Photoessay: Universal Studios Singapore

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A continuation of the previous article on tourist location photographability.

Perhaps as a reflection of personal interest, I was certainly more drawn to the urban scenery element of the place rather than the rides or the fantasy areas; none of the people really fit the scene – i.e. looked ‘in place’, so I left them out (think 1940s New York or 1960s Hollywood being full of Asians in tank tops and shorts). The results are a slightly surreal and empty environment; I think it reflects my recent and increasing fascination with form and light over action. We all go through subject and stylistic shifts in our photographic journey as we explore new things; having shot a lot of street, cinematic and reportage work in recent years, perhaps it’s time for a change.

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Are these images sterile, empty, inhuman, harsh even? Probably more than just a little; but I don’t see that as being a bad thing as I feel they are quite an accurate reflection of the environment itself: artificial, antiseptic and just a little tacky. People, where they appear, are almost commoditized and anonymous: just another punter going to escape from one constrictive reality to another; a little ironic, really. It’s also quite possible that I’m just bitter and cynical and no longer able to consciously suspend disbelief. Being outside corporate for some time changes your perspective, priorities and world view drastically. I can’t help but think it’s also an occupational hazard when a good portion of your job is to make things appear better than good: lustworthy, even.

The pregnant skies and rain probably didn’t help things much, either.

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Instead, I did my best to find things of interest to shoot in the more realistic looking areas of the park; 1940s New York was probably meant to channel visions of Gotham, Marilyn Monroe and King Kong; instead, the strong colors and shadows after the rain made me think of Saul Leiter – which perhaps, in the end, was even better.

We photographers are really quite strange people. MT

Images were shot with the Olympus E-M1 and 12-40/2.8 PRO lens

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


  1. Ming, what aspect ratio do you shoot at? I measured your photos and they seem to bit roughly 3:2 and yet to my eye, they seem much longer, more like 4:2. Thanks in advance.

  2. avatarinstructordesintesis says:
  3. Steve Jones says:

    Beautifully isolated scenes with delicious colors. The roller coaster like thing is a monstrosity of a construction for sure!
    The Venice set at Tokyo Disneyland is especially convincing.

  4. Michael Matthews says:

    Not sterile, empty, inhuman, or harsh…..strong. Congratulations on keeping your reflected self out of the brightest of the Yellow Cab shots. I take it you carry a cloak of invisibility?

    • Thanks! Yes, the Cloak also comes in handy for street photography 😛

      In all seriousness, wearing dark clothes and hiding in the shadows or silhouettes of other things works too, and is technically feasible to boot.

  5. Think those images documents the nature of the place. They are film sets, nothing more notting less and without any filming, just an empty place. A place I think you have captured well.

    • They are; interesting how ‘constructed’ and artificial the place seems in person, but the sets do photograph well. I suppose that IS their job after all 🙂

  6. Roger Wojahn says:

    I love these, Ming. This no people phase is very interesting.

    • Thanks Roger. It’s not so much no people as abstracted people or their presence through the idea of the ‘missing man’, ‘signs of man’, or the form of man (shadows etc) as opposed to the individual; I think long-term, these images are perhaps more universally appealing?

  7. buyfromvegasnv says:

    Reblogged this on I Love Those City Lights!.

  8. Ming, for me, this post really talks to what it means to take advantage of a photo opportunity, and the challenge to do the best with the subject you have, whatever environment presents itself to us. If we only picked up a camera when we expected to take photos of enduring value that had deep meaning, we might not be taking many shots. For what this is, it’s very interesting. Also, while everyone recognizes the quality of your photos, I don’t think enough people give you credit for your literary skills. While your photos stand on their own, you have a way with words that really puts into context what you are trying to express thru the lens. This comes from someone who makes his living has a writer. Good stuff!

  9. Reblogged this on Undiscovered part of life 🙂.

  10. Hello,
    I very much appreciate your more minimalistic compositions – if I may describe them that way. In particular, I like your two upside down reflections. During our summer holiday I have discovered the photographer Scott Cahill Rude in Seattle, who has many photographs of reflections of Seattle that he often displays upside down. Very nice!

  11. Makes me wanting the lens more Ming! I love how you rendered out the color, is it sooc or photoshop?

  12. Is the coast clear?
    /Tom looks left, looks right –> coast looks OK…

    So so, so so so good MT.

    The gothic chair with the three pronged lamp behind!

  13. I like this style as well. Beautiful photos Ming!

  14. Good stuff as always. You mention about your images of late focusing on form. I have a theory that your style and dual equipment usage might help clear up. Does composing on a view screen or waist level finder push you subconsciously toward this form based image? Since less detail is visible compared to a traditional OVF does form naturally weigh more in composition? It has always seemed that MF tends to be more form driven than SLR (which I’d like to develop). And not sure if screen adds to it or if it’s just only speed/cost per negative and consciousness that drives more careful consideration? If it is, might I use a live view screen as training wheels to help develop?

    • Possibly a bit of both, though it’s more subconscious than intentional. I’m using the Hasselblad with a prism finder, so the WLF isn’t really the reason. You could certainly try using a LV screen, though if anything I think the larger screen actually makes it easier to see the details…

  15. Really enjoyed the article and photos. I enjoy this particular style.

  16. Quite interesting. Thanks!

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