Photoessay: Life, observer and observed

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Alternative title: observing people observing the world. Actually, I feel about as detached from these images as the subjects feel detached from their surroundings. In a strange way I feel this coldness of mood works quite well for the given subject matter and creative intent; on top of that, color would have inevitably suggested moods or emotions that are neither appropriate nor sufficiently sangfroid. Actually, on second curation – I can’t help but see can alternative interpretation in a lot of situations. Missing is that feeling of intense focus implied by observation; rather there’s just a sort of blank mechanised obliviousness. This is probably not helped by the predominantly low key tonal palette; I’ve always liked that possibility of ambiguity and mystery suggested by it (regular readers will probably notice a distinct lack of high key monochrome here) – eyes you can’t see tend to mask the thoughts of the individual. MT

Shot over a period of time with a Nikon Z7, Olympus Pen F and various lenses; images are SOOC JPEG using my Nikon Z7 picture control pack, or specific Pen F settings.

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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. Humans are the best.

  2. Is it detachment or perhaps a touch of depression? These are the kind of pictures I take, (although not of the same quality), when I “am being visited by the black dog” as Winston Churchill used to say. They seem to deliberately capture a rather somber outlook of the people around you, be they at work or whatever.
    You certainly have caught their mood skilfully.

    • Probably a bit of both; as I’ve always said, a photograph says just as much (probably more) about the person doing the seeing as the subjects being seen…it is after all also a curation of what you’re not seeing, too.

  3. Beautiful work and selection, Ming!

  4. Fabulous documentation of the topic Ming. The images are very strong and properly because the empty space leave our consciousness to project our own identity into the frames. I witness the detachment, but certainly feel the attachment studying the frames.
    u43 cameras are excellent tools capturing low key B&W. 6 months after I sold my total u43 system to shoot FF only, I realized I missed the format so much I had to reinvest in a new set again.

    • Thanks, Gerner. Fortunately it seems it’s much easier to tune the recent Nikon FF output to match this, so no complaints here… 🙂

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