Photoessay: Indirectly Mondrian

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Today’s set is a curation of images accumulated over the last couple of years – somewhere in my subconscious, I think there must be a cubist/surrealist influence that probably has something of the Mondrian about it. Every so often, there’s a rectangular compositional arrangement that makes itself known, compels me to photograph it, and then file it away – almost always the composition will pop up as a visual non-sequitur when I’m busy shooting something else. It isn’t always colourful, rectangular, drippy and delineated – but there’s usually at least two of these properties that show. Visual work may be derivative, but it doesn’t have to be outright duplicative; there also seems to be quite a lot of recursion and crossover with other obsessions of mine – mostly wimmelbild. Perhaps it’s a merging of an underlying desire to seek visual structure, but preserve an underlying intricacy and detail that holds your attention as you try to figure out exactly what you’re looking at In any case – I’ve processed these, filed them away for later and whilst clearing my archive – here they are. Perhaps it’ll be worth revisiting in another year or two as a long term project – sometimes these underlying themes only emerge with time and some degree of detachment at the actual time of execution… MT

Shot with a variety of cameras over the last few years, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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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. Absolutely stunning selection of images, especially the white with the window curtains. I’m curious: how do you curate such a tight theme of photos taken over the course of several years? Do you maintain a folder for this theme and just slowly add to it over time? Or do you look back on your catalog and retrospectively identify a theme that ties some of the images together?

    • Thanks – mostly the latter, and then I go back and look through again if I feel something is missing (or there may be images I forgot).

  2. Kristian Wannebo says:

    I really enjoy these!
    All of them!
    – – –

    I sometimes wonder about how some angles of diagonals make an image calmer and others make it more dramatic, or is it just me?

    E.g. (excluding ~horizontals & verticals)
    very calm and harmonious, # 4, 11, 13,
    a bit of tension added, # 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16
    a bit dramatic, # 9, 10, 12
    – – –

    Always interesting how a minute detail can “make” an image.
    As e.g. the tiny green thing to the left of the green window in # 3…

    • Thanks – my guess is horizontals feel ‘settled’ (think: calm/flat horizon) and diagonals feel tense (think: leaning things balancing on each other)…

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Could very well be, Ming.

        I grew up in flat / hilly country. When I visit the Alps, after a week or two I feel a bit uncomfortable.
        I used to think I missed the horizon, but maybe the mountain diagonals are doing it… , 🙂 .

        On the other hand, people in the Alps have told me, that after a week or two on the (German) plain they begin to feel nervous.

        So I’m curious if there also is a difference in image perception … well, probably not, but might be.

        • There always is, even if it isn’t conscious. I think our subconscious biases/ experiences affect perception more than we believe…

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            I believe so too.

            I just wondered about the possible influence of the topography of the land of one’s roots on the perception of angles of diagonals…

            How about having e.g. this collection with you when travelling and occasionally test people?

  3. Excellent pics, Ming, did you take the first of the two blue pictures in Lucerne?

  4. Anatoly Loshmanov says:

    Hello Ming !
    Congratulation !
    Looks Art to me.

  5. The richness of color/texture with the interplay of light/shadow and line/shape make this set one of the more visually arresting that you have posted recently. I’m really enjoying poring over these on the web – but this is really something I’d love to see in print form. Excellent work!

  6. yes, it does resemble his style. good eye –

  7. I find this set a very attractive one. Pictures you could have in your home on the wall for a longer period without getting boring. Very nice!

  8. Ming
    When I read Robin’s post yesterday I thought that this photo was quite Mondrian – ( ) I was going to comment but thought that I was over thinking it all. Just a little bit of serendipity.
    Regards Noel

  9. Said AZIZI says:

    I don’t know why but the bench picture set from porto if I recall correctly, all look like painting to me.

    • Close – the benches are from Lisbon. Painterly-ness: I think it’s a consequence of palette, color blocking, low frequency detail and relatively controlled tones (no extreme gradients into either end of the luminosity spectrum, for example).

  10. Ian Moore says:

    Nice set of images!…BUT please note that to qualify as a Mondrian-style image it MUST have a red in it!

  11. I don’t know how you do it but your pictures are a delight to my visual senses.

  12. These are gorgeous, fun, and demand to be seen.

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