Photoessay: Nighthawk

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I think it’s very difficult to be in the US and not subconsciously influenced by Hopper, especially when walking around Manhattan; little vignettes rear their head and intrude into your field of view. One is powerless to do anything but raise the camera, and hit the button. Repeatedly. Then put your own twist and context on it, and try to parse it in a modern context. It’s actually quite easy to see where the painters of the era got their inspiration. Despite being painted nearly a century ago…it seems the mood hasn’t changed that much – or at least at the time these were shot, pre-COVID, that was the feeling I got. As with all of these things, I wish I’d had more time…what you see is but the briefest impression of a transient. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls.

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Prints 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. taildraggin says:

    My mom and dad lived a block from that diner in the mid to late ’50s before I was born and I go by there every once in awhile to check in so I can her know what’s changed. Dad had a Leica IIIf and did shoot around there a bunch. Murray Hill has always been a bit dull, for Manhattan. It was the reasonable priced neighborhood for working men and women, a true Hopper part of town. Nice tribute to plain Murray Hill, thanks.

    • Thanks! I wonder…did it have the notoriety back then because of the painting?

      Edit: I read that wrong. Turns out Hopper said the cafe in his painting was fictional…

  2. BW Pridgen says:

    First time poster, long time lurker here. Have you ever looked at the work of Saul Leiter? Some of your images remind me of his New York street work, and I mean that as sincere compliment!

  3. The last photo of the diner indeed looks very “Hopper” like! But the whole series is great.

  4. Nice play of light and colors. I am a Hopper fan as well, but many modern urban cities in America remind me less and less of Hopper’s America as they continue to redevelop and in many cases, gentrify. Just as the iconic 1050’s photos of people reading newspapers on the streets, in the subways and in railroad cars has been replaced by scenes of wireless earbuds and faces looking down at smartphones. I am sure these scenes may look iconic in 50 years time, but I am just not finding them as photo worthy when I am among them, or should I say was among them pre-COVID19.


    • Thanks – I agree, but I wonder how much of that is perspective, too. If we didn’t see the change happen, and see only the difference to today’s times – would that make it interesting? Hard to say.

  5. these are great 🙂

  6. A very interesting essay. The modern city after dark strikes me as unusually full of possibilities. It’s not only Hopper. Neon offers Pop Art and jazz, graffiti and piles of rubbish and building materials offer Pollock or Rauschenberg, empty spaces offer the uncanny and sometimes the downright spooky noir, buildings suggest all manner of artists and photographers among them Berenice Abbott, and the colours and light offer endless cinematic suggestions. A rich recipe! Thanks for reminding me.

  7. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    LOVE it! – love the use of reflections, to bamboozle people and draw them into the image, to explore how you created it – love available light photography, and candid or street, and love the combination of them! You’re silent – but in your silence, you are teaching peopl how to “see”, and teaching them about “light” No wonder I love your blog so much! 🙂
    Hope you and your family are keeping well, Ming, in these difficult times.

    • Thanks! I can’t say I’m teaching people actively anymore – hence the silence, I’ve mostly said everything I want to or have to – I just put my photos where my mouth is…

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        ROTFLMHAO – and “pictures speak louder than words”?

        • Well, more like inability to force horses to drink…

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            LOL – my version of that is “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it think!” Either will do – we both understand perfectly what you mean.

  8. Superbes photos !!!

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