On assignment photoessay: Construction, part I

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This series of images comes from my body of work from the last year-plus for client Chun Wo in Hong Kong; they are the largest local construction company and are mainly involved in large infrastructure projects, including the airport and Central-Wanchai bypass that spans most of the prime waterfront. As many of you will have seen from previous photoessays and posts, my brief with them is an ongoing on that covers several aspects: 1) documenting work in progress in the greater context of Hong Kong, as a historical record; 2) documenting and celebrating the workers who make it all possible; 3) recording the finished projects. Earlier in the year, we held a successful charity exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Center which showcased a limited selection of the work – something like ~100 out of about 1,500 images delivered. I’ve been asked many times if we could share some of those images online for those who weren’t able to make it in person, so here we are. _8B09226bw copy

Today’s photoessay will be one of two parts of the section covering people and context; it is the more intimate of the two sets where the people are the focus. In many cases, the ‘context’ is so large, it can easily overwhelm the more intimate details – we will leave that for part II. And having said it before, I’ll say it again: having spent a considerable amount of time on site, I have a new appreciation for the people who do this work because the conditions are often physically extremely unpleasant. We take so much of the result for granted, perhaps partially because most people do not get to see/experience it, and partially because the industry tries to keep the ‘dirty’ side hidden; I’m glad this is not the case here. It is difficult to argue that shuffling paper around and attending endless meetings – as most of the world seems to aspire to – is a more gainful pursuit than actually building something tangible that helps the lives of others.

Note that the sequencing and curation is not exactly the same because the presentation format is different, and there are some extra images I wanted to include (but we did not have gallery space for). Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, D800E, 24-120/4 VR, 80-400/4.5-5.6 VR, Zeiss 2.8/21 Distagon, Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus, and Ricoh GR. Postprocessing was completed using the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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


  1. Another great series thanks for sharing Ming, really love the first shot with the shadow bringing the shot to life.

  2. John Brady says:

    A wonderful set Ming, particularly the shots with the welding torches. I love the tonality of these images.

  3. Fantastic imagery!

  4. Brett Patching says:

    Wonderful photos Ming, and as other have already said, beautifully processed.

  5. As I’ve said before, this has to be some of your best work! I agree with Gerner: the welder pictures are my favorites too. I wonder if it’s the light of the welding that gives it such an interesting character.

  6. Lucy March says:

    Great set, Ming. The first shot is particularly captivating.

  7. This is the type of images I enjoy. Construction photography played a big part in the start of my career as a photographer. Got to meet some very nice people too.

  8. Gerner Christensen says:

    Extremely good images Ming, and I love in particular those showing the welders. They are intense, simple and wonderful 🙂

  9. Rich Southgate says:

    Another great set of images Ming, beautifully processed.

  10. Exquisite monochrome images under some demanding exposure situations. Much like the smooth tonal gradations and separations you have achieved. I’m sure the client is thrilled. Onward with your pursuit of excellence.

  11. Beautiful B&W images, im crazy about construction, abd i love your use of shadow in image 1.

  12. Uncomfortable viewing, but in a good way 🙂

  13. Zerberous says:

    very nice !

  14. John Nicholson says:

    Amazing that you can turn a commercial documentary assignment into such a marvellous set of images – viewed as a whole and individually.

  15. This image are stunning. Wonderful work and an amazing achievement. – Eric

  16. Great shots! Composition, lighting… I especially like the photo of the welder with the white flame and sparks.

  17. Wow, fantastic shots, love all of them. Was it easy to acces all the locations ? Must have been dangerous for your security sometimes too.., right ?

  18. It’s a good look behind the scenes of the heavy construction industry. Often, most people don’t realise the sheer effort and work that goes into building these engineering behemoths. First image is my favorite. 🙂


  1. […] Here’s the entire series at his site: On assignment photoessay: Construction, part I. […]

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