Photoessay: Mono street photography from Singapore

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Contrary to popular belief, I don’t shoot that much street photography by either time or output; it just appears that way because a lot of the work I do can’t be published for some time (or at all) due to client embargoes; and by the time I can make it public, I’ve honestly just forgotten or realized that the shoot was so rushed that I didn’t get a chance to shoot any ‘making of’ b-roll. Hence the large quantity of street photography. By a similar token, I don’t believe in a conventional definition of street photography; I think of it as something on the documentary spectrum but towards the end where you don’t have a set objective or assignment, and just record what you see. In some ways, that makes it more difficult because you have to make or interpret your own story from a bunch of usually discordant pieces.

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Conversations of curved space

Similarly, I’m usually equipped with a 28mm lens when I do this kind of work; usually in the form of the Ricoh GR. 45 (Hassy V/80mm) and 55 (D800E/Otus) combinations have also been tried recently. But only since Havana have I used anything much longer than that; in this case, the 70-200/4. Back story: I was in Singapore on assignment; a student requested an individual workshop, and I was using the equipment I had on hand rather than bringing down a separate set of gear. Why not? Perspective challenges are always good.

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Inclined smoke I

Though a good quantity of this set was shot with the Ricoh GR, I’d say even more was done with the D800E/70-200. And though it’s initially challenging to use because you need a lot of stand off distance and a relatively open foreground to make the compositions work, I eventually landed up combining elements of the cinematic style – namely OOF foregrounds – with layering and more ‘traditional’ street photography. The result is this mixed set. I can’t say I’m more pleased with the output from one than the other; I actually think the wide images feel more structured, with the telephoto ones having a more organic feel or interesting perspective. Enjoy! MT

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Inclined smoke II

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Look through, or look at, but not both

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Money is its own prison

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Yet another annoying survey interrupting solitude

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More legs than people

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Summer rain

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  1. Hi I really love the first shot which is the escalator and shadows one. May I know where did U take it?? (:

  2. THAT picture !
    Your website is full of excellent pictures, yet I find this “Shadows” one masterful. Kudos, Ming.

  3. Thomas Glaser says:

    Ming, is Shadows available as an Ultraprint? I’d love to have it, it appeals to me at a sub-conscious level. The others, sadly – don’t. They are brilliant captures though.

  4. drbobbybones says:

    I echo what others have said about “Shadows”. Incredible and thoughtful. The entire set is killer as well.

  5. First shot is just genius. Delicious.

  6. A wonderful series. Your creativity shows first in the images, but also in the titles that add to the images. And the next time someone whines about your “sterile” style, just tell them to stick it up their aperture.

  7. Yes, summer rain is wonderful. Her expression, the composition and of course, the rain. Tone down the central hot spots and it would be even better! Quite a nice advert for Samsung S4 Active, a weatherproof phone.

    • The central hot spots are there because of the reflections off wet surfaces, and I didn’t tone them down because they appear that way to the naked eye in real life.

  8. belle série monochrome.Félicitations

  9. Ming, I just Love Shadows (dancing) ❤ 🙂 !!

  10. John weeks says:

    Wonderful set…again, the process for me would be how you see the big picture and condense to the photo like on your how to see videos, etc. for instance, on the more legs than people was that a frame or did you find it later and crop? I assume it was a planned frame. Would be interesting if you do an article with a wide view and then a few others bringing us closer into what becomes final frame. Probably many different views of what would be final from the starting position from many of us.
    While Shadows in the set us a more artistic expression of modern art to me, Summer Rain captures a natural moment of life I appreciate also beautifully done.

    • Legs wasn’t a planned frame as in the person wasn’t a model – I saw it, framed and took two shots with slightly different balance. There’s no ‘go a bit closer’ frame by frame – that just doesn’t really enter the process at all. As you point out, how I see/ compose is in the HTS videos – it doesn’t really suit an article because the world isn’t static, and still images don’t capture the dynamic elements of my environment. Plus if I was to make a video…well, I already have. 🙂

      • John Weeks says:

        That’s what I thought…you saw it and took the shot…”planned” just meant “as is”. This shot probably continues with the discussions somewhat like we have had about another photos…execpt this one “is all about the legs” when it comes to the organic vs inorganic elements. Thanks Ming!! Always fantastic stuff…

  11. Christian Lee says:

    ‘More legs than people’ Wow. I love it. What a shot.

  12. Saturnine Zero says:

    I agree with you on the definition of Street Photography. I just call my photography at home ‘Urban’ to distance myself from the internet zealots arguing about how pure their street photography is, often in an attempt to belittle a novice.

    My favourite from this set has to be Shadows, since that is very much the style I shoot at home.

  13. Jorge Balarin says:

    For me the best is “Summer Rain” : )

  14. Wonderful series Ming! Very 3D.

  15. I was really struck by the perspective in “Inclined smoke II”. The buildings seemed “placed” there and the flowing jacket adds to the otherworldly quality. Thanks for sharing these MT.

  16. Nice set, Ming!

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