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

The images in this post are highlights from the whole set, which can be found here on flickr.

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One last seat has opened up for the Prague workshop (2-5 Oct) due to a participant’s conflicting work commitments. Now available at the special price of $1,900 instead of $2,150!For full details and to make a booking, click here. Thanks! MT


Enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards here – there’s US$35,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, it’s open to all ASEAN residents, and I’m the head judge! Entries close 31 October 2013.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. This essay is stunning… just stunning!

  2. I was totally blown away by Sabastiao Salgado’s Genesis today at the bookstore. Have you seen a video of his when he talks about the mega projects he does?

    • Yeah – the images are even better in a proper print exhibition; the book is very good but lacks the depth of a good print. Mega projects are great, but you also need mega sponsors to make them workable…aside from Salgado, I actually can’t think of any other photographers doing the same thing on the same kind of scale.

  3. Great images Ming Thein. The last one is like bubbles and the close up of the chain, when you look at it upside down you can see human ears and also a symbol of an american eagle.(im not on LSD 555), but i was wondering why you clipped the chain links at the front out of the frame, that led me to turn the image upside down, then i saw ears and the eagle. look forward to see your next images.

    • Thanks. You may be reading too much into the subliminal images you think you’re seeing though…simple reason is because there’d have been far too much empty space in the corners otherwise.

  4. HomoSapiensWannaBe says:

    Those are some mighty LARGE pixels in that first image! Ha Ha! As a set, the tonality of the images in part 2 is less dark and more to my liking. I look forward to seeing more images from projects like this where you have so much creative freedom.

    • Haha, indeed.

      I look forward to more of these too, but sadly I’m mostly in very staid and conventional markets – more often than not I’m told ‘do it this way’ or ‘copy this’ or ‘I want it to look like your previous work’. All photographers will tell you that creative freedom projects are very rare indeed…so we are doubly, triply appreciative when they come along.

      That said, I have one more in the works for next year. And it’ll be a big one if it happens. 🙂

  5. What a great conclusion! And thanks for the link to the Flickr set. Last night, I put the set on slideshow mode on a calibrated, 60-inch Pioneer Elite Kuro plasma TV, turned off the lights, and enjoyed it with this soundtrack: It’s nowhere near a baryta giclee, but seeing them large from only a few feet away is a great way to experience the pictures. My favorite one is for how the smoke is lit, and it really comes alive at a large size despite the limited resolution.

    Technical question: I noticed that many of the 6×6 film images have visible masks from the Hassy’s filmback. Is this something I’m only noticing now, or did you purposely not crop them out for this set?

    • Thanks – didn’t think even the large sizes on flickr had sufficient resolution for a HDTV though. I suppose that just goes to show we really don’t need that many pixels…

      I deliberately left in the film masking for this series. Found that when printed, they look a bit more ‘organic’ – hard to describe exactly – but for the final application for the client we’ll trim them out.

      • It’s even worse: HDTV is barely 2 megapixels, less than 8-bit in color depth, and the portrait aspect ratio pictures only occupy the central 3rd of the screen. Surprisingly, it was the rather crunchy microcontrast that’s most noticeable rather than any jaggies, but an Outstanding Image (TM?) can still win you over on 3 other things if not its technical quality.

        Are you sure liking the film masking isn’t a result of you looking at too many Instagram pics? 🙂 At least in this case, it’s an honest artifact, and not an affectation.

        • Haha, no. They just look better when printed is all.

          Is the microcontrast an issue because of the flickr downsizing algorithm, your TV’s contrast, or the image itself? On my 27″ Thunderbolt Display its sharp but not aggressive; one of the strengths of film is of course it’s smooth tonal transitions…

          • I would guess it’s Flickr’s “Ken Burns” slide program thing. I’ve been watching some of my own stuff on my computer’s calibrated monitor, and the crunchiness is there too, where it isn’t present in the normal viewing mode on Flickr.

            Also, I realized that technical quailty isn’t one of the 4 qualities on an outstanding image. Oops!

            • Nope, technical quality isn’t one of the four things because there are so many great images that work but aren’t capable of being pixel-peeped in a 6 foot print – it doesn’t matter anyway, because with an outstanding image you should see the composition first and then the technical bits as a very distant second…

  6. These images are « vraiment superbes » is it single or as a whole!

  7. I also want to thank your client for giving you so much access and freedom. These images are fantastic! Easily some of my favorite images you’ve displayed here.

  8. Definitely one of your best collections from the last months. All of the images are superb; a few are magnificent.

  9. Iskabibble says:

    Superb work.

  10. Your images are quite overwhelmingly arresting and moving. I find the same quality in your writing too. Beauty and truth seem to mirror each other in your work. Thank you for sharing.

  11. John Motzi says:

    Have you considered submitting this portfolio to LensWork? I think your work would be welcome there.

  12. Thank you, Ming, for sharing your experience with us. I feel enriched by your writing as well as touched by your images. Your images have the ethetic quality of beauty and truth – which make them both arresting and moving. And so is your writing: opening the mind, speaking to the eye and engaging the senses. Thank you.

  13. hi Ming, I recall reading somewhere but can you please share how you copy your 120 negs again using the D 800E?

    • Custom rig to tension and advance film and hold camera perfectly planar. I’m in the final stages of prototyping for a limited production run, which I will be selling on the site soon…

  14. Great series Ming! It seems I’m not the only one who considers this one of your best, and this when the client has given you creative freedom. Potential clients take note!

    • Thanks Ben – yes, potential clients please take notice! 🙂

      That said, I’m now in the middle of the planning stages for a job which came about as the result of a potential client seeing my work on the site…let’s just say that it’s going to be something completely different for me. So completely different, in fact, that it’s something I’ve never shot before…

  15. Wow – always love your b&w Hasselblad images. There’s a clarity in those that’s hard to describe, simply breathtaking. Maybe I should look for one myself…

    • Thanks Wolfgang! Maybe email Bellamy Hunt and tell him I sent you…

      • Howard Stevens says:

        Great images Ming.
        I know you had to keep your distance for safety but did you manage to take any 1:1 b&w images with the Richo GR ? Or if not then the OM-D and 75/1.8? Would be interesting to compare…

        • There are some in there with the Olympus, click through to the images page on Flickr to get the EXIF. Didn’t have the Ricoh at the time.

  16. this has been a really rewarding two blogposts. I started following you for the film entries but have enjoyed reading your other thoughts and reviews.
    but this, this is above the rest! something I’d expect to see in a photo/reportage oriented magazine, like LFI. actually, I think you should look into if they’d be interested in taking this one in a future issue! 🙂


  1. […] The Dreamscape Project Underground workers in mono A little casual jazz Workers of heavy metal I Workers of heavy metal II […]

  2. […] the best of the images from the assignment (photoessays here and here), a collective decision was made with my client to exhibit these as large prints for the public to […]

  3. […] there is one exception to this – the workers of heavy metal (photoessays parts one and two) – that work I also found to be amongst my most personally satisfying. But clients like that […]

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