Photoessay: Paradise Lost, part I: the daydream

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What if inanimate objects had a soul? Hopes, dreams, lives, consciousness, a feeling of purpose? Do they have salad days? What happens when they retire, descend into old age and start to feel their mortality? How does a retirement community for Air Force aircraft feel?

Paradise Lost is a project I’ve been working on for the last few months that attempts to answer some of these questions in a photographic interpretation. At some point, I’ll expand this to include other machinery – mining equipment would be fantastic (but tricky to access) and cars are probably the next logical steep (and easier to execute). The first part of the series is supposed to evoke feelings of daydreaming, wistfulness and a nostalgia for golden days past. I’m once again experimenting with the metaphor of clouds as insubstantial fleeting thoughts (first encountered in The Dreamscape Project). Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII and Zeiss 1.8/55 FE and 1.8/85 Batis lenses.

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The Lisbon Masterclass (9-14 Mar 2016) is 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. Re: mining machines – the last deep coal mine in the UK closed last week. They’re going to entomb £150million’s worth of mining equipment because there is no market for it 😦

  2. Michael Demeyer says:


    Nice work here. The muted and often monochromatic tones really work with the concept.

    Did I read wrong? I thought you said in the Leica SL review that you used it for this project (or part thereof).


  3. Must be an oversight Ming. Or did you think it wasn’t important. Weasels are weasely told, but Stoats are stoataly different. And…hope this doesn’t go to your head….the blog is a regular source of the very best fresh air. Salutations for 2016.

  4. So many scare and wounds, but stil here! A litle bit of rust but proud and strong. Like they are saying: Bean somewhere and came on top! Impressive!

  5. Michiel953 says:

    Riveting article once again Ming; hitting the nail on its sensitive head.

    Last May I tried to capture the spirit of departure, ending a craft, when I picked up in person one of the six last hand and custom made steel (racing) bike framesets that Chas Roberts (Croydon) made. I was a customer for almost thirty years.

    For some reason (tension, time constraints?) I think I failed in all but one or two of all the shots I made. It’s very very difficult stuff, and I think you really outdid yourself here.

    On the subject of military planes, some three years ago I visited an abandoned airfield near Poltava, Ukraine (Google Satellite will show what’s there; that’s how I found it), turned air museum. For a dollar or so (well, grivniya), you can walk around and climb into planes (Tupolev Tu-95 Bear, Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack) that the West was once very afraid of, and that are now actually in active service over Syria (obviously with the Russian, not the Ukrainian airforce). Amazing.

    If you then factor in that that particular Poltava airfield played an important role in the sadly failed Operation Frantic, in the later stages of World War II (Stalin actually allowing American bombers to use Ukrainian airfields for shuttle bombing the Germans), then there’s a lot of historic meaning there, and that all on a hot summer’s day in 2012. Again, very difficult to capture that meaning in images.

    • I think the light plays a massive role in whether the images ‘work’ or not – since you can’t really control anything else.

      That airfield sounds like an experience – hope you got some images!

      • Michiel953 says:

        They’re not even close to yours; I was in a different phase of my photographic development (if any) then, with family, and in a different state of mind then I possiby would be now. I’ll browse through my old files and see if I can post some on FB and/or Flickr.

        But that place, not as much the “museum” but the abandoned airfield, had a really strong atmosphere. I’m, three years after, now reading that book by Mark Conversino, “Fighting with the Soviets, the failure of Operation Frantic”. It’s a slow but very interesting read.

  6. As much as I like the set, the trained academic philosopher in me crinches at “what if inanimate object had a soul?”. They wouldn’t be inanimate in the first place, now, would they? 😉
    But be that as it may, I wish you, and your family a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year, Ming!

  7. I think machines have a ‘tangible’ soul as much as humans do tbh… All those reciprocal parts, not necessarily in harmony, but occasionally aligned.. Changing the dynamic inherent within their function and interaction… Adhering to logic at a component level, yet a mystery when viewed holistically…

    Oh yes where was I? Your shots!

    They give me a sense of faded pride, a sense of being a has been, yet still with the pride of having been an establishment, no longer authoritarian but still authoritive. The clouds? Well they may invoke the feelings of dreams, but in context of the subjects, they add more depth.. No longer able to fly, but still basking in the blue wide expanse, they miss the sky and the sky misses them.

    In short, and with less flowerly language? Yeah I like!

  8. Alex Carnes says:

    They’re some of my favourites from your recent work, professor Thein! The Vulcan Bomber lives in a hangar at an airport I happen to work for, I’m thinking I should try to beg access…!

    Anyway, masterly photos. 👍

  9. Fourth one – caught my attention. In a way it looks too real or unreal? 😉

  10. robert.schambach says:
  11. Martin Paling says:

    I think I’ve noticed you using this lens pair on the A7R II before. Have you tried just sticking with the 55 and just forcing crop mode to get the 85 (well 82) equivalent. Yes, image downsizes to 18mp and dog changes but quicker and easier than changing lenses. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts. (I’ve taken to using the E16-70 for a 24-105 equivalent on the A7R II and it works well as a walk-around).

    • No, that defeats the point for me – I might as well shoot with a zoom and the D810. I generally prefer to lock in my visualisation to match the lenses I’m carrying, and don’t find that I need anything outside that very often. Plus, these subjects aren’t going anywhere fast 🙂

  12. Praneeth Raj Singh says:

    Great set Ming! I think the explanatory text is necessary to make sure this set has it’s complete and intended effect. However, I did feel that maybe image 8 didn’t really belong in the set. But I know you have a reason for it being there, wondering what that is?

  13. This will have a lot of potential because of the heavy emotional impact. I do like it and look forward to see more of this kind. 🙂

  14. Number six gives me the same feeling as seeing an elderly man with biker-tattoos, Born to Die-style. It’s actually very touching.
    Love the way the first four have there heads in the clouds and number nine seems like a white whale swimming true the sky.
    Ok, time for coffee. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Really like the theme of having clouds in with the planes.


  1. […] I see this as something I’m going to have to address again in the final curation of Paradise Lost – In hindsight, I’m still pleased with both sets, though it would be interesting to […]

  2. […] I see this as something I’m going to have to address again in the final curation of Paradise Lost – In hindsight, I’m still pleased with both sets, though it would be interesting to […]

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