Photoessay: Urban observations in monochrome

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Fragmentation in the face of modernization

Today’s photoessay is a short series of urban observations and abstractions in black and white; I like to think of them as the things I (and presumably others) notice but either pass by or seldom bother contemplating. They are the little slices of whimsy that can make for an interesting interlude to an otherwise routine day. The captions are integral, I think. Enjoy! MT

This series of grabs was shot with various vintages of iPhone; mostly 5/5s and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Storms aren’t so bad if you’ve got company.

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Never ending push

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Virtual tables

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Where do the lines lead?

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Overhead structure

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Losing sight of the big picture

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Two openings, but only one real choice

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Why sit on the steps?

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The perpetual rush

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We meet to message other people

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Soup of the day

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Two (or ones, separated)

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Three plus two

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On the ceiling

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Day’s end


Turn the mood and style up to 11: the Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass in association with Zeiss (21-26 July and 28 July-2 August inclusive) is now open for registration – click here to book and for more information.


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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


  1. enjoy to see B&W photos, with such cleaness and lighst and shadows.
    Geat and powerfull !!!

  2. Hi Ming,
    I’m really curious how did you get so close to the “subject” to get that perspective, especially in “We meet to message other people”, “Soup of the day” and “Three”
    And in “Soup of the day”, it seems as if you were real close, looking up

  3. Peter Boender says:

    Wow, great set, my friend! It strongly shows our photographic opportunities are endless! “Fragmentation” and “Storms” top it for me, and I like the shadow works as well.

  4. Given that these were shot with an iPhone, that they are all somewhere between good and great, and that the iPhone is allegedly the most used camera out there, I suspect you could probably be quite successful with an “iPhone masterclass” kind of video. Likely as not the average iPhone shooter doesn’t know that much about the theoretical / artistic sides of photography, so it could be a chance to net some new fans and followers. I imagine that, the selfie / filter fetish brigades excluded, there are many people who would actually like to take better shots with their phones but wouldn’t know where to start and know neither the limitations nor the potential of the newer iPhone cameras. (I just got an iPhone 6 plus, and I’m having a blast with the camera on that. I haven’t seen them up on a big screen yet, but so far I have to agree with your estimation of it as per the Camerapedia).

    • Actually…we do have that – it’s the Compact Camera Masterclass. It’d be exactly the same for the iPhone, funnily enough – fundamental principles don’t change with hardware 🙂

      The 6+ is a surprisingly capable device. More so considering the sensor size. In lower light it punches far above its weight because of the processing power in there; it isn’t far off matching my GR, which is extremely surprising. I actually find that it does worse than expected in bright light – there’s a lot of blue channel noise in skies, for instance.

  5. Would be perfect territory to shot these with the new Leica M Monochrome…..;)

    Great series Ming (i have to admit as nearly as always ;)) !

    • Thanks Ronny. Apparently I am persona non grata to the people at Leica locally because I have a collaboration with Zeiss running…

  6. Lovely set Ming, some great captures there!

  7. Hi Ming, you have nice titles for these equally good images. Is naming half the battle in your mind?

  8. John Weeks says:

    wonderful images…I laugh thinking to myself what type of comments these would receive if sen to something like the DP Forums. Oh…the horror!!!
    fantastic eye Ming!!

  9. **Fragmentation in the face of modernization** and **Never ending push** and **Overhead structure** are breathtaking compositions.Love how you snap the geometry to fit. It really requires the *eye* and holding breath for a couple of seconds to make everything sing in harmony. Genious Ming.

    • Thanks Gerner – I believe you were around when I shot most of these, too 🙂

      The ‘holding for a second’ part is definitely important: it gives you time to scan the composition and make sure you haven’t missed anything.

  10. Inspiring work, especially “Losing sight of the big picture” and “Storms aren’t so bad if you’ve got company”.

  11. Who needs Leica Monochrome 🙂

  12. Kristian Wannebo says:

    I really enjoy these,
    also because you so obviously enjoyed shooting them.

    – – –

    On Art (including a _very_ short history of art) : …
    ( 7 min. of Shaun)

    … for no reason at all, except that it was broadcast today.


  13. Wonderful images and captions Ming!

  14. I loved the captions. Photographs are bonus. 🙂

  15. Wow! And again, wow!

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