Photoessay: Reflections on Singapore

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I was in Singapore a few months ago both on assignment and for a private workshop; one of the things I’ve always enjoyed photographing is abstraction in reflection: there is no simpler decomposition of the image to shape, texture and colour than this. Fortunately, the weather was obliging on one of the days, and there’s plenty of such opportunities in Singapore. Despite what you might think, I shot quite a lot more than just the usual buildings in buildings…in fact, you’ll notice the second half of the set is quite a bit more whimsical and less brutalist/formalist.

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The takeover of impersonality

This was one of the few times I used one camera/ lens – partially because I didn’t want to bring any more gear down with me, but partially because I’d very much enjoyed what the D800E/ 70-200/4VR did for me in Havana; the perspective worked well for urban situations and especially when I wanted to have a foreground-reducing perspective.

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Illumination not required

On a related note, I’ve had a couple of emails recently asking why the enormous delay between shooting, uploading to Flickr, and subsequently publishing images on this site; the answer has a practical and curatory component. Firstly, I simply don’t have the time to process and upload instantly; secondly, I try to upload things in sensible batches to keep the visual order consistent – especially since you can’t change the order of things in Flickr after you upload them, making organisation helpful to finding things later; thirdly, a bit more time between shot and publishing is not a bad thing: it gives you even more distance and emotional separation and adds a final ‘objectivity filter’ – which hopefully results in a stronger set of images. Enjoy! MT

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At one with the clouds

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All angles and green

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Broken arcs

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Shattered planes

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Imaginary people trying to catch imaginary taxis have no more success than the rest of us

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Heritage delivery

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Wanting out

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Meet me by the pool of liquid mercury

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Playing at skyscrapers

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A virtual tree for the modern age


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


  1. julianstecher says:

    Simple shapes brought to life……amazing work.

  2. Jean-Joseph Napoleon says:

    Dear Ming, I was searching for a Leica lens reviews and your link came in the results then I clicked. I like reading about Leica but I’m not ready yet to own such expensive gear. After reading the review on the Leica 50/2 APO I clicked on your photoessays and I spent hours looking at your work mostly B/W. You inspired me to start doing these photo essays myself and I would like to thank you for that. As I’m writing this comment I’m getting ready to post my first one over on my blog here

    PS Your B/W work is amazing

  3. Michael Matthews says:

    Got to this set late. It is superb. The “whimsy” subset is purest Ming. The only thing wrong with images of this sort is their tendency to incite “I could do that!” as a response on the part of people who might otherwise buy them as prints. Of course, we never really get around to actually doing it. Were it not for budget constraints, your pool of liquid mercury would be hanging on my wall as soon as it’s available.

  4. Reblogged this on charles osewalt's blog and commented:
    great images!!

  5. Tim Auger says:

    Lowering the tone a bit, some of the details on modern buildings make good resolution tests.

  6. Roger Lundblad says:

    Beautiful set of images. I’m thrilled to see them.

  7. Awesome!

  8. Reblogged this on brendan joyce.

  9. I Loved “Meet me by the pool of liquid mercury”; I want to carry a vase with a single flower, place it on the table, sit down next to it, and gaze into the pool… Thank you for the inspiration, Ming!!

  10. Frans Richard says:

    Not that the first half of this set is in any way bad, but compared to the “more whimsical” images in the second half the first half looks somewhat plain/predictable if those words can properly describe it. Definitely like your “more whimsical” side. 🙂

  11. Fascinating study and interpretation. I’d love to visit some day.

  12. Ming, thank you so much for sharing your creative images. There is nothing more pleasing to me than to check your website and find a new post with fantastic images.

  13. JIm Parriott says:

    All very very fine, Ming. Shattered Glass is wonderful.

  14. Reblogged this on Ned Hamson Second Line View of the News and commented:
    Not my 1966 Singapore – an even more magic place today – and these images are magical – thanks.

  15. These are all brilliant. “Wanting out” is magnificent -love the reds, and the hands. Great work.

  16. Ron Scubadiver says:

    I really like it, but I photograph a lot of reflections myself. The most recent ones are from San Francisco and nearby Oakland.

  17. Wow, amazing images all but I really love the last one! Very creative and yes, whimsical. Can I have your permission to download it and use it as the wallpaper on my computer?

  18. Wonderful set, so many strong images. I like the blue tone in At one with the clouds. The – to my eyes (work monitor) – slight desaturation in Untitled. Jury is having a hard time judging whether the picture or caption is more genius in Imaginary people trying to catch imaginary taxis have no more success than the rest of us. Wanting out is so well seen. And to top it off, A virtual tree for the modern age is just plain strong, minimalist and possible favorite of mine – though it’s hard to choose one. Inspiring, thank you.

  19. It’s been so long since I last left Singapore, that this pictures make the remembrance more painful. I love the last picture!

  20. Always enjoy photographs of Singaporean buildings. I have quite a collection of my own, built up over many years of travelling there. And there always seem to be many new ones every time I visit – the pace of building seems relentless.
    These are very pleasing, a most enjoyable set of images. 🙂

  21. Gerner Christensen says:

    I am taken away by this set Ming.

    I still have to learn to accumulate shots that makes a consistent set. My newly established Flickr account is one long parade of non-consistent stand alone’s.

    • Thanks Gerner. There are two tricks to this: firstly, shoot only one idea; secondly, put everything in a big pot and curate. I do both – you’ll notice that when I upload to flickr, it’s almost always in sets of ~10 or ~20, and curated into a consistent theme…

      • Gerner Christensen says:

        Thank you Ming.
        Yes this is my aim. I am considering a new way to catalog my images on my discs. Perhaps 10 themes or more and then pond the keepers there before before curation and validation. I could then ACR/PS in batches and hope at least images shot at the same place and time would show consistency for the color theme.
        This is just a beginners considerations 🙂

        (I am really floored by the above set Ming … there’s certainly a lot for to go for … and quite a way still to get there)

        • Leave some time between shoot and curation – that develops objectivity. Not too much time, because then you might forget your original vision. The more you shoot, the shorter that time can become. It’s still at least few days to a week for me though.

  22. Simply Outstanding Ming! Wonderful images. Blown away….

  23. Nice set! Singapore is a “gifted” place for urban-scape indeed !

    • Can’t complain. Though I’m not sure if want to live there – can’t afford to!

      • Surprisingly – Singapore can be fairly cheap to live in IF you live the “local” life … If you want to add a pitch of “Expat” like life – then it goes up up up … Not the right place to buy gear (or 2nd hand) …

  24. Great images, Ming. You’ve had more than a bit of influence on my photography as of late, and it’s definately an improvement.

  25. Graphic (very pure lines) and outstanding.

  26. Nice pool. 🙂 some great work here.

  27. randomesquephoto says:

    Wow. To all of them. And the last one takes the cake.

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