Photoessay: People of Venice

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A touch of longing

Today’s photoessay is perhaps best thought of a series of vignettes of the locals living in Venice – there may be one or two tourists that got caught in the mix, but I doubt most of them would buy raw meat at the butcher’s. There was a deliberate effort on my part to exclude people who were obviously tourists and focus on individuals; that wasn’t actually too difficult since it was a) winter and b) I was in many of the neighbourhoods that pretty much only saw residents. Those who attended my Venice Masterclass in November 2014 may recognise some of these images from the final day’s curation and processing session; in fact, you might even have been there at the time of capture… Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Ricoh GR, 21mm converter, 645Z and 55/2.8 SDM and processed with a mixture of PS workflow II and the ‘fine art’ style in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5: Processing For Style.

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The horse butcher

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Lunchtime meeting of the dons

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Time for a missive

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The missing window

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You are what you eat (the contradiction)

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At the Rialto

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Entropy reflected

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Waiting for business

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Business as usual I

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Business as usual II


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. This essay may be a year old but I had not seen it until today. You are what you eat (contradiction) is genius and I think an excellent example of how a caption can add to an image. The caption is what caused me to take a second look. On first pass I just saw a few people at a rather unassuming butchers counter that could have been anywhere and couldn’t really see why it was mixed in with the rest. Then I read the caption which caused me to look more intently which is when I saw the womans body full of vegetables staring at a pile of meat. I think providing people with those “AHA” moments is fun and a fitting title can lead to further viewing of the image.I thought overall this was a very strong set and also a great example of placing people as compositional elements in a frame. I thought Missing Window was especially well balanced.

  2. Very cool and reflective photo series that captures ‘local’ people. I included a link to it on my own post on Venice: Beyond the postcard. Check it out:

  3. Re the ‘Dons’, to me the point is humour, these guys are dressed elegantly, perhaps as from an older age, but what is the bloke facing us doing, ignoring his companion and reading his phone! Love the collection.

  4. I was being constructive. You seem to always say the same thing about pores and such. You don’t take constructive criticism well which is a hindrance to development. I know what I’m talking about but obviously in a comment section there’s not much value in my thoughts. I usually always like your architecture work which is your strong point. Remember to that tone is not really captured in comments so don’t automatically knee jerk to someone being pompous and downgrading because of a little constructive criticism. Until next time.

    • Being constructive would require reason and logic. You are expressing your opinion, which is certainly valid, but not useful because photographing to keep one audience member happy makes no sense since a) it isn’t the way I choose to work artistically, and b) this isn’t commissioned work.

  5. I see that Marco had precisely the same reaction as I had before I even checked down the comment stream. Stereotypes are just a bad idea and using them bad form, Ming, sorry. In this case, wildly off the mark.

  6. Hi Ming

    I really enjoyed the last shot of acqua alta. The annual rainfall in Venice is greater than London and as you intimated November is the best month for it. I often wondered about why there were so many boards lying around- they are for when they have acqua alta (high water) or flooding, which you have captured so well.

  7. The first shot of the ” horse butcher” is way off in color balance. Since the fluorescent tubes in the shop were probably very old ( hence green ) the auto white balance in the camera over compensated. Overall, still interesting to view. The Dons doesn’t bother me and like you Ming, it brought me back to Don Corleon.

    • No it isn’t; the tubes were actually that color (possibly mixed with UV tubes to kill bacteria or deter insects?) and intentionally left that way – I thought it made for an interesting mood.

      • I’ve seen those pink tubes before in butcher/cheese shops around Europe too. They aren’t possible to correct since they are very low CRI for whatever purpose they are doing (UV etc).

    • Personally, I immediately linked the color to a butchery. It seemed very natural and recognisable, yet I can’t seem to remember a particular butcher in my area where the lighting looks like that. A forgotten childhood memory, or something I saw in a movies once, perhaps ?

    • Sorry but I don’t get the title. Dons? This is Venice, for Crissake, there was a Doge but there are no Don this Don that, apart from priests of course (a parish head is called Don). Don is a respect-giving prefix used in other cultures, definitely not in Northern Italy.

      Titling is difficult. For example, the two tourists you say are longing for home, I suspect they were just tiredly watching the canal houses pass by and longing if anything for a fresh soda…. I tend to title minimalistically by now, and as much as possible not infer feelings on people.

  8. Fairly weak collection. People from the side in the distance is just not interesting. Your architect work is strong but the people become distractions in a way.

    • Closeup shots of people’s facial pores aren’t very interesting either, but each to their own…

    • Frans Richard says:

      Fairly weak comment if I may say so. In the whole collection there are only 1 or 2 images one can reasonably classify as “people from the side in the distance” (or did you mean from the side OR the distance?). Now one could argue if this collection is about “People OF Venice” or “People IN Venice”, but that does not make the images weak. Personally I find these images inspirational and very well done. Photgraping people close up in their face is a particular style you can like or dislike. That doesn’t mean other styles of photographing people are not interesting. Like Ming said, each to their own.

      • Touché. Most of the images were not from the side or distance but those in particular should have been edited out of this set. They are weak and do not compliment the rest. I should have been more clear. Also, the in your face camera style that seems to be referenced to is not ever talked about and shouldn’t be used as an example of an alternative. Good day.

        • Frans Richard says:

          Touché too. The in your face style was not mentioned by you, in retrospect it was a bad example.
          From your other post I understand you were trying to be constructive. Just dropping a statement that something is weak or not interesting is an opinion. To be constructive you have to explain why you think so and what could be done to make it better. Perhaps you could elaborate on which images you would edit out and why?
          You have a good day too. 🙂

    • I’m with you Brandon on this. But then again, as usual: if neither you jor I appreciate Ming’s distant and aloof approach to people, why do we bother checking these posts? and almost spamming his coment stream? Because it’s difficult not to go through every post hoping to find gems hidden in the human freezer… And because technically there’s always something to learn, even from work you don’t care about emotionally…

      • That is the eternal question of the internet, isn’t it? If everybody did the same work, only one photographer would be required to shoot anything. Judging by your flickr, my style is the polar opposite to yours, and my reaction to your work is probably similar. But I can respect your vision enough not to state it at all, let alone four times on the same post.

  9. Like

  10. Thanks for more wonderful images

  11. Hi, Ming.

    In the UK a Don is part of the teaching staff at a University; in Spain it is a gentleman. But in Italy it denotes the head of a Mafia family. I wonder if these men relish the idea of publicly being portrayed as dons? :D) I like the mood of the last two images

    • Nope, in Italy “Don” comes befor the name of a preacher. In South Italy it’s used to pay respect to someone, but it’s not that common (old fashioned, I’d say). The fact that you think it’s solely related to a criminal organization is just wrong. (As other many other Italian things, but I think each Country has its own)

      • As a fan of Fernandel, I have all his Don Camillo films and so I am fully aware of the use of Don for a priest. But these guys don’t look like priests to me! :D)

    • Who knows if they are Italian, Brits or Spaniards – or just an Americans named Donald? 😉

  12. Believe it or not, November is the best month to visit Venice. The rainy and foggy days can be boring, but at least you can walk around without feeling like the crowd is actually carrying you around!
    I think I know that butcher 🙂
    I have enjoyed them, as usually. Some of them have that cinematic look.
    Off topic: I received the Connections book: love it!
    (Even though they are not Ultraprints, I really enjoy looking at your work)


  1. […] Venice is still a city with around 60,000 people living in the historical part. White collars carry their briefcases to work. University students […]

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