Photoessay: life in Istanbul

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I did a little curation experiment with this set: it’s been more than six months since I shot these images in Istanbul, and perhaps four or more since I last looked at them. What’s interesting is that my memory has definitely warped over time: both in terms of what left the strongest impressions, and what I felt made the strongest images. This far away from the time of capture, we are definitely over what I think of as the ‘objective’ period – it’s so long ago you might as well almost be an independent observer. This means the immediate contextual bias is gone and emotion doesn’t drive selection – but rather the reverse; i.e. the image serves as an emotional mnemonic. I do notice now that the majority of the images seem to carry a very bittersweet feeling – there’s a suggestion of positivity through light, color or something else – but the posture of the people seems tense and at odds with that. I can’t say if that was an accurate portrayal of society at the time of my visit (it may well have been, given the referendum was happening at the same time) or merely a reflection of my own mental state. MT

Series shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c and various lenses, and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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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. The fourth picture can only be described as an intoxicating collision of different scales. Is the man walking past a giant or have the dining establishments been transplanted from a differently-sized world?

    • Neither, but in Istanbul you certainly get the feeling buildings were designed with different-scale humans in mind with every era. It’s as though we’ve gone from grandiose to small and back again…

  2. Great shots!

  3. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I love the way you have captured Santa Sofia without actually taking a photography of it, Ming, if that makes sense. I belong to DearSusan, which I believe you are familiar with, and the philosophy is to NOT duplicate photos taken by a billion other tourists – so one needs to exert oneself and turn up the burner under one’s imagination. I was particularly struck by the fact that several photos capture this dreadful disease of disconnecting from social intercourse and substituting five finger exercises on a keypad – which is making at least one generation all but dysfunctional, at the level of normal day-to-day communication.

    • It’s there, but not obviously so…yes, it’s not easy to make an image of a subject that’s both popular and already photographed to death; I suppose the perpetual problem of the travelling photographer (and one that’s only get to get harder as there are more and more of us).

  4. Very nice selection.

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