Photoessay-project WIP: Anatomy of the quotidian

_Q116_L1060002-18 bw bathtime redux copy

Today’s photoessay is something a little different – a work in progress, if you will. An idea occurred to me several months ago: we see the same objects every day, in slightly different light and from slightly different angles. This is what contributes to our overall impressions and memories of the object: it isn’t a single encounter but a series of experiences. I wanted to figure out the best way of translating this visually. There was no question it would have to be a composite of some sort; however, it would also have to be done in a way that would leave the identity of the object clear, but simultaneously indistinct. I played around a bit further with that idea and the concepts of definition and then anatomy arose; taking that one step further, I thought it might be interesting to present these as virtual x rays. It’s a very different approach to my normal photography since I almost never work with composites, and even less with this degree of postprocessing (which I’m happy to cover in a future episode of Weekly PS Workflow if anybody’s interested). I’d be curious to hear your thoughts…MT

This series was with a Leica Q, heavily composited and the final leg done with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

_Q116_L1060019-31 morning view copy

_Q116_L1060075-91 unstable stacks copy

_Q116_L1060170-80 the passing of time copy

_Q116_L1060255-90 celestial time copy

_Q116_L1060181-98 portrait of a mind copy

_TX20_DSC00499 save my life copy

_Q116_L1060200-19 sophie's world copy

_Q116_L1060336-52 mafia bob copy

_Q116_L1060107-128 closet identity copy

_Q116_L1060149-69 bearly real copy

_Q116_L1060224-38 pre departure view copy

_Q116_L1060092-106 utensils copy

_Q116_L1060032-41 refreshment copy

_Q116_L1060046-62 out of coverage at the boundaries copy

_Q116_L1060063-74 adding spice to life copy

_Q116_L1060129-48 perception depends on gender copy


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


  1. liramusic says:

    bbeeaauuttiiffuull Wow. Very vveerryy artistic. I am stunned. wow.

  2. Awesome! I really cool set of images Ming. So different and really interesting 🙂

  3. Dear Ming,
    interesting series, it also cought the eye of my wife. More elaboration in PS Weekly would be most welcome.

  4. Brett Patching says:

    This is cool Ming.

  5. Martin Fritter says:

    I join in the acclaim. A very interesting combination of the dream-like with high levels of technical refinement. A way of rendering the quotidian uncanny. As I’ve mentioned before, the Q seems to bring something out in you. BTW, did you see the NY Times Magazine Salgado article on the “Desert Storm?” I believe he was using 28mm almost exclusively at the time.

  6. Thanks for sharing this Ming… Interesting but my preference goes to your work when you are not on daddy-duty…:-) de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum. Cheers, Rudy.

  7. Told you people were going to like ’em man…!

  8. Bravo, bravo, bravo …. a step into an interesting direction. Creating an appropriate visual language for the realization of a particular idea was this time more important than a perfect reproduction in a technical sense. That’s what Luis meant probably by ”entering the atelier”. Y o u r atelier. Using photography as a medium to express personal thoughts and emotions means to use it as an artistic medium. That is – to my humble opinion – a much nicer playground than so called ”fine-art-printing” where quality is mostly measurable or countable with methods of natural sciences.

    • Ah – but being me, I want both! The idea and the best medium to most clearly represent it…it’s just that in this case, the idea is no longer purely about transparency or being there… 🙂

      • On technique and art:
        Science has taught us wonderful things in the last few centuries in particular about how things in the physical world are composed. We were able to turn reality discrete (analyzed and separated into parts) to be able to understand it. This is important and interesting. But it does not generate art. 🙂 Cameras and lenses are products of science. The perfect technique does not generate art. Generate photography, design, etc. It is a product and/or a service. The problem is that science (the type of information it provides) “produced” a kind of art in the twentieth century (modernism, etc.) that using the art components, like the components in the periodic table, only produces combinations of these discrete parts and not complete and living bodies (artistic bodies). The “art” of Mondrian (an example) is a game with discrete parts. The art of Velasquez is ART. Visual art is above all a matter of looking and choices (a practice of the mind the eye and the hand) that put into question the usual hierarchies of reality. It’s not “kill the reality” into small pieces and try to recompose it later (its dead) or perfect technical exercises (this is gymnastics .-) or intellectually exciting concepts, only. So art with the camera is quite difficult because the camera is inherently discreet and quickly falls into the “technical” only or in imitation of art. But it is curiously surreal (remember Susan Sontag), because it produces a new and more dramatic reality, there beside the reality that already exists. The less edited the picture, the more surreal it becomes. Art?
        That´s why “entering the atelier” is a needed and also a fascination because you start to have more questions than answers ,-) you need to join technique and emotions, etc; until you start to see something (an image?) that does´t need words. “Naive” art need words. Art does´t. Art is direct to the cortex.
        (Thoughts on Sunday using my poor english .-)

        • Sure. Science and technique are always tools. But if you don’t understand your tools, much as if you cannot speak a language, then you cannot get your thoughts across – no matter how amazing those thoughts might be. Master your tools, master your thoughts, and your message will be far more effective than one or the other alone. I do agree there’s no point in elaborately saying nothing though 🙂

    • Thomas is right ,-) Thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to actions. A “naked disposition” as a starting point, like when we read an haiku. Art made with bad technique (any technique) is bad art. Art that needs explanations is bad art; isn´t art at all. It is not a translation neither an illustration.
      Art is in itself. It is something that wasn´t here a few moments ago; it is expanded reality. Music is a good example.
      Make art is a mindset. You entered a new state of mind.
      Just my opinion (learned from my practice).
      Welcome ,-) Ming.

  9. David Babsky says:


  10. These are fantastic! Very creative and well executed!

  11. Please go ahead this way. This way will open up a new portal for you and for us. I am curious about color images, Way more possibilities.

  12. Remember to be careful with pictures of keys. A criminal can easily copy a key from just a picture. If you post such a picture on a blog where you talk about your many expensive cameras, you might have some unwelcome visitors.

  13. I LOVE THESE!!!!!!!!! I love the concept, as well. Funny, I had a similar thought a few weeks ago, about trying to capture that fleeting energy around an object as our eye moves by it, but was uncertain as how exactly to do that. I’m not sure I want to get into that level of post processing, but I really love what you have done!

    • Thanks – the postprocessing got much easier towards the end once I defined what I wanted the idea to be…also because I was probably capturing the right raw material too at that point!

  14. There´s no turning back ,-) You have entered the “atelier”…

  15. Erling Maartmann-Moe says:

    Love it! Both the images, and the creative use of home time!

  16. A wonderful series of photos and a great idea!

  17. Richard P. says:

    Hi Ming, yes I think I like this format (at least initially very visually stimulating), although for some reason I feel some of the subjects seem to work better than others. And I’m not sure how many images in this format I could view before I became tired of it. Initially I thought the first image was a chessboard with pieces – would have never guessed bathroom shelf. My favorite of the bunch is actually #2 (pun somewhat intended). 🙂
    Cheers, Richard P.

    • I agree on both counts – I think not all of these would make it into a final project set (hence the WIP), and some subjects are more convincing than others. Needs more work 🙂

      • Richard P. says:

        Still fantastic to see you experimenting with another “style” and thank you for sharing a work-in-progress with us.

  18. hi sifu,
    great concept and execution. all clear and indistinct, except for 1, can’t make out what it is? i agree with gnarlydognews, something is happening to you all right, fatherhood? but its all good :).
    nice weekend,sifu.

    • Thanks. First one is the bathroom shelf; I don’t think it’s fatherhood necessarily (though being at home on daddy-duty means less time to get out to shoot) – I think it’s experimentation and seeing if I can make something different out of the common…

      What you don’t see is these images have had about six months of sitting time; I had to make sure the idea wasn’t something that wouldn’t survive a closer inspection. Even so, I’m still not sure; it’ll probably take a bit longer to reach maturity.

  19. These are visually very cool – it has obviously taken some careful adjustments to arive at the end result. Nice to see some more experimental work and how it carries the learnings from “regular” photography. For me the idea part takes more time to sink in (I don’t go to many modern art exhibitions, since they’re often not very visally pleasing…)

    Oh, and surely for this work to become credible, you’d need to shoot it as multiple exposures on negative film, otherwise it isn’t art 😉

    • Thanks. I could do the same thing on negative film, but it wouldn’t be as controlled or have quite the same effect with luminance. That said, I might give it a try…

  20. I like it! Please do explain your technique in a future article.

  21. gnarlydognews says:

    Heck yeah!
    Ming what’s happening to you? are you going soft and hyper-creative on us? something to do with fatherhood… 🙂
    I like the city skyline, the shirt rack and yes: the “Imelda Marcos” collection 😉
    Hold a second: that ain’t no skyline but some sort of medicine/bathroom cabinet ?

    • Correct: it’s the shelf in the bathroom 🙂

      Just trying something different on the days when I’m at home on daddy-duty and unable to get out to experiment…


  1. […] are even remotely new in themselves, but personally – it’s a whole new world for me. Anatomy of the Quotidian was my first serious attempt at […]

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