Photoessay: people of Prague, II

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Do we fear what we cannot see?

Part two of the People of Prague photoessay is to me the more 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 looking out for spontaneous ideas as they evolve around me, but I think it’s important to be open to both the literal and the conceptual even if only for practice. And you never know when the former might develop into the latter (the sequencing of this photoessay is the same: we pick up roughly where the last one left off, and take it further). This particular series explores life at two scales, both individual and group; the latter is not something I’ve done much of up to this point simply because the opportunities aren’t always there. There’s also been plenty of feedback going around in the comments on other photoessays on the use of captions; personally I think if done right they can be used to suggest alternative lines of thought and potentially different interpretations of the scene. A little ambiguity is not a bad thing. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot mostly with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with additional contributions from the 24 PCE, 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180 APO and 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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It must be real because it is on the internet

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Things are not always as they seem/ look closer

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Arc of reversal

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Moving in formation

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We are all tourists somewhere

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Drawing down on shadows

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The extrusion of thought

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Ignoring you to get your attention

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All routes are uncertain

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Final warning / wait until you hear this

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The view

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Reactions to the suggestion of religion


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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. Kristian Wannebo says:

    I *do* like your two selections!
    Beautifully expressive and unconventional – as (almost, 🙂 ) always!

    Including your study of this very conventional human behaviour, “The view”.

    ( Two young people I know once stopped on a sidewalk to look up at a building, whispering together and pointing as if they saw something. After a while some more people had stopped to look and soon there was a crowd looking up not knowing at what – nobody asked them. Then they slunk away, leaving the upwards staring crowd behind.)

    I’d like to add a classic example by Robert Högfeldt,
    “A wonderful view” :
    ( I’m afraid the link will soon break, it’s an auction site.)

  2. Håkan Lindgren says:

    That must be the Golem in the “Drawing down on shadows” picture. The menacing posture suits the picture very well. (“The Golem” is a classic horror story by Gustav Meyrink, set in Prague.)

  3. starfish says:

    is that Justin timberlake on the last pic? 😉

  4. Hey Ming thanks for this. One question, perhaps of interest to other readers, even if it’s not down your visual style alley. Actually, one subject, two questions:
    Do you have a favorite grain engine for digital imaging?
    I’ve been using Lightroom’s own grain engine for its convenience and easy integration into the workflow, but it’s less than satisfactory. Played around with SilverEfex and TrueGrain, like TG better than SE but both require detours into TIFF-land and I’m not quite ready to make my process THAT complex (and storage THAT heavier).
    Last but not least, should one add grain on a final-sized image only? I suppose so, because downsampling creates a bit of a mush from grain added at larger pile sizes… or at least that’s what I suppose happens to my flickr feed where I post at 1200px width images that come from >3000px width sensors…

    Thanks for sparing a thought or two. I suppose you have ever only accepted grain on your film work, and even there as little as possible in 6×6 format, right?

    • 1. No, because I never add grain…I’m trying to achieve more transparency, not less.
      2. See above 🙂

      • Thanks Ming. Well, I know you don’t add grain. Yours are the cleanest files I’ve ever seen (and I’ve not seen an Ultraprint…). But TECHNICALLY you should know the answer to #2… Throwing you a curveball challenge! Thanks in any event.
        BTW, look at the great Genesis exhibition by Salgado: amazing large scale images, and voluntarily injected with film quality by adding grain to the digital files… 🙂 Grain can create a feeling that a super clean image will not, especially in low-light situations (not to mention providing some ‘grip’ to flat areas such as a sky..)

        • Why not just increase the ISO then?

          Genesis: he (or rather his retoucher in an attempt to mimic film) also added haloes, posterisation and bad tonemapping, all of which landed up being distracting from the main image. I can’t honestly agree that the images are better with it. It seems honestly he has become trapped by the expectations of his own style.

          • Well, I have some reservations on Genesis too, nothing like the heavy hitting he did with Workers for example. Stunning here and there, especially the images of the Lapp herders, but too repetitive and somewhat overstylized if you see what I mean..
            Anyways, I spent some time today getting my own answer by testing alternative processes. As I guessed, the grain gets smashed in downsampling, which means the process needs to change to outputting a flat downsized JPEG and then adding grain to THAT. Obviously, however, that means in turn that the grain will look different depending of the pixel sizing of the JPEG. And that the Lightroom process gets ‘broken’ with exported files to play with as opposed to the ‘compact’ all-RAW, LR-driven process I’m using now.
            All of this is horror to you of course. Clearly, files belong to certain outputs and not others. A 1200px-width image on a screen has nothing to do with a 1:1, >3500px-width image on a hi-res screen or better a large print… Lesson learnt by doing…

            • ‘Workers’ was much, much better compared to Genesis – there was a coherence and consistency to that (even larger) body of work that Genesis did not have. If anything, Genesis felt a bit too rushed and a bit too ‘big for the sake of being big’ in terms of scope and scale…

              Grain: there’s only one reason to add it, and that’s if you don’t have enough pixels for your print size. This hides the ‘hard’ digital edge transitions to some degree, and tricks the brain into thinking there might be more detail than there actually is. However…I’ve not had the resolution problem since the 12MP days (i.e. pre 2012). 🙂

              • That’s where age comes into play. I’m not yet a dynosaur I suppose but having started off shooting in the mid-70s seeing grain is like smelling certain foods or soaps: takes 30-40 years off my back… Call it the BW equivalent of faded chrome film nostalgia… 🙂

  5. Beautiful set. Drawing Down on Shadows is very nice but my favorite is Moving in Formation.

  6. Great set Ming, Drawing down on shadows is spectacular. The hatted figure made me think Magritte. Nice one!


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