Photoessay: Objectified

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I admit this set is a bit of a mixed bag. But sometimes we come across objects, things, miniature scene of texture and color that are too good to ignore and too incoherent to fit into any other curation. They’re not really bound together by anything save a transition of color and form; seeing at its most basic. Nothing a client will ever pay for, but you might notice a physical layout or quality of light that might come in useful later; especially if you shoot product or still life. They’re the little serendipitous tributes to light and the kind of thing that to be honest – only photographers and painters really notice or get turned on by. Like well-executed musical scales, the pleasure of execution is for the artist alone. No need to feel guilty, we’re among friends here. MT

This series was shot with a wide variety of hardware over about a year, and mostly 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. Ming, I really like this set, but perhaps for a different reason than most of the commentators so far. I think the photos are stronger because they are in a sequence than any one by itself, and the sequencing in this particular set is strong. For example, of the 1st 5 red photos, I’d probably just swap the headlight and the rusty beams, but otherwise that sequence is great. The transitions into the other colors are also very interesting, and could bear more investigation for the future.

    In my own work, I’m starting to move away from single photos now, as I find them kind of boring, even ones that I’d like a lot in the past (and now!). The more interesting thing for me is to make a sequence of photos that is some sort of narrative, even if that narrative is abstract, as in this set of yours so maybe that’s why I’m looking at this set the way I am.

    • Thanks Andre. I saw the sequencing here as a transition between forms and colours but with almost nothing else linking; this is also true of how I approach most other presentations, but usually the subject matter also has some bearing on the logical flow. Not so much here…

      The risk with sequences is always that one favourite either outshines the rest or gets buried; both are curation problems of a sort, I guess.

      • Brooks Jensen, the editor of Lenswork magazine and a prolific and thoughtful podcaster, has written about this subject: working on groups of photographs rather than individual images. The argument is that fifty years ago it was a significant challenge to create a well exposed, artistically rendered print. With the tools available now, doing that is much easier. Of course it’s still challenging to see artistically. But the point is that sometimes you might include a single image that’s not as strong in lieu of a stronger image in the interest of making the collection as a whole as strong as it can be. An interesting progression in how we produce photographic projects.

        • I’ve always seen that as necessary since the overall narrative might require context that can only be provided by an image that isn’t as interesting as some of the others in the set. Perhaps this is a consequence of me working on assignments early on where there the deliverables were sets/series/narratives; often both to be presented as a complete set as well as a condensed précis. It’s also an inherent limitation of photography since in order to irrefutably suggest causality we need to present multiple static images, which in turn requires planning and series curation.

  2. Pavel P. says:

    kind of photos i shoot most of the time, play of forms, colours, light… / wait, this approach was fighting with documentary style I also did most of the time 🙂 /
    like minded people understand…majority dont usually

    • I’m not sure they do fight – one is a record that prioritises people and actions; the other is a record that priorities form and light. They’re both documentary of transients, but with a different subject focus.

      • Pavel P. says:

        My inner fight. In last couple of years I came to belief, that documentary photography of people is the “important” type of photography. That serious type of photography, that I “should” do. I was on the edge of street and documentary. Shooting people to make an evidence of …I don’t find words. But maybe it was just that I was looking at other people’s photos (I did). Maybe it was just fascination by photos of people like Koudelka and such. Maybe thats why I came to shooting document of people in black and white. Maybe it was only the fascination of certain aesthetics.

        • Perhaps because you feel there is an added layer of emotion, humanism or something else from the documentary that cannot be had with inanimate subjects?

  3. The pure joy of seeing is better than any ‘theme’

  4. Truly beautiful photographs . . .

  5. Absolutely gorgeous photos. Your eye is drawn to little things and when isolated, they become big things for those of us looking at your details. Thanks. you’re an inspiration.

    • Thanks – I always find the tricky bit knowing where to end the framing. How much context is too much? There are often a lot of variations, but the ‘right’ one doesn’t make itself felt until some time after capture.

  6. Dare I say it, Ming, but you seem to be on a roll. Your recent posts speak for themselves. Great work.

  7. Kristian Wannebo says:

    A very interesting and rewarding mixture!
    And some are just lovely.

    The kind of photos one just has to take if one manages to see them!

  8. Hugh Rigley says:

    By the way when I say stuff it is meant in the nicest possible way. When people ask me about my photography I always reply “it’s just my stuff”. I don’t know why, however, it goes back decades. And I forgot to ask when you are doing another camera bag? Would love to see a small one strap design a bit bigger than the Billingham digital. Enjoy all my camera bags, but the digital seems always to be on my shoulder. I decided sometime ago (after many, many bags) that one strap bags were for me. Possibly an age thing! Having said all that my second favourite bag is the Billingham Leica. Now if they would only get rid of that superfluous second front strap. Perfection!

    • ‘Stuff’ is pretty much how I think of it, too – it’s too difficult to define precisely, and somehow feels constraining to even consider doing so.

      No more bags for the time being, lots of issues with production partners and fulfilment last time…unless I can find a solution to this, I think there may not be another. You might want to consider the Hadley Small Pro though…

  9. Hugh Rigley says:

    Just to say, I really like this stuff Ming. A lot! Very, very nice.


  10. Rube (Redfield) says:

    Sir, we call those ‘rubers,’ and I shoot them personally almost everyday on my daily photo strolls. Have for years. I am not sure anybody likes them but me. . . but I don’t care, I shoot them anyway. And yours are superb!


  11. Michael says:

    Beautiful! Some of the most satisfying images of late. Each one invites the eye in to wander around a bit before moving on.

  12. Terry B says:

    What a magically atmospheric image #6 is, Ming. It imparts a wonderful feeling of serenity and peace.

  13. Paul Wilson says:

    For a loosely-themed curation, this contains some of my favourites shots seen on this site, The last two, plus the bananas and the chair shadows, are simply great images and would not look out of place in an exhibition with this theme.

  14. I like shooting things like this too. It’s a kind of antidote to the “there’s nothing to shoot” mentality which can turn up from time to time. Of the pictures here, I think the blue/yellow diagonal composition (for want of a better title) is particularly impressive.

    I shoot this kind of thing mostly with my iPhone, for some reason, which suggests that I don’t consider it quote-unquote “serious” photography, although the results can be just as interesting as those shot with my other gear.

    While you make it sound like a kind of off-hand, experimental thing, is it not in a way quite an advanced idea – the ability to see things where most people would not? I always thought that a photographer’s progress could be seen (at least in one aspect) by a sort of “gross” to “subtle” seeing style. While I don’t usually pay attention to the people around me when I’m out shooting (I’ve usually got noise-cancelling headphones on), I can tell when I’m shooting something like this because I get funny looks and people staring at what I was shooting! Whereas if you’re pointing your camera at the same thing everyone else is, nobody notices you…

    • There’s always something to shoot – actually, all of these are nothing more than shadows: all of the compositions wouldn’t work without the hard light that generates half of the geometry. It might seem experimental but surely being able to see contrast (and thus shadows) is one of the fundamental underpinnings of photography…?

      Actually when you point your phone at anything, people mostly ignore you…which makes is rather nice to use 🙂

  15. Simply brilliant!

  16. Michael Fleischer says:

    A great flow of pictures with a fine tonal progression from your curation. I would also add the love of the chase of discovering
    or looking deliberate for such scenes that form their own sort of logic in composition –
    often with more than one frame as an outcome, since they can work as an inspirational mental sketchbook too!
    Love especially the second one with the blue chair against the red wall, No 12 with the blue wall & window
    as well as the last one.

  17. Hey! all those photographs are brilliant. Great job.!

  18. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    That almost read like an apology, Ming. But there’s no need. Nobody who doesn’t appreciate what you do would be here in the first place, seeing what you post.
    I have two favourite sites, and every day when I look on my computer, I am looking to see if I am lucky and there’s a post from either or both of them. Today I am lucky – there’s this one.
    I know it’s crass to ask – but what did you take the first shot with? – that degree of detail is hard to capture, without shooting larger – and once you shoot larger, the depth of field because a problem. I spent some time looking at an enlarged version. Fantastic!
    And then I tried to scroll down. But scrolling proved impossible. I kept stopping and staring.
    Just as you always feed us, Ming – bugger the subject matter – Lord knows how you catalogue these shots – but the photography is superb. 🙂

    • The apology was for my usual lack of extremely tight thematic curation – not for a lack of quality 😉

      First image was shot with an X1D.

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