What is Polytet?

An introduction to the origins and ideas surrounding Polytet.

Shortform

Polytet is the process of noticing things veiled within everyday situations and objects, and then carefully selecting and framing them within a photograph without manipulating the image after it has been taken. It is not an exercise in objectification, it’s an exploration of compositions, patterns, shapes, colors, and textures hidden in the world around us. Polytet is not so much about people as the traces they leave behind themselves in their wake. It’s about blurring the line between the obvious and the magical, capturing fleeting moments of whimsy or specific ideas. It’s a search for the profound, the glib or the humorous, and thrives on spontaneity, happenstance and kismet.

At the core of Polytet is the idea that whilst it is easy to take a picture of something interesting, it is much harder to take an interesting picture of something.

Longform

Polytet originated as an ongoing photo-a-day project when I moved from Tokyo to Belgrade in 2011. I realised that while my gear was in transit I was going to be without access to my music studio for several months, so I decided to invest in a relatively good point and shoot camera and document the transition from the one city to the next to keep myself creatively occupied.

Polytet has become a continuing effort to defragment and piece together images and experiences of the cities I have lived in and visited with a camera – Tokyo, Belgrade, Johannesburg, and Paris – by blurring their immediate context and therein finding similarities, familiarities and references between them.

Furthermore, Polyet is about exploring the deliberate decontextualisation of existing forms and symbols; framing them within new, carefully composed compositions; and, in the process, removing the original object, architectural space, or image from itself.

Scenes and objects of interest are never physically manipulated in any way, they are photographed as is, and only the camera determines what is captured.

It is also a photographic allegory of audio sampling wherein smaller pieces are selected and edited out of larger works and re-contextualised as something new. The images then take on an aspect of audio samples but differ greatly in that, as photos, they are self contained compositions in and of themselves and not necessarily smaller parts of a larger composition to be.

The images taken are untouched, uncropped and unedited in external software or code. They are directly downloaded to disk from the camera and then uploaded to Tumblr as .jpeg files.

This approach is firmly rooted in the purist approach of microphone placement and minimal recording techniques, wherein original settings are revered above all else and post production techniques of compression, equalisation and other tweakings are eschewed in favour of utilising tools at hand to compose and record with as little manipulation after the fact as possible. Filters and effects are used in moderation, in real time, to achieve a desired outcome, but the initial input/output, using the shortest path to the recording device, is regarded as the end result and all efforts are made to capture the complete composition, color, and texture in one take. Polyet adheres to this philosophy. The camera and lens are treated like a microphone being carefully placed and paired with a pre-amp in such a way that no further manipulation is required because all efforts are made from the outset to have a complete and composed image.

Etymology

The name Polytet is closely related to the nature of the project itself. Tet is the ninth letter of many Semetic alphabets (abjads) and gave rise to the Greek letter Theta. In Hebrew it is associated with Introversion – the Concealed Good. Tet is the initial letter of the word tov, and the form of the tet is inverted, thus symbolising hidden, inverted good. “Its good is hidden within it.”

By adding the prefix “Poly” from Ancient Greek “polus” meaning many, much, one amplifies the context and power of “the the hidden good”.

In Phoenician the letter represents the wheel, and Tet can also be used as the abbreviation for tetrahedron, the simplest complex polyhedra. The triangle/pyramid is a foundation of classical composition and an iconic architectural feature, so the name Polytet is literally multifaceted, and itself a re-contextualisation of languages, meanings and linguistic roots.

TL:DR

Polytet is the introverted and hidden magnified through the lens of the camera via the deliberate decontextualisation of forms and symbols to produce a new aesthetic from regular items or spaces by removing them from themselves and representing them as something new.