Photoessay: artistic experiments in the home

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Brokeback Chair

And now for something a little different. Shooting purely for message isn’t new to me; shooting purely for message through metaphor with found objects is, to some extent. Today’s photoessay is an experiment; make of it what you will – but I’m very curious to see what you all think…please leave a comment after the jump. And yes, the captions matter. MT

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Ghosts Of Utensils Past

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Your Point Of View Bears Heavily On The Idea Of Wilderness

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Shadowy Reinforcements

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Once Upon A Time, We Contained Things Of Value

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The Eyeless Rag-Eating Monster Is Coming For Your Cloths

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A Man’s Domestic Nightmare

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Water Shortage

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Just Tools: In The Kitchen, Nobody Asks The Chef How Many Megapixels

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One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

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Evidence Of A Man


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


  1. Very interesting and thought provoking. As an artist I can relate to chef not being asked how many pixals or price.

  2. Hi there, I liked the one with the Bear – virtualy everything in this world depends upon a subjective point of view these days.

  3. Very Inspirational!!!

  4. I love how simple yet thought provoking these are. Great job!!

  5. Love the use of shadows in some of these shots – they remind me that there is a lot to be be seen that we never actually notice. A great series of photos.

  6. Reblogged this on Pandamon1um.

  7. I liked Brokeback Chair and Domestic Nightmare. 😀

  8. Reblogged this on irenesartika's Blog and commented:
    idea makes you live

  9. Great photos of “everyday things”. I love the shadows of reinforcement, exciting shadows and a great shot:)

  10. Monica DiNatale says:

    Great images. My favorite is “Evidence of a Man.” I can see him there!

  11. SABURI MUSIC says:

    Reblogged this on SABURIMUSIC.COM and commented:
    Great Idea

  12. Reblogged this on ipomaven.

  13. Gosh. Your creativity. Love creative people. The magic is just pouring out of you. Lovely photos. Evidence of a man was my favorite.

  14. Wow! Hilarious and amazing…gave me a lot of ideas for my Project 365!

  15. Sunhine Intentions says:

    HI. I love the captions. I did not even see the cloth eating monster until I read about it. Brokeback Chair, A Man’s Domestic Nightmare ,and Evidence of a Man would be my favourites – great colours and composition in the Nightmare and I love the lines in the other two.

  16. good shoot. nice !

  17. Reblogged this on 't paljaske.

  18. Nicely done! Good eye.

  19. Kind of fun

  20. danielgosling519 says:

    Thank you for the recommendation! I will check it out.

  21. its incredible that you have an eye for finding compositions like these in the most domestic surroundings, and your captions complete the picture.wonderful series!

  22. afsheenanjum says:

    One man trash is another man treasure…. True ..very true ! for some , the only way to manage money for a single meal of a whole day. I can see few people around me who collect garbage street to street and sell them for a single meal.

  23. Caitlin May says:

    The “Brokeback chair” picture is my favorite. It actually looks like it represents marriage. When I first looked at it, I saw a wife sitting in the lap of her strong and supporting husband (wearing his hat for fun). Well done!

  24. very different viewpoints 🙂 loved them all…especially the evidence of a man, water shortage, one man’s waste is another man’s treasure and any man’s domestic nighmare 🙂
    kudos on being freshly pressed

  25. Some of these are obviously comments on environment and waste. There’s a Seattle-based photographer called Chris Jordan. Don’t know if you’re familiar with him: he does a similar thing with regard to environmental commentary, but on a huge scale.

    Have a look if you don’t know him:

  26. Jorge Balarin says:

    Thank you very much for your essay. It is wonderful.

  27. If photography is about a communication process between the artist and the audience, any image which makes the viewer laugh or smile has already succeeded. And if there is a second laugh when reading the caption, so much the better.
    Great images – the monster being my favorite.

  28. Overall, very clever and exquisitely shot as always. My personal favorite by a mile is broke back chair. I don’t know if the chair actually has a broken back but the allusion to the movie and the proximity of the chairs is not only funny but actually makes me a little uncomfortable. Hilarious!

  29. If something is clever, does that make it significant. I don’t know. This is a question I have long struggled with.

  30. Off topic, but readers here may remember a sale price of $299 on Lumix LX-7 that ran only briefly before returning to a higher price. For the moment it seems to be run as a “doorbuster” on Amazon at 269.99.

    • That’s a good deal.

    • Looks like the $269.99 offer is over. $306.05 USD now (which admittedly isn’t much more than the sale price from June 11).

      • Electronics always come down in price…there are second hand E-M1 bodies already in the Tokyo shops for a little over $1100…

        • Ahhh, I like that news about the EM-1. I’m looking forward to my EM-1 at a price that’s gentler on the wallet. I don’t desire to wait very but there’s no rational reason I have to be an early adopter.

          • No, there isn’t; and especially not when taking into consideration the current rate of new releases, depreciation and pace of consumers getting bored…

  31. David Grossi says:

    You never know what MIng will come up with! Ming, your photo genie must be in high gear 24/7 🙂

  32. Do you shoot with Nikon D800e for non-work related stuff too? I thought you shoot with E-M1 or E-M5 exclusively for personal shooting.

    • This was the first time – I needed perspective control for some of these, lighting control for all…and the D800E was the only thing that fit the bill. I generally shoot with pretty much anything except the D800E for personal shooting.

  33. Broke Back Chair, Shadowy Reinforcements and Water Shortage, each for a different reason. Broke back chair because of the reference to the movie, I wonder if many of your viewers aren’t aware of the movie). Shadowy reinforcements because of the aesthetics, i.e., the image itself, and water shortage for all of the above plus the irony/social commentary on waste of natural resources. I like others as well simply because of the humor created by the connection between the image and the caption. Turns out captions do matter.

  34. Ming, it’s a great idea, especially as we hole up for winter. I started a project like this, shooting the effects of low winter light on objects around the house. It soon took on a life of its own and became this PDF book: What the Light Does

  35. Brokeback Chair and Water Shortage are quite excellent. They have a solid story conveyed in a funny/surprising/inventive manner. Personally I do not find interesting if the image shows a boring subject in ordinary light and tries to imply something deeper. A trashcan is just a trashcan to me. The rest of the images fall somewhere in between, or work by visual merits alone, but the first two I mentioned stand out for a good reason.

    • Thanks Tarmo. I wouldn’t exactly call the light ordinary – they all required fairly elaborate lighting setups – but I agree that not all are quite of the same strength…it was my first attempt at this.

  36. roblowephoto says:

    MT, I particularly like ‘Just Tools: Nobody ever asks the Chef How Many Megapixels’. I’ve had some lovely meals cooked on a Baby Belling but seen some less than good (subjective, I realise) photography from a FF camera. Great concept Ming and I agree with Patrick – your rubbish looks very un-rubbish-like! Eyeless Rag-eating Monster – very funny! Overall, I think this proves that many a thoughtful / artistic image can be found in the home if we look close enough and think about it. Great post, Ming. Really enjoyed it.

  37. For me, the metaphor in ‘Brokeback Chair’ comes across very strongly. ‘Ghosts Of Utensils Past’ is also good (conceptually). The remaining captions/images (to me) are a tad weaker in ability to portray a robust visual message – yet they remain visually interesting.

    In a way, I see images galleried by a photographers as unwritten-contracts between themselves and viewer. Hanging a photo is a promise to deliver a message, emotion or thought. The minimum an image needs to provide is an accurate record of what was seen – unless the intent was abstraction, beautification, or ‘outside the box’.

    Exhibiting work independently of ‘promise-based-parameters’ runs the risk of leaving the observer visually hungry or intellectually short-changed. Being aware of the qualities that turns strong and unique metaphorical photographic imagery into a visual banquet, is one thing. Honing ones vision to convert interesting ideas into concept-based photographs with wide visual-appeal is another.

    An enjoyable essay Ming.


    • Thanks for the thoughts – I agree, not all of them are that strong; it’s a first attempt for me. I wanted to try something different, and force myself out of my comfort zone. These were shot a month or so ago, but only posted today. It’s interesting for me that the biggest challenge here – by far – is getting the concept/ metaphor right; I struggled with getting some just the way I intended. It required balance between caption and image. The technical portion of execution is relatively simple by comparison…

  38. “Brokeback chair” indeed!
    That is pricelessly funny, with a great set-up shot. 🙂 Works on many levels.

  39. The first one is awesome !

  40. Crikey Ming, even your rubbish looks crisp and clean! 🙂

  41. Gastronauta says:

    Great point, Ray (and beautiful choice at that link, BTW). Madoz is like Magritte (and Brossa) at home… :^)
    I’m also a great fan of caption/image issues, and was delighted to see you playing at that, Ming.

  42. eddie hawe says:

    you should really recycle more lol

  43. Very interesting project and well executed.

    Have you ever seen the work of Chema Madoz –

  44. Davyd Toey says:

    I’m not sure whether an “analysis”, if you will, of a picture is what you wanted when you said leave a comment, but here it goes. Here’s my take on “Ghosts Of Utensils Past”:

    I think it symbolizes the advancement and modernization in today’s society. Many of the utensils in the kitchen, (though maybe not the ones pictured), have been replaced with something modern with many more features than necessary. This stems from the psychological need to keep up with technology and to have the added functions that these new items have to offer, even though we may not necessarily need them. This ties surprisingly well into photography. Many consumers definitely do not need (nor do they have the capacity to fully optimize) the image quality of the D800E and all 36.3 of it’s megapixels. Higher resolution tends to require more technique and better equipment, both of which the average consumers are not likely to have. However, they still purchase items that are more than sufficient for them. Even on consumer/entry level DSLRs, there are many modes that are never used and are completely unnecessary. Yet these modes are still a part of the camera, and many companies use these additional modes and higher resolutions as selling points for their items. It eventually leads us to the question, at what point does the utensil (or using my example, camera), exceed what is necessary for a person’s need? I think this ties into your philosophy as well, shown through several of your past articles such as “Points of sufficiency: do you really know how much is enough?”, and the article in which you debunk the myths of higher resolution amongst other things. We should know what we need, and instead of focusing on what new thing is becoming available every day, we should focus on improving our skills with what we have. I think overall “Ghosts Of Utensils Past” represents that it is not necessarily what we use in the process of creating something, it is how we use the utensil, and how society today helps develop a paradigm in which the best thing on the market is necessary to create the best thing possible. A stay at home parent would only need a whisk to mix the batter of a delicious cake for a child’s birthday, not an industrial mixer intended to be sold to commercial bakeries. Similar to this, a seventeen year old boy that has only been shooting for a couple months with his D3100 does not need a D800E to create an outstanding image.

    • Thanks for the detailed thoughts, David. You’re pretty close: there’s more here in the shot than we really need, and there’s also the nod to history, tradition, development, function first, etc. The utensils matter only so much as they help to create the final dish, and no more. If you can use a fork to whisk, and the output is acceptable, then it’s simple: it’s good enough, and it’s the right tool.

      The other beauty of art is the subjective/ interpretative element: each viewer sees what they wish to 🙂

  45. Br4ceYourself says:

    I liked the Ghosts of Utensils Past. Very clever.

  46. Leandro Gemetro says:

    Agree with Eric, you have a sense of humor that is evident in your photos, Ming! But at the same time, they are fantastic pieces of art, with elements that surround us every day. I like the titles as well, seem to be influeced (at least in lenght) to the ones you find in Dali paintings!

    Keep doing this man!



    PS: I envy your masterful hand regarding white balance. I renounced the search for perfect colors and embraced the search for my own style.

  47. Some very well thought out scenes Ming. I particularly like the ‘water shortage’. The captions definitely help us to frame the meaning.

    I like these and one way to try and approach the idea of originality. I think images that point us to think deeper always resonate. But the only thing I would say is are they memorable? Yes they get us thinking, but do they an impact?

    I find some of your images point to a theme on consumption or the dangers of careless usage, was this also an intention?

    • These really need the captions to work, I think. Conspicuous consumption landed up being an unintentional theme. ‘Water shortage’ was initially literal: the water was falling short of the intended destination…

  48. The water shortage one made me laugh..


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