Photoessay: homogeneity

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If most structures are designed to fit in with their surroundings, it stands to reason they’ll be a visual average of the buildings on either side, or a sort of mirror; factor in stylistic changes, function and the trends of the time of construction, and the mirror also includes dilution. Eventually, we have mirrors of mirrors. It even happens at a variety of scales, with similar distorted vignettes in every pane of glass. I actually struggled to find the right word for the title. What I’m trying to describe isn’t so much uniformity as an averaging towards the same; yet it’s not entropy because it’s an ordered state. And it’s not replication because the structures aren’t exactly the same; they can’t be since they were constructed individually and had to fit whatever their immediate surroundings of the time were. Perhaps the best description is starting with a collection of random objects, replacing one by one with a mirror; the mirrors are not symmetrically placed, and little of the original chaos remains – but just enough that there is a very diluted flavour left… MT

Shot with a variety of hardware in a number of cities over several years.

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  1. Speaking of averaging, and referencing Mark S post and the driving forces behind it in architecture, we see this even more markedly in automotive design.

    Legislation requires lights to be at a certain height above ground, bonnet (hood to those of you who are Stateside) height also at prescribed height. Then the underling need to implement the most low drag way of packaging the passenger, engine and luggage compartments and its no wonder I can no longer differentiate makers competing models when their badges are not in view.

    I find it sad the buildings and cars, items that I considered a form of art, no longer hold any appeal.On a positive note: I feel assured that the best looking examples of these items that will lever be built are already in existence.

    • It’s made worse by the car designers all playing musical chairs, plus the corporate desire for recognisability with low risk -= this means everything within a brand starts to look the same, then other brands look like each other. I’m inclined to agree that for the most part, anything heavily legislated has already been largely optimised to the point that either no further changes can happen, or there has to be a massive step change to the point that the new thing that replaces it doesn’t even fall under the same category of ‘thing’ – e.g. are convertible flying cars aircraft or cars? And even then, it’s only a matter of when things get regulated up the wazoo (drones, for example). It’s often been said that if the car industry were to start anew today, it would never pass any of the legal bodies. After all, who would agree it to be a good idea to put a two-ton 200km/h guided projectile in the hands of a 16 year old with a few days of training?

  2. Architectural zoo, in the words of reader Mark S. That would be London, no?

  3. You might be missing one concept that as an architect and photographer, I can share. Some designers process provides for designing buildings from the inside out. IE, start with the functional criteria and work to the exterior. Some prefer to blend in and others try to stand out. Capturing architectural images with honest means to me, trying to understand and share the designer’s intent.

    • Thank for providing this insight. However, I would assume this is always the case as a baseline – why would you build something that isn’t functionally useful? Moreover, why would the client pay for something that doesn’t do what they need it to? Externally, there are many possible interpretations and presentations of the same contents, but the uniformity of what are non-functional design choices was what I was trying to get at with this presentation.

      • Since the main driver of the interior configuration of speculative office buildings (most of what’s pictured!) is flexibility, they tend to manifest in similar ways on the outside – regular modules of around 1.5m, limited changes in depth (not good to have people arguing about offices that are slightly varied in size) and plane (hard to fit stuff into angled spaces), with artistic expression in the form often limited to corners, ends, or isolated bays.

        The next layer is the cost of constructing the exterior, which leads to the predominant mode of our time, the unitized aluminum curtain wall. Max repetition and flatness is required, plus energy requirements lead to fairly reflective insulated glass, and you get exactly the sort of averaging you describe.

        Given a more varied and less unknown set of interior uses, a free site, and lots of money, you get an architectural zoo rather than an architectural forest.

        • “Zoo rather than forest” – a very good way of putting it.

          Still, it all feels ready to be filled with hamsters on treadmills in cubicles, so I guess you’re probably right…

          • Architecture is always an expression of the society that produces it. Our times are extremely streamlined and the quest for profit extremely tuned. Clients are extremely risk averse and the available facade products (that’s what it is) are very limited in scope.

            One of the best things with being an architect is traveling and being able to read the society the produced the city or the buildings through it’s architecture. Societies never succeed in hiding their inner logic or their true face. Architecture is much to expensive and complicated for that.

            The worst thing with being an architect is that you are completely at the mercy of the society you work within. You cannot really step outside it, except rarely and to a limited extent, with private clients.

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