Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes, part I

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It’s simply impossible to go to Tokyo and not do any street photography; between the overall camera-friendliness of the people, the unusualness of the settings and the quality of light…

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You might see small hints of Japanese-style disorder slip into the images – very small, barely noticeable – I put that down to local influences. This will be the first of a two-part series. Enjoy! MT

FYI, I will be in Havana teaching a Masterclass from the 27th of April to 6th of May – internet access is likely to be spotty, so I may take a little longer to reply than usual. Don’t worry though, I’ve got plenty of interesting posts prewritten and auto-scheduled to hold you guys over in the meantime 🙂

Images shot with a Ricoh GR.

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


  1. I am never much for street photography. But I’m liking more and more of your style, or maybe your style is progressing more to my liking? What is your thoughts on your progress or rather evolution of your black and white street photography?

    • A bit of both, I think. I don’t really do street in the conventional get-up-close-with-a-wide sense – it’s ‘the idea of man rather than the individual’…

  2. Probably because of my previous email school assignment with framing, and the upcoming one for timing, I love this set! The tree shadow framing is inspired! And my 2nd favorite after the Amsterdam bike wheel frame.

  3. Hi Ming. My first comment after 2 years of reading. I know you’re going to love Cuba. My wife and and I have made three trips there. Absolutely the best place to photograph. Have a great time and I’m looking forward to seeing your images from there.
    Chris Bradford

  4. Great work as always.

  5. Fantastiques clichés !!! J’adore – Impressive capture, I like so much !!! Pascal

  6. Awesome monochromes, love the way these photos render. I always wonder how long do you stay in one spot looking for the right people or situation to come about is it like 1-2 minutes or like 15 minutes

  7. liramusic says:

    I really do like pictures 5 & 9. Yes, indeed. Photo 5 is compelling. The rest is merely my own imagination. I see things as emotion it seems. Urban landscape is like a place where people become object-like. It becomes this dream when the person resembles a sort of mannequin or shadow. The urban environment is a catacombs. People, more like nameless figures, carry their “support systems” as bags & briefcases — as if there is no rest? The shadows, the steps, the brick patterns; they all remind me of a kind of “base station” of some kind, where these nameless figures serve the station with strangely silent movements.

    • Thank you – it seems you too see the same urban anonymity I do…the idea of man almost being a slave to his environment rather than the individual making the environment work for them.

  8. Christian Delbert says:

    Wonderful series. Velvety blacks and pearlescent whites, just the way I like them. Next time you go to Japan, don’t forget to go see the bridges at Toko Ri !

  9. Watching pictures like these makes the long wait for my Tokio trip more painful!

  10. Kristian Wannebo says:

    ( Re: “framing”)
    Interestingly, all these seem to me to work only against a white background.

    … all those perfect timings making the context frame the subject …

    Nice collection (as usual..), hard to find favourites, perhaps 1, 2, 3, 5, 7.

  11. Nice monochrome Ming!

  12. Wonderful as always, Ming. I recently purchased your compact camera masterclass video and enjoyed it incredibly.

    I’ve been making an effort to use my GR more but I’m finding that the EM5’s IBIS has really spoiled me and it has been the biggest challenge with the GR 😋

    Looking forward to some great Havana pictures! Stay safe and have a fun trip!

    • Thanks – the GR isn’t that bad when it comes to stability; it has a leaf shutter, good high ISO and a reasonably fast lens. Now, the D800E on the other hand…

  13. Just love the look on the guy’s face in the car dealer’s. Nice one Ming. Enjoy Havana.

  14. great photos in black & white mode. Like it!

  15. Very nice pictures, they really reflect Tokyo atmosphere as i remind it.

  16. These are truly gorgeous – the compositions, the tones, the timing and the light! There’s no way I could pick a favourite!

  17. hoshisato2013 says:

    Lovely series, and I agree, Tokyo is made for street photography!


  1. […] of seeing has evolved since the last instalment in this series from a year ago; or three years ago (here and here). Perhaps it might be even more interesting to go back a year or two further still and […]

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