Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes III

_5502319 copy
Yin-yang tribute to Fan Ho

I actually prefer to think of these as little stories, or vignettes – I suppose that should really be the objective of street photography; to capture an transient and narrative element of life in a documentary way. That little slice of time might not be significant to anybody other than the main players, but it’s no excuse for a lack of story. I’m going to complete my version of the story by adding titles…even if audience preferences may differ 🙂 Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D5500, 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis, and Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also get your weekly dose of PS right here

_7R2_DSC3540 copy
Big man spectacle

_5502379 copy
Order everywhere

_7R2_DSC3764 copy
Escape by night

_7R2_DSC3814 copy
Two worlds

_7R2_DSC4016 copy
Hidden shadow self

_7R2_DSC3739 copy
Friends and countrymen

_7R2_DSC3977 copy
Individual collectivism

_7R2_DSC4301 copy
The apology

_7R2_DSC3641 copy
Haves and have nots

_5501477 copy
Taking the rooftop air

_5501750 copy
Photobombed by grandpa

_7R2_DSC3340 copy
The perils of playing marketing tag


Masterclass Prague (September 2016) is open for booking.


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

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


  1. great work! I love seeing Tokyo in monochrome, the colors of the city was not lost at all 🙂

  2. usually a reader rather than a commentator but couldn’t let your incredible “haves and have nots” image go without comment. it is a lucid and galling depiction of inequality. the strength of your artistic voice is matched perfectly in the skill of basically composing 3 photos inside one frame.

    • Thanks – composing more images in the same frame is what I always try to do to add more depth to the story, and the idea behind Wimmelbild…

  3. The verticals in the Ying-yang Tribute to Fan Ho image are remarkably straight considering the angle of view — my guess is that it’s heavily cropped. If so, why not crop a little bit more and remove the bunch of leaves on the left? Same with Taking the Rooftop Air — given the straight verticals, you’d have to have been at the same height — or maybe a little help from the Transform tool? In both, the compositions benefit from the lack of perspective distortion. Did you consider correcting the convergence in the Marketing Tag image so that it appears to be taken from directly overhead? I gave it a try — works for me.

    • They’re lightly straightened, but not cropped. I don’t crop other than to change aspect ratio – but always one original dimension is always maintained. Anything else is sloppy composition.

  4. Great photos, indeed! I especially like the one with the grandpa 😀

  5. rjllane says:

    Lovely set of images, Ming. They each have some interesting stories, which is the mark of good photography for my taste. And you have succeeded in creating humor in many of them, a rare treat for viewers – few people can do this.

    A hallmark of many of your images is the blending, or even featuring of architecture. Yes, people are present, but the setting is featured in large parts of the image. Always photographed exquisitely – the lighting, straight lines etc. – a reflection of your day job I presume!

    🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

    • Thanks Richard. The urban landscape is the stage…the people are the players. And I’ve always found the interplay between shadows, environment and people interesting because there’s also usually quite a disconnect between the inhabitants and their environment…

  6. It is by reading the titles that viewers have a better grasp of the story – or, are even more influenced by the photographer. I would have thought the blurred image of grandpa at the forefront was intentional were it not for the title! Perhaps, it was intentional but you decided to add a humorous element which wasn’t there until you titled it photobomb. Either way, the photos are great. Nice job!

  7. Really like the first photo at the top of the page. Nice work!

  8. Beautiful images, just beautiful.

  9. Roger Wojahn says:

    An incredible set, Ming. So inspired and inspiring. You just keep getting better!

  10. Ted Cais says:

    Sublimely surreal with enigmatic tension!

  11. Awesome pictures, as usual 👏😀

  12. Tchiwas says:

    I think they are all gorgeous. Small bits and pieces that are truly Tokyo and let you imagine what goes in between…
    Love it.

  13. Arindam Ghosh says:

    “Photobombed by Grandpa”!!! That, sir, is the best I have heard in a long time! The choice of titles in this series is excellent.

  14. Very nice

  15. richard majchrzak says:



  1. […] interesting to see how my style and way of seeing has evolved since the last instalment in this series from a year ago; or three years ago (here and here). Perhaps it might be even more interesting to go back a year or […]

%d bloggers like this: