Photoessay: Shadow form

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When three dimensions collapse to two, the only way to infer spatial placement is by the position and overlap of shadows; this includes not just large macro-scale objects but also texture, which is nothing more than superposition of entitles at the micro-scale. No light, no shadows, no image, no spatial relativity. Yet the interesting ability of photography has only two interesting elements when collapsing dimensions: firstly, to reproduce exactly what we see (or think we see) and preserve an otherwise transient moment; secondly, projection that is unnatural or not normally noticed with stereo (i.e. human) vision – be it an exaggerated depth or a completely collapsed one. Expression or collapse in dimensionality is interesting because it almost lets us imagine what the universe might be like if we could perceive more than the standard four dimensions (three spatial, plus time). Either that or it’s the repressed physicist in me geeking out. MT

Images were shot with a mix of hardware over the last year and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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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. Hello Ming, I just came upon these dimensionally collapsed landscapes and thought you might like them.

  2. Your geometry sensibility shows through nicely in these photographs. In addition all, but the guitar and the pottery, have a way of making the viewer pose himself questions that makes me go back and forth in an almost addictive way. Perhaps is the ambiguity of scale and point of view… who knows? I wonder what collapses the dimensionality first: the uncertainty of perspective or the lack of tonal gradations?

    • Thanks! The guitar and pottery (wood carving, actually) are probably the only ones that don’t have ‘hard’ geometries and acute angles that lend themselves to that kind of geometric collapse. For the guitar, scale is a giveaway as we know what that object is, and they tend not to range in size much (though in this case, it happens to be a ukulele rather than a full size bass!).

      IMO, the tonal gradation starts the collapse: you can’t see the edges as well so you can’t quite tell how something is positioned; the elimination of fine detail cues then collapses perspective. On top of that, the transition point between object and shadow starts to disappear, which collapses dimensionality further…

  3. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Fascinating !

    The “collapsed” ones are much more rewarding than Escher’s attempts – especially #1.

    The two photos with dark and weaving table and chair shadows are almost spooky – makes me think of Dr Caligari’s Cabinet…

    And a couple of nice riddles..

    So thanks for some calm and peaceful images in between,

    and a serene ending!

  4. Cool post, wonderful compositions! I share your appreciation of the science behind light 😊

  5. leecleland says:

    Interesting and that first one does my head in 🙂

  6. Ian Carroll says:

    Wonderful set, and nice to see a few familiar locations 🙂

  7. richard majchrzak says:

    the first one sings and rings….so much …..

  8. You know I love your B&W art Ming… this is some of the best. It’s the best when it’s hard to criticize…. 🙂

  9. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    A staggeringly simple explanation of why your architectural photography is so striking and (so often) black and white!

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