A/D/O by MINI | Minh T's minimal moments

Journal

Architecture

Minh T's minimal moments

The photographer’s serene images capture architecture and other subjects in a graphic, minimalist style. But don’t ask him to disclose his secret shooting spots.

Looking through a photo stream by Los Angeles-based Minh T is instantly therapeutic. The images transport their viewer to a tranquil world, where modern and contemporary architecture, and impressive natural sites, appear in soft tones and are populated with anonymous characters. His consistent calming and soothing aesthetic, often described as minimalist, has helped him accrue over 215,000 followers on Instagram  (@thismintymoment) despite being slightly late to the game.

“I've always loved photography, I love drawing, and illustration,” he told The Journal. “So when Instagram came along, I jumped on board and I started to create my account in 2014… I felt I was able to find my voice and express myself, and the audience really responded.”

Although this success has led to work with brands on specific campaigns, like for cars, fashion accessories or perfume launches, Minh T’s work is still primarily architectural or design-related. His series titled Geometric Encounters documents stark, angular concrete architecture – sometimes accompanied by figures dressed in equally minimal attire. These silhouettes offer a useful comparison to show the scale of the environments they inhabit in the images, which range from intimate to monumental.

“Part of the beauty is that you can find these places everywhere,” he said. Yet he prefers not to specify or tag the locations of his shoots, in order to retain a sense of mystery and discovery through the images, and to prevent the sites from becoming overrun by others hoping to Instagram the same spots.

Raised in Virginia, Minh T initially studied engineering in Washington DC, then completed a masters in architecture at UCLA, before moving into graphic design, and finally, photography. An understanding and appreciation for all of these disciplines is evident in the way Minh T frames his shots, whether they are wide or detailed. The interplay of shadows on architectural surfaces, paired with the geometry of the volumes, creates graphic compositions that could be mistaken for illustrations.

Like many photographers, he prefers to shoot raw on an SLR camera as it provides “much more latitude to work with the image later”, he also uses a phone camera when scouting for locations. Although Minh T has been traveling more lately, many of his images are taken in and around his current home city.

“LA is so heavily covered by all different media that's really hard to find a location that hasn't been shot,” he said. “So all the time I take trips to obscure neighborhoods, locations, towns, and really dig deep into all these different moments that I can transform.”

“I get deep into Los Angeles, because there are so many locations that are unknown to the locals here,” he added. “Places like Compton have amazing architecture and spaces that people don't go to, because they go to Hollywood or Downtown.”

Along with incognito spots, Minh T has captured several iconic buildings in LA, such as the John Lautner-designed Sheats-Goldstein house (made famous by the 1998 cult movie The Big Lebowski), Richard Meier’s Getty Museum, and the Beverly Hills gas station designed by Gin Wong and William L Pereira and Associates.

Other recognizable contemporary structures in his feed include the MAAT in Lisbon, by AL_A; the Glenstone Museum Pavilions in Maryland, by Thomas Phifer and Partners; and the Tate Modern extension in London, by Herzog & de Meuron. He has also applied his signature aesthetic of images of the MINI Living Urban Cabins created for Los Angeles and Beijing.

Minh T’s earlier photography work was often devoid of color, presenting grey-scale or muted palettes, and using light and shadow as primary elements. But he has slowly introduced more color into his images, from pastels to bold shades and deep hues, though without altering his minimal aesthetic.

“Color is something that sort of came to me recently, but I don't know where from exactly,” he said. “I'm always trying to achieve a serene moment. Now, I think I'm going more towards passion and excitement. But that could change…”

In whichever way his style develops, his commissions and his Instagram following are almost certain to grow with it. Because the ability to transport the viewer to a peaceful place, simply through 2D imagery, is a welcome talent these days.

Text by Dan Howarth.