Photoessay-WIP: Architectural leftovers, part I

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Today’s series of images is going to be a bit looser in curation than previously; it is the beginning of an idea which I intend to explore further in the future. We tend to photograph very new, very old, and generally well-kept buildings in a sort of formalist style which everybody thinks of as ‘architectural’; it is not too different to the artist’s perspective-controlled rendering. We aim for the vantage points as the architect imagines them, even if they are almost impossible due to access and sight lines being blocked by existing structures. We focus on that which is aesthetically beautiful, unusual, functional, or generally an ‘ideal’ of the type. What we don’t do is acknowledge the ugly, the incomplete and that which is in generally poor repair. It isn’t the same as a picturesque ruin; I suppose it’s the brutally functional edifices that are built to a budget. The kind of thing you pass every day and don’t linger by because it’s somehow unpleasant. The leftovers. What results if we treat them with respect? It isn’t going to be pretty, but it could be dignified. MT

This series is ongoing and was/ will be shot with pretty much everything under the sun.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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  1. Ming

    I think it would be worthwhile for the readership to reference Misrach’s Desert Cantos (what is terrible is beautiful), Meyerowitz Cape Light (something simple and visible but filled with mystery and promise), Owen’s Suburbia, Ray McSaveney’s Explorations, as examples of extraordinary vision. I hesitate to label the work as architecture or ugly or something else. For me at least, my jaw drop response to these artists work comes from seeing photographs that stretch my imagination. Their work exhibits something discovered. I don’t have the words nor would I want to muddle what it is they do. Have a look (“listen”) as Kieth Richards would say.

    • Good choices – I’d call them urban explorations, perhaps – they’re a little more environmental than your usual architecture 🙂

  2. one of my favorite sets..

  3. Very inspiring and motivating set of images for current balance/symmetry assignment. Really liked #8 with the puddle.

  4. Ming, only you could turn ragged, worn, and marred structures into something beautiful. Most excellent!

  5. bill walter says:

    Leftovers or main course, it’s all good. It’s easy for me to relate to your architecture photography as we certainly think in very similar ways. It’s all about angles, connecting lines and balance. With architecture the corners can be very important. Also, the buildings don’t have to be attractive. Even condemned buildings can be full of color, texture and character. And I liked your use of several puddles of water in these photos. It’s a nice touch.

    • Oddly, the corners rarely line up in real life – but I’ve always associated the puddles at some subconscious level with decay and leakage and end of life…

  6. Philip Arthur Brindle says:

    I really like the the second last image in your series, great work, very nice…

  7. junaidrahim says:

    It’s bleak and at times a little ugly – which goes against our paradigm for architecture. Maybe this type of theme is a good place for experimenting with flat light….

  8. I like! Seeing the interesting in the mundane / “ugly” is what makes reactive photography fun to me. The (potential) “problem” with the formal architectural approach is that, a bit like taking a picture of a painting, you are at risk of merely converting one artist’s work into another format, “repackaging” or “re-presenting” it (and when talking about architecture, turning it form a three-dimensional form to a two-dimensional one, which is likely to be an inferior state). Most iconic architectural shots are likely pointing out what the architect designed to be there in the first place. The approach in these images is illustrating the unintended, the consequences of natural forces and use, and so is more alive to me. That isn’t to denigrate your “formal” architectural photography MT…I am talking in generalisms here, and if there is one thing we know about people who generalise, is that they are all idiots 😉

    • Oh, I fully agree: if anything, ‘formal’ architectural photography is more a sort of proof of concept than anything – it’s very difficult to find something really unique and unforeseen by the architect/designer in there (I know, because I’ve discussed this with many practitioners) – and most of the time when you do, it’s heavily abstracted. This is of course because the public vantages are heavily planned/pre-visualized before construction. What isn’t is often serendipitous (or not) interactions between the subject and subsequent (i.e. unforeseen) changes to the environment…

  9. Indeed a good idea. Reminds me of the workers theme – gritty, not always pretty, but does what needs to be done.

  10. Great idea Ming! Really enjoy the photos and way of looking at things.

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