Photoessay: Eastern melancholy, part II

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Continued from part I

Much further east, but still considered ‘eastern’ relative to other parts of the world – I shot these in Tokyo a month ago (at the time of writing) and very much remembered how I felt: the usual excitement of being in Tokyo, the anticipation of a reset in culture and scenery, and some slight dread for my wallet thanks to the camera havens of Shinjuku. Aside from that, certainly not what I seem to have captured: a sort of ‘quiet resignation to the task at hand no matter how bad or what it is’ – rather than the same sort of slightly uncertain edginess in Istanbul. Cultural? Perhaps. Or perhaps somebody in the audience is going to tell me there are things I have deeply repressed…MT

This series was shot in Tokyo with a Panasonic GX85, various M4/3 lenses, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


More info on Hasselblad cameras and lenses can be found here.


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


  1. Ross Duncan says:

    Looking at these images reminded me of a set I have seen recently, also shot in Tokyo, by Matthieu Buhler. They are different style but still with a melancholic atmosphere, have a look at the link, you may enjoy them as another glimpse of Tokyo.

  2. Samuel Jessop says:

    People photography is usually lost on me, but I really like frame No. 10. It really looks like he’s in the middle of something, rather than posed.

  3. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I love the photos Ming – but I guess that people in the street really aren’t out, displaying their inner self, or their emotions – they’re just “there” – living – going to/from work – (as one of them was) answering their cellphone – waiting for customers – whatever. It’s when they meet a friend that the smile breaks across their face – and I didn’t notice any such encounters in these shots.
    Whenever I’ve met anyone from Japan, they’ve always been very happy and fun to be with.

    • I beg to differ here: I used to get the impression they were welcoming customers, but now it seems more than just a little forced, and for a lot of people…in all fairness, Tsukiji’s uncertain fate and impending move may well have something to do with it.

  4. so interesting, i see

  5. It’s interesting Ming, there were two things that really struck me. The first was that almost every photo, (except for people playing with their phones), could have been taken 15 or 50 years ago. The city just sort of flows along, taking the people with it. Once the personality of a city is established, it probably has as much effect on the people as the people have on it.
    The other was the beautiful tonal range that Panasonic has, and monochrome was perfect for these photos.

    • This is my feeling with Japan, too: 20 years ago, it was 15 years ahead of anywhere else. 20 years later, it’s just a little bit preserved…

      • Ming – since you’re travelling so much – what country would you say is ahead of everybody else today?

        • It goes in cycles, and depends on which particular area you’re looking for advancement in…I don’t think this is a simple question to answer at all.

          • Yes, it’s a difficult question, but it’s also interesting. If Japan no longer feels as if it’s ahead of everybody else, it means that development is shifting to somewhere else. If I may rephrase my question I’ll ask: What country gives you most hope for the future?

            • Good question. I guess things go in cycles: there are the rapidly accelerating cities in the developing parts of SE Asia and China (but not necessary with a lot of structure or logic behind them, or too much cookie-cutter sameness) and the restart of eastern Europe, too…

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