Photoessay: people of Prague, I

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The slight oppressiveness that is impossible to define

Let’s call this set a mix of environmental portraiture and street photography. People in their native element with minimal interference on the part of the photographer. I did stop and talk to some of them; it seems the Czechs in general are very friendly. Others didn’t notice me; I was just another tourist of many. Being a conscious observer in such an environment isn’t a bad thing; you blend in. And people don’t change what they do. This set is the first part of two reinterpretations of ‘people in sauce’ – we’ll talk about my hypotheses on what it means in a future article. We actually had precious few days of good light during the Prague Masterclass – meaning the majority of these images were actually shot on one day – but it was enough. I am continually reminded of just how rich a hunting ground this is when the light is right…enjoy! MT

This series was shot almost entirely with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with the exception of one image with a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also cover street photography techniques in S1: Street Photography and How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Getting over the hump

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Impatiently waiting

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Changes afoot

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Not what it looks like

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Zelezna – girl and road

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Who is the one who feels out of place?

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Making the most of it

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Three complete strangers

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Contemplative reflection

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Recurring theme

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Ode to a fatiguing day


Be inspired to take your photography further: Masterclass Chicago (27 Sep-2 Oct) and Masterclass Tokyo (9-14 Nov) now open for booking!


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. Fantastic pictures as usual, Ming! Just out of curiosity: why you used such a big and heavy combo to make those pictures, being an artist that always favored discretion and compact gear when resolution demands by clients were not in place? Is that because of Ultraprint demands? Congratulations!

    • Thanks. Short answer – versatility. I was shooting other things at the same time, too. And yes, printability was a consideration.

  2. Wonderful work, Ming. Each of these images tells a story, and it’s fun to get lost in their interpretation.

  3. I’m always impressed what is possible in street photography even with such a big camera like the D810.
    I’m owning a Ricoh GRD IV but still I’m often to afraid to step close and point my camera at those other people.

    • I photograph people who are so busy doing their own thing they don’t notice me. That’s the easiest way to make an observation of somebody without them changing their behaviour because they know they’re being watched – which to me defeats the whole point of photographing them because what is interesting is no longer the case.

  4. I try always to stick to constructive comments, because what’s the point of negativity, rigt. Waste of time and psychological energy. But Ming, constructive also means sharing some tough love sometimes. You are supremely expert at technical stuff, and your cinematic series are incredible. But these are not people, these are distant figures that could just as well be decorative robots in otherwise desert urban scenery. No emotion, cold, distant. Emotion is not your cup of tea, so I’d say, focus on other stuff you are great at. Change the title of the post, at least….

    • Or perhaps people when they are in their own world being unconsciously observed do act like robots?

      • Hey Ming, whatever. I suppose your worldview is what it is, and you’re expressing that worldview. People are isolated, lost in themselves, and you don’t like to approach them, keeping a distance. No harm done to anyone with your photos, much less to me, so why should I be sitting here questioning your images (which technically surely are perfect btw). You’re at the antipodes of that’s for sure… To each their own. Peace.

        • Well, if we all had the same interpretation of the world, photography would be rather uninteresting, wouldn’t it? 🙂

        • The spectrum of how people can be the subject of a photograph is quite vast, and while I would agree that these are not intimate photographs, I am not sure what the purpose of comparing Ming’s work with the web site that you linked to really serves any purpose other than to show that the spectrum is vast. Taking Ming to task because he is at another point in the spectrum just does not make any sense to me. Should photographers not photograph people unless they show emotion? And is it wrong that people are “distant figures” within an image, even if I do not think that many of the people presented are “distant subjects”?


  5. Man, if these are prtraits… Distant, cold, unemotional. I’ve seen better from you on the street side, but your strong point is objects large and small. People need a lot more emotion than this. Sorry for my frankness, whcih of course is one opinion and you

    • scratch this, i was halfway writing and pressed post by mistake on a small screen. sorry.

    • Well, they weren’t meant to be. They were observations, which isn’t the same as a portrait, and the way I choose to engage with a subject – or not, to observe people doing their thing without interference – is my choice.

      • Perhaps you had made the title of the series “Somber People” Giovanni would have liked it. I found the series intriguing and thoroughly enjoyed the consistent mood that you intentionally captured. Very nice work.

  6. liramusic says:

    I just adore your work. I like most the photos where the subject is not looking at the camera; I guess I make that distinction in my mind. Simply put, Ming; you are a genius with a camera.

  7. Steinar Knai says:

    Nice images Ming, but I know Prague quite well and I frankly don’t find anything that characterizes Prague and its population. Nice street photography, that’s all.

  8. Charles says:

    You have brought out the essence of Prague in your photographs, her people. Wonderful images I’m looking forward to seeing more

  9. Wonderful images Ming! Really excellent.

  10. A very good set …. in many photoes it almost seems that people are expertly posing . Can be because they do not notice you . adds more naturality.

    • Definitely not posing. I suspect they don’t notice me because I am one of hundreds of photographers/tourists at any one spot…and I’m generally pretty stealthy, too.

      • liramusic says:

        Sometimes I think of “graceful movements” with my camera. Ming, your work is so utterly different in its look than mine, but I love what you do. You inspire me. This is a great thread. Thanks for the time you must put in and the astonishing willingness to freely share ideas. I admire your work and ethic.

  11. very Prague, very MingThein and enjoyable indeed:-)

  12. Hi

    Interesting that in 2-3 shots the person is slightly out of focus in relation to the environment. Since its Ming, likely not by accident. Would you comment on your pre-shot thinking?

    Strong images. Thanks once again.

    • Definitely deliberate, though not as much as in some of my previous work. It goes back to the ‘idea of man’ and a move away from identifying the individual as opposed to just some specific traits. There is also the matter of ensuring individuals are not identifiable if you’re going to use the images later as art prints or something commercial, but that’s entirely different.


  1. […] exciting bit: it expands the more literal ‘people in sauce’ environmental slices of the previous series of images to explore my favourite personal project, the idea of man. When photographing I’m always […]

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