On-assignment photoessay: the face of construction

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Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had the chance to shoot quite a number of contextual portraits of the people behind construction – some I’ve presented previously, and thus are not shown here. Almost all of the images in this set are new, and the result of a much larger curation project I’ve been meaning to do for some time. Even as extensive as a single shoot for this client tends to be – thousands of images over a week or so – the subject matter and light conditions are so diverse that you seldom have a chance to shoot a thematically and visually consistent sequence; thus the only way to make a project like this work is over a longer period of time. It also ties in nicely with some monochrome portrait experiments I’ve been doing over the last couple of months. Interestingly, the main challenge with this body of work overall was not opportunity, but the fact that construction workers in Hong Kong seem to all be exceedingly shy… MT

Images shot with various hardware over the last three years, but all post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards unless ot


  1. Goetz Haindorff says:

    A great homage to these “invisible men”.
    I really like the first photograph.

    B/W seems to me the fitting choice for covering the world of these men.
    They do their work, unnoticed from the public.
    They never get much appreciation.
    And they don´t seem to make a lot of fuss about it, either.

    We all live in these wonderful buildings where we create our own small and beautiful places we call home or business.
    And yet we easily forget about these guys who created these structures that protect us in the first place.

  2. This is a fantastic series. I really appreciate how each portrait contains some of the context of an “environmental portrait” while maintaining a feel of intimacy and focus on the person. I also love how the photographs convey a clear sense of respect for the workers and what they do.
    (I apologize if this posts multiple times; I seem to be having some issues with the WordPress login but can’t use my email alone since I’ve commented via WordPress before.)

    • Thanks – the tricky part is always balancing authenticity/ integrity with finding a somewhat ‘clean’ presentation when the reality is the industry simply cannot be that neat. That, and not everybody interesting is okay with being photographed…

  3. Derrick Pang says:

    as always, very nice images. The only problem is they remind me of my work…

  4. Steve Gombosi says:

    They’re all quite excellent. To me, the first and the last really embody what I’ve come to think of as the “Ming Thein style” – you have a real flair for juxtaposing light and shadow. I’d recognize them as your work anywhere.

  5. I always enjoy your construction series! I seem to recall you had an exhibition a few years back, any plans to do another?

  6. Very engaging images. But honestly they also started me reflecting about how few people smile while they’re working.

  7. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The subject matter lends itself to B&W – I hope the client[s] are equally content, I think they are superb “photographs”, thanks for sharing them, Ming

  8. these are wonderful images

  9. thedelro says:

    Looking at these I have to remind myself to be more mindful of DoF. Your pictures show great discipline and forethought in choosing the appropriate amount of isolation.

  10. Great work as always. Love the portrait second to last, beautifully framing the subject in his human context / environment.

  11. Some of your best work period. If I were a creative director for Turner, Bechtel, etc. I’d hire you to shoot internationally.

  12. Patrick says:

    Wow! Very beautiful images. As always. Black and white makes them really timeless. All with natural light, I suppose?