Photoessay: Transient glimpses

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All photography is of course transient; most of it is nothing more than a vicarious disconnected glimpse into the life of somebody else or timeline of another object’s point of view – other than self-documentary, there really isn’t such a thing as a continuous statement simply because a photograph lacks causality when viewed in isolation. Yet something about the people and subjects featured in this set – shot in the rain and winter in Tokyo and Kyoto – seemed to me especially poignant and fragile. It’s as though there’s both a sort of contemplative melancholy brought on by the season (and probably also lack of sun), but simultaneously an appreciation of the fleeting fragility of the moment. Perhaps introspection is the most appropriate description of the mood here. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Experience Japan vicariously in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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


  1. I found this set very especially attractive; I was immediately impressed by them.

    I would like to remark a little about this part of the text: “most of it is nothing more than a vicarious disconnected glimpse into the life of somebody else.”

    Some of the most personally-rewarding images I’ve made have indeed been glimpses; those tiny moments in time that we capture. But within my personal photographic experiences the highest images have included “connected” rather than disconnected ones. From time to time I’ve had the pleasure of capturing a moment in which an essential personality trait seems revealed and very evident, for one or more people who have been the subjects.

    I feel considerable affinity toward many of your images. The artistic expressions in your images (probably “style” is too narrow a term) often strike me as similar to what I would desire to produce if skills did not restrict me. But a few of the personal images I prize the most are the ones in which the distinctly personal elements of the person emerge.

    Thank you for the very fine work that you have displayed, including this set.

    • Thanks. I wonder how much of the success in capturing that personality trait lies in observation, how much in catching a genuinely unguarded moment, and how much in knowing the subject (or are we talking about strangers)? In this case…I can say they’re *all* strangers and perhaps then we can’t really judge personality accuracy, but just the strength of the action/ emotion displayed. Empathy of a sort, if you will…

  2. I always go right to your photos and then return to read the commentary and how they were taken. I really enjoyed this set but I noticed that for at least the third time in recent posts, I saw that these were not taken with your Hasselblads. For some reason, I find the non Hassie photos more appealing. Not sure why (more human/emotional content?), or what that means, but couldn’t help making the comment.

    Regardless, I always enjoy seeing your images and reading your commentary.

    • Depends on which vintage or set the images were from, and also what I was doing at the time – in this particular case, was teaching and matched equipment with my class. Hasselblad images do much better on a medium that has size/bit depth to breathe (which is obviously not going to be web viewing).

  3. Casey Bryant says:

    Your consistency of light, subject, composition, idea are incredible. There’s these wonderful stories to each image. Thanks for sharing your work.

  4. Michiel953 says:

    Very interesting images Ming, they keep me looking at them.

    The B&W conversions for the 850 are very good; I wish I could reach the same level. I should teach myself to look at the world in B&W also when I’m carrying the 850,not just when I’m carrying my FM2n, FM3a or F2AS.

    And, apparently, contrary to popular belief, that 24-120 (a portable zoom) is not all that bad…

    • Thanks. Most sensors these days do a decent job after conversion; it’s mostly about managing your highlights (and whether you get better tonality by fastidiously avoiding clipping, or recovering afterwards). I quite like the 24-120 personally – I seem to be one of the few who does…

  5. evocative of small stories…

  6. Robert Estiandan says:

    The fifth photo does it for me! Great set, Ming!!!

  7. Pavel P. says:

    Fine photos…

  8. Photos look amazing

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