Photoessay: Look up, New York

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One of the things I enjoyed most about New York was the architecture; the pace of development and abundant funds in the city meant that a walk through any of the districts was almost like stepping through the pages of a history of modern architecture. In particular, I was quite captivated by the more modern buildings and their interaction with the environment around them; most sought to give the impression of transparency and lightness by heavy use of mirrored glass, but in the end landed up standing out as somewhat soulless monoliths. Yet at the same time, they also blend in with their own kind. Even though each building is pretty much the same functionally, constrained only by dimensions and the need to maximize usable floor plate for a given land area, if you look carefully, you can still see the stamp of individuality of the designers. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Coolpix A on my trip to New York earlier in the year. The Coolpix A is available here: review B&H Amazon

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A princess amongst brutes

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The paradox of balance

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Canyon light

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Urban alpenglow

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Echoes, or building inside a building inside a building


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


  1. Graphical, pure, well balanced, those pictures are hiding your great eye and experience behind their apparent simplicity. Superb serie, thanks for sharing them !

  2. I really like Echoes, too. Maybe a candidate for a future print run?

    Reading this post is like entering a nice quiet room after all the noise of the Sony A7 and the art thread — I can just relax and chill out here. Thank you for that.

    BTW, another adjective for your style that I haven’t seen many people use is serene. Or maybe it’s just what I needed now.

    • My pleasure. Most ‘photographers’ on the internet forget that photography is about photos, not cameras!

      Serene = ordered = logical = structured = controlled = soulless? But that’s just the way I see the world. Making order out of chaos. Chaos for the sake of chaos rubs badly, I tell you.

      • A Zen garden is serene too, but not soulless. I’ve been thinking about the soulless charge, and the examples some people posted in that thread as examples of soulfulness. I think there is something to that descriptor, but it isn’t applicable to you. I get the feeling that sometimes that’s an easy, lazy way to say, “I don’t understand your photograph, nor do I want to take the time to do so.”

        Certainly that’s not a universal trait of all “soulless” photos, as some are clearly terrible and not worthy of further contemplation. Perhaps the popular, good photographers and artists do something that draws you in quickly, but then rewards you with more the longer you contemplate the piece. In the world of classical dance, one of its best choreographers (and perhaps the best of the 20th century) said that his first job was to entertain you, but his pieces also often have much more profound things going on underneath the surface.

        • I’m missing the ‘instant hook’, I think: the depth, detail and contemplation is there, but perhaps on the face of it, things are too controlled. But if I did any different, that wouldn’t be an accurate reflection either…

  3. Question, how do you put a black border on the photo?

  4. Minh Dang says:

    Hi Ming, I have always enjoyed pictures you took and been amazed at their color, sharpness and contrast. What softwares do you use to process your Raw files?

  5. Eric Hoppe says:

    One hasn’t seen the pinnacle of urban architecture until one has paid a visit to what many consider the birthplace of modern American architecture, the Windy City. My opinion certainly isn’t without bias but it also isn’t completely without merit. Architecturally the most significant city in America, Chicago boasts some of the country’s – and the world’s – tallest buildings, including the powerfully elegant and iconic Hancock Center, erected 45 years ago and which is still considered today to be one of the leading examples of the structural expressionist style, (think of the Pompidou Center in Paris). An architect named Frank Lloyd Wright also began his career in Chicago.

  6. Yup, I still get a cricked neck every time I go. I’m still a sucker for the classics though…the Chrysler is still my favourite building of all time. Love “Echoes”, is it the Citigroup building that makes the first reflection? By way of trying to derail the subject early on…I happened upon a late night debate show whilst channel surfing one night, where I assume the subject was “Men: useless, mysogynist warmongerers?”. Some pseudo-intellectual-pseudo-feminist was pointing towards male designers’ phallocentricity as example of the genders’ one dimensionality, citing skyscrapers as an example. I though she was probably right…presumably, if women dominated the corporate architectural world, NY would be one huge, totally non-phallic, two-storey sprawl, where everyone has a one meter-squared patch to call their own? (disclaimer: not knocking women – just an absurd notion from one particular individual!).

    • I like open space as much as the next guy. Perhaps even more so since I live smack bang in the middle of a city. But I can also appreciate intelligent design and engineering enough to see Alsace for both…and the complete impossibility of everybody having their own little patch of turf.

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