has seen me shooting subject's within some form of framing.
It not only allows us to sharpen our focus on the people we are observing, but it can also bring other elements into play (juxtaposition, symmetry, isolation etc) too.
But maybe more than anything, as TGNM is about being on the outside and looking in, this visual device can be a visual reminder of this.
It compounds the fact that we are on the outside, and we do have a choice to stop, look and reflect on whether that is right for us or not.
Initially, the whole notion of commuting may seem like a faceless experience devoid of any personality, but when you look closer and drill deeper, there is much to be seen and much to be learnt about those around us.
It's sometimes all it takes, as you notice someone's behaviour, demeanour or mood.
A sign of fatigue or distress.
A sense of melancholy.
A visible yearning to be somewhere else.
All are an indicator of what commuting can seemingly do to us as we become part of the elaborate hamster wheel that challenges and ferries us to and from our place of work.
In this story, I have selected images that tap into these moments, these signifiers, these invitations into the people near and around us which we sometimes miss.
The clues we can gain into who they are and what's in their minds can come in many different forms, each of which have their own power and impact.
The minds of those around us are rarely committed to being present and in the moment of commuting, but if we look close enough, we can find clues as to just where they really are.
Revisiting our TGNM exploration of commuting life in London, we are excited to present another of our motion pieces.
This snapshot of moments and people continues the stylistic TGNM characteristic of capturing human moments from amidst the frantic world of commuting.
The piece aims to capture the sounds and senses of the London 'grind', with focus on those fleeting moments of frantic racing around, isolation, displays of exhaustion and fatigue and a seemingly visual desire for mental escapism from what the rat race represents.
As TGNM evolves and grows we hope to expand on these moving image pieces, so please contact us to let us know what you think.
Listening with headphones is recommended.
Shot on the Sony a9, courtesy of Sony Australia.
Despite liking to capture a humane and emotive quality to my work, it's interesting that when it comes to talking about the work, exploring that intimate sentiment is not the only topic of conversation.
People do often ask about how I get up so close and personal with the subjects, if I ever talk to them, and how I find the courage to shoot candidly (all of which I am happy to talk about), but an interesting aside to this is the tech stuff that people constantly bring up, seemingly curious about what camera(s) I use, and I thought I would discuss within this story.
To be honest, I don't really have as much of a sentimental connection to cameras as I once did (my Hasselblad aside).
It's a tool, something used to capture a vision or idea, and as such it's about finding the right tool for the right job.
For 'Their Grind Not Mine', I have found that being inconspicuous and mobile are key factors that need to be balanced with a camera that offers speed and great image quality.
Moments are often fleeting, you never know where they will come from and you need to shoot in a reactionary way, and so far numerous cameras have all been tried.
The Fuji X-Pro was and still is a go to for me with a 50mm equivalent lens, and that has been responsible for most of the project so far.
Some early shots also came from a Canon 5D, but it's generally too big and heavy to lug around and remain candid with.
The Sony a7s and a9 have also been put through their paces (my South Korean work was shot on the a7s, and London on the a9) and both were fantastic to shoot with, and I am also experimenting with the Contax T2 for 35mm shooting, which is something I may explore later on with the project.
I picked up a Canon G7X Mk II yesterday, an expansive point and shoot with all the bells and whistles you would want for manual control, and this story is a chance to showcase it's output (including shock horror - the first TGNM colour shot!).
Small, discreet and nimble, it has the assets to straight away put me in the position of being able to take shots in an intimate context, which is a great start.
Beyond that, the camera's output has been impressive for a point and shoot. Quality wise the detail is good, and as I play with it more I look forward to seeing what else I can get with the stills and motion from it.
So after that tech driven prelude, these shots.
After our last story on London where the largely underground commuting experience lends itself to a dark, daylight deprived sensibility that helps personify commuting in that great city, I thought Sydney would be an interesting comparison.
The largely above-ground Sydney commuting experience means that you are not deprived of Vitamin D in the same way you are in other cities, but even so, this doesn't mean that masses are constantly displaying beaming smiles and positive exuberance.
On the contrary, despite the city being drenched in sunlight as we move into summer, the city continues to display a fatigue and sombreness (to my eyes at least) that many wouldn't expect to see here.
The hustle is real. It wears people down, and as the year draws to a close many will be looking for the chance to take a break and reflect on both 2017 and on what they want from 2018...is it a chance to see whether you want to continue being a part of the grind?
London is a city that I have a close personal connection with.
Having grown up on the outskirts of the British Capital, London was an integral part of my youth.
As soon as I was old enough I visited the city as often as I could, I then studied there, and ended up living there for over 15 years.
Now though, it's my home from home on the other side of the world.
I have now been living in Sydney in Australia for 10 years, and whenever I get the chance to head back to London I feel like I have the pleasure of seeing the city somewhat afresh each time.
It's a location changing at a fast pace, a pace only matched by the relentless hustle and bustle of the people that navigate their way around on the tube, buses and trains to their respective lives and professions.
It's a city where people are united by the understanding that time is a very very valuable commodity (largely because nobody has enough of it) which fuels and perpetuates the sense of rushing around that is so evident at every twist and turn.
For those caught in the rat race, the chance to stop and reflect on what is going on around them isn’t always possible.
However I would urge anyone in London stuck on a tube, bus or train to make the conscious decision to stop. Just for a moment, stop.
Take a look around you, as your city is a wonderful, wonderful place that you may have lost sight of.
London has a sense of character and personality you cannot easily find elsewhere.
It's a familiar yet constantly fresh feeling city.
It's a vast sprawling place, yet still conjures plenty of intimate moments.
And that's what this TGNM story is all about, capturing the essence of this vast, manic, fast-paced city in a series of moments captured as still images.
Of course we are analysing the effect of commuting and the dread, fatigue and remorse that this can conjure, but among the frantic rushing around and eating on the go, there are characterful moments, tender moments and humane moments.
It’s something that enforces the notion that beyond all of it’s landmarks and recognisable names and places, London is a city where the earnest nature of the people help's to shape it's character and identity.
London is in the midst of an unstable time. The unrest over Brexit and the ongoing atrocities linked to terrorism would seemingly see the great City shaken, but instead, the city seems to be galvanised and people seem closer than ever.
It may be fast, it may be frantic, but the people who give so much to this great city can handle anything it throws at them…even their daily commute.
Shot with the Sony a9
While much of TGNM's studies have so far focused on inner city locations where public transport is the vehicle for a sense of doom and gloom that so regularly characterises commuting, Bali offers some respite.
Bali is a place where 2 wheels rule as scooters and motorbikes provide a dominant transport choice that offers a free and vibrant sense of movement that filters through every city town, village, hamlet, beach and everything in between.
Throughout, travel is a rampant and unruly system with (seemingly) next to no governance or display of rules which means that everyone goes anywhere at any given time.
To the untrained eye (mine) it looks impossible to read, perplexing to understand and bewildering to be a part of, yet something galvanises the entire experience as while you would think that travelling in this complex way would be more exhausting than anything you can experience in city life, you might be wrong.
Something we seem to lose when ferried about on buses and trains within cities is the ability to find mindfulness.
As we are transported we have the ability to drift and ponder which can lead to listlessness and contemplation, which causes our psyche to react accordingly. We can think, analyse, stress, form anxiety, and what goes through our minds is hard to disguise physically.
In Bali though, mindfulness is a necessity.
The reality is that anything other than being present and in the moment could lead to horrendous accidents, so vigilance and mindfulness are key, and this state of mind radiates something quite unexpected.
Rather than displaying the contemplative listlessness and fatigue that city life commuting can regularly display, in Bali we instead see a positivity, vibrance and joy of life that sets it apart.
Navigating through hoardes of bikes on narrow elevated pathways through rice fields, weaving through congested city streets, and travelling in close proximity with friends and family is something that galvanises, lifts and empowers to create a positive mindset.
The bike is a heralded item, carefully maintained by the countless roadside garages, and regularly personalised to make the item stand out and resonate with the owner.
It’s busy, hectic and complex yet the mindset it encourages is positive. There is no common sense of anger or frustration at how difficult it is to move around, instead people are peace with the system and themselves.
One memory sticks in the mind that in many ways represents this.
While walking down a remote road, an open backed truck travelled past me, and then shed it’s load onto the tarmac in the path of a scooter travelling in the opposite direction.
The scooter had to brake, swerve, and only missed careering off the road into a ditch with the narrowest of margins.
The reaction? Well, there was no anger, no frustration, no resentment. Together both parties smiled and worked together to clear the road before they moved on.
Symbolic of the mindset that this story ponders; the notion of being present as a necessity is something that generates a refreshing notion of positivity that many of us could learn from no matter where we are in the world.
As something of a paradox, the commuting experience in Hong Kong is as much of an anomaly as Hong Kong itself.
Since the 1997 handover which saw Hong Kong’s sovereignty handed from the UK back to China, this amazing destination has not been fully embraced as a coherent part of the Chinese mainland and instead exists as a Special Administrative Region that exists with it’s own rules and sense of being, detached from the legalities of Beijing.
To many Hong Kong is seen as a thriving and Internationally renowned financial hub, with a thriving ex-pat community helping to bolster it’s importance both within Asia and China. The truth of the matter though is that mainland China’s economic boom has seen Hong Kong’s financial importance diluted, as it now only contributes a mere 3% to China’s total annual economy.
Hong Kong’s identity becomes much more than a mere financial hub when you have a chance to explore and roam though.
You find that a fusion of Western influences from it’s colonial past and ex-pat reliant present are matched by local influences of people, places and cultures that all come together to shape what Hong Kong is; a progressive and exciting destination that is looking to shape it’s own identity.
The 9 to 5 grind see’s the masses making their way to and from Hong Kong’s array of ferries, trains, busses and trams to their destinations, with the kinds of angst ridden displays that we are used to seeing in other hubs around the world.
There is no denying that the commuting masses can be clearly seen in their hoardes at peak times with processions through walkways and train stations orderly making their way to their destinations.
In between this it’s common to see displays of contemplation, yearning and retrospection (from those of all ages) as those weaved within the commuting fabric look to identify reason and understanding, and help journey towards making their impression on Hong Kong’s exciting present and future.
Wherever they are going, or by whatever mode of transport, this isn't just about getting from a to b, it's about playing a part in shaping the very essence of what Hong Kong is, and can continue to be.
While much of TGNM's documentation of the psychology of commuting takes place across rail and buses, there are other transportation options, some of which throw up surprising results.
Sydney is my home city, and one that we have investigated in the past (and will continue to investigate again in the future), but for this photo essay I wanted to look at another side of it's commuting experience.
A key part of Sydney's identity comes from it's iconic waterways, and the ferry service that operates through the globally recognisable harbour is a key part of Sydney's transport system.
In fact, the water bound services flow far more favourably than those on land, making it a popular and at times breathtaking way to travel.
The feel good factor that radiates through travelling this way can often see surprising signs, and the usual signs of frustration, fatigue, anger etc that seem to be a common sight on land seem to instead be washed away.
The sheer notion of floating through the harbour seems to see commuter's usual expressions replaced by wonder and tranquility.
Gone is the angst and tension, and instead you can see displays of relaxation, joy and elation as rather than have disdain for it, people appreciate and celebrate this way of commuting.
Sure, we see the same cattle-like procession as ferries are boarded with the hoardes pushing and barging their way onto the vessel, but this is often for the commuters to heighten their experience; seeking optimum seating to maximise their view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
For others, they are just happy to sit and let the ferry rock themselves to sleep as they travel to or from their destination.
This type of commuting experience is one that seems to be savoured and appreciated rather then dreaded and despised...and I hope to find more of these positive experiences in the future.
In a city of 24 million people it's not often that the world around you stands still.
I was last in Shanghai in 2005 and in the 12 years between visits, the city has evolved and grown considerably to become a place that moves at an alarming pace.
In 2005 the cities Metro system was a small and compact network, which has now evolved into a lean, efficient and impressive transport system for the entire city, neatly capped off with a 300kph Maglev train that connects the city to the International Pudong airport in just 7 minutes.
On average, 10 million people use the Metro system per day, and this captive audience has seen huge innovations like animated video displays projected within the windows of the trains, and large video displays within concourses brought into play.
This impressive visual world is seemingly lost on many Shanghai commuters though who once onboard, seem permanently immersed in their handheld devices.
The caveat though is that here we see something of a generational divide. The older generations often showcase the sense of weariness and fatigue shared by commuters around the world, whereas the younger generation seem to have found some form of escape.
The hustle and bustle between terminals offers this younger generation the respite needed for commuters to sink into their phones, using WeChat as a common alter reality that see's many of the younger generations lost to another world; maybe one less sapping and fatigue inducing than the reality of their commute.
For those younger commuters below ground, the whole process becomes a visibly technology driven process, with people wanting to escape the reality of the world around them with the technologically enticing devices in their pockets.
Above ground, bicycles provide an equally intricate array of arteries for commuting.
With pushbikes and mopeds sharing cycle-lanes, the 2 wheeled option seems dangerous and unreal for the outsider. No obvious rights of way, no helmets, and no cohesive plan makes the whole notion of cycling in Shanghai quite bold, but accidents seem to be something of a rarity.
Above ground, anything other than being in the present moment could be disaster for a rider, a rider who constantly needs to pay attention to the world around them to avoid accidents.
Despite all of this, in regards to the human moments that TGNM looks for, Shanghai provided plenty.
The movement, the pace, and the sense of personality of the Shanghai commute is there, but so are the quiet moments, the moments of contemplation and respite I did not expect to find in such a rampaging behemoth of a city.
In Shanghai patience seem's to be a virtue shared by the people.
ll cities seem to affect their citizens in different ways. Some provide an instantly fatigued and weary facade to the commuters it churns out, for Shanghai though the tone is civilised and orderly.
The Metro system is relatively new and people seem pleased to have it, and even more pleased that they can spend their time commuting any way that they see fit; whether that be immersed in the despair that commuting that represent, or, in a world of escapism in the palm of their hands.
Often known as Australia's Culture Capital, Melbourne is a city with a pace and style all of it's own.
To many, Melbourne has a sense of gentrification. The city has a renowned European air, with a bustling cafe culture, a sense of European architecture and a general mood that would feel at home on the other side of the world.
This gentrification even filters down to what you often see within the cities commuting.
Alongside train and bus networks the city has a renowned tram network that provides the populous with a reliable and comfortable commuting experience running across the city.
With this network at their disposal, for Melbournians commuting can be orderly and patient.
However, despite this infrastructure there is a factor that makes Melbourne life unpredictable and at times challenging; the weather.
Due to it's geographical longitude and latitude, Melbourne's weather is hugely erratic during the whole year, allowing for the notion of '4 seasons hitting in one day', as rain, snow, sun and wind could all be combined through any given day, something that can filter down into commuting.
In the summer months, extraordinarily high temperatures can see the mercury hitting 40 degrees, which can make commuting something of an unbearable feat as bodies cram together like sardines on trams to create something of a sweat fest.
In the winter, unexpected cold (unexpected in Australian terms - it's not all sunny beaches!) can have the adverse effect, with commuters battling against challenging chills to seek warmth and solace at any given opportunity.
So, despite Melbourne's gentrified identity and thriving public transport networks, the elements can make the experience a challenging and exhausting experience that clashes with the cities seemingly relaxed and sedate demeanour.
A motion piece designed to accompany the Their Grind Not Mine shooting trip to the region.
The concluding part of my stills journey through Seoul.
Please check out Pt 1 (Oct 16) as a precursor to this additional instalment.
One of South Korea's largest cities, Busan is a thriving city, yet it's sense of commuting seems to represent a rather measured and pedestrian dynamic.
While Busan is young and vibrant in nature, the faces I noticed while out and about shooting for TGNM were characteristically old and characterful.
Their measured pace seemed to replicate that of the commuting itself which was calm, orderly and patient.
There was no frantic chasing around like in other world cities I have experienced, this was instead a calm and sedate experience where the unifying sense was that people were at peace with their journey.
The South Korean capital is a city full of contrast.
The echoes of old and the new are clearly visible sparring partners on the corners of many of the streets you walk down, and as Seoul continues to evolve into an increasingly influential epicentre of commerce, tech and design, it's no surprise that it's pace is fast.
Despite this pace though, as people ebb, weave and dodge their way through their own respective commuting experience, the tone isn't one of overwhelming sense of stress, agony or despair as instead, the commuting world seems to be shrouded in a sense of order and discipline.
Measured and refined, the brisk, chaotic and exhausting speed of commuting you may see elsewhere in the world is something refreshingly different here as despite Seoul's population now at 10 million plus, the city conducts itself with a sense of order and discipline.
Queuing to board trains in an orderly fashion is one sight that is a stand out visual on South Korean train platforms as commuters navigate their way through the Seoul Metropolitan Subway, something that offers the perfect representation of how the cities commuting cycle operates in a orderly and respectful way.
People seem to work together, with no great sense of rush or urgency, and the communal sense of togetherness means that the machine operates smoothly, and as such, the commuting population seem to react in a more positive way, allowing moments of kindness, positivity and even humour to become evident among the masses.
While the sense of fatigue and despair that we commonly associate with commuting in cities around the world is also there, it's not the over-riding sense (to me at least) of how Seoul's commuting operates.
There is much to love about this great city, and the fact that the grind of commuting is something that the locals commonly seem to rise above is something I hold great respect for, as they work together to make the necessity of the experience bearable and respectful.
That said, there are always those who will also fall asleep.
Despite the perception of Sydney being a chilled and relaxed city, it's incredible how commuting seems to transform the city into a completely different place.
It was in Sydney that the idea for TGNM was born, and as such, I am continually intrigued by how the city reacts to commuting, and how commuters react to it.
As a major city it should not go unsaid that Sydney's transport system is severely lacking.
Slow, nowhere near comprehensive enough, and increasingly expensive, the buses and train networks that should support Sydney, do not offer anywhere near the standard of service that Sydneysiders need to travel with the ease and comfort befitting the great city. Ferries offer some respite, but don't cater for the masses who live away from the harbour cities water networks.
The by-product of this is the increasingly visual sense of unrest that this seems breed which then filters down though commuters.
Tired, disenfranchised and bewildered are words that spring to mind when scanning the faces of commuters through the city, and the standard (or lack of) transport infrastructure surely plays a part in this.
Sydney's doesn't have the breakneck speed of New York, London or Tokyo, with vast populations scrambling to make their work to their next destination, but that doesn't mean that the city's commuting masses do not display the kind of visual frustration and despair you associate with other cites around the world.
Economically, Sydney is a very expensive city to live in, so the stress of modern living, alongside the frustrations and fatigue of dealing with Sydney's laborious transport networks mean that the city conjures up regular visual displays that embody what TGNM is truly about.
There is so much to love about Sydney; it's a positive place with a dynamic appreciation for living life, but the demands of what living that life can entail on a daily basis can be a real Grind for many.
Having spent time examining the commuting cycle at ground level and in close proximity to the commuters, I thought I would take an opportunity to take a new perspective and view it from afar.
Situated at a couple of major Sydney junctions, these images offered a refreshing perspective, showcasing the 2 extremes of congestion and isolation that many commuters face.
Even though they are all scrambling around en masse, and sharing a common mentality and sense of purpose, the experience can also be quite personal and isolating too.
Those moments, heading to, or heading from your destination. What do they make you feel?
Anxiety, concern, pressure?
Is the clock ticking as second by second you get nearer to a place you dread?
A place you make the pilgrimage to every day , yet every day wish you didn't need to ever visit again.
From those rushing to get ready, those seeking a moment of isolation and solitude to compose themselves, a moment to forget the rat race around them as they immerse themselves in their own world.
How do you feel when you commute?
How it all began.
One wet and cold February night, I saw the expressions and demeanours of a number of commuters, and I saw among them a shared sense of apathy, exhaustion and despair.
One, two then three. Then more, all sharing this same look. Was this a commonality among all commuters?
Well, from there onwards I decided to embark on this side project to explore further.