Off topic photoessay: a new chapter for Malaysia

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I have never been interested in politics – mostly because the same party has been in power in my country since independence; more than 60 years. A change of government is no big deal in most democracies; but the concept of democracy had been largely theoretical until two days ago – the incumbents ensured there was simply no credible opposition to vote for even if you were inclined to. I – and many others – had come to the conclusion that democracy was merely an illusion. We were proven wrong two days ago when the opposition was elected into power by a surprisingly large margin; never mind that the opposition was lead by a 93-year old former prime minister who switched sides, and the supporting cast of actors was largely the same as before. Never mind that Malaysians voted for fundamentally the same thing as we had 20 years before (if that’s not a pervasively conservative attitude, I don’t know what is). And never mind that some of the promises made (as with every election) may not make complete rational sense – the real news is that we actually had a choice. At the very least, this gives us hope that things can change: and from now on, change will happen if the people aren’t happy.

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Photoessay: The beginning of the end

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I suppose it depends much on your own personal perspective: it could also be the beginning of your new life, should you be one of those people who bought into the starter (or not so starter) home. But I find something rather sad in this series – which is ironic as we were staying at a neighbouring high-rise that undoubtedly was cleared out of the very same jungle not so many years before. I accept of course that change, progress is necessary, and there’s an ever-increasing number of people for a finite amount of land: yet there’s also a rather strong melancholic feeling that sometimes we are chasing our own tails in the pursuit of an ever-receding and increasingly nebulous goal of happiness, but only in the form that social media deems is correct. That said: exactly then same thing could be said about the very first people to carve a space out of the jungle for themselves, and the same thing again about the wildlife and jungle that came from the ooze: who’s right? The one thing I take away from this, and especially again in a photographic sense: change is constant, and relativity is subjective. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-50c, 80 and 150mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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A small change in workflow…

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…can yield surprisingly major results. Think of this post as something of a continuation of the previous On Assignment; the reasons why will become apparent shortly. Over the last year or so – I think coinciding with switching to Hasselblad – my shooting/curating workflow has become quite different, and I think the shift in my output has as much to do with the change in process as hardware. In some ways, the change is due to hardware limitations – but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What I’ve always done in the past is some level of during-shoot curation; both for technical qualities (exposure, sharpness etc.) and aesthetic/ creative ones. During personal or teaching outings, I’d be much more disciplined and ruthless in throwing away what I’d consider marginal images; for client work, somewhat more relaxed – keeping doubles and variations just in case (which has proven fortuitous in the past).

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Short term pain, long term gain

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Exotic beasts. Yes, the 100MP cameras have been shipping for some time now; yes, that one is mine – the door gifts at HQ are amazing! – and yes, I’ll be posting a report once I’ve had a chance to live with and use it for a while.

I’m writing this on the way home from a very intense tour of Europe – a visit to see my brother, review and refine design for the second generation of bags (yes, there will be a smaller one!) visit some clients, meet some alumni and check in on the status of a couple of other projects. Since I was broadly in the right area – and because it’s a bit of a trek otherwise – I had to make a pilgrimage to Hasselblad HQ.

It turns out I arrived at precisely the peak of activity. Yes, there’s been another announcement; yes, there are necessary changes, and yes, it appears that the DJI deal was true – the silence being deafening. Many things were taking place during my visit that were restricted to high level management. In any case, I was much more interested in the historical prototype lens cabinet.

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State of play: the business of photography today

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A less literal selfie. Selfies are a huge part of photography today: but there’s no business model here. And the underlying reason is inextricably linked to why we find photography appealing in the first place.

The game is changing, yet again – faster than ever. In today’s post I’d like to address the current state of play of the industry, and where I see it moving in the next year or two. Unlike just about every other industry, most of photography is unique in that there are no real benefits to scale anymore – even if you are a creative design house, there are good reasons to have a larger team such as specialisation. But instead we are seeing larger studios cut staff and run lean, and production houses giving way to collectives who band together as required for projects, but do not carry an aggregate P&L. Blogging has become an industry, though saturated. And the lack of regulation and standards is once again affecting all of us in the long run. Is there hope in dark corners? Perhaps, but we’re going to have to be brave, masochistic and resourceful to take advantage of it. I’ve broken it down by category for ease of analysis; usually multiple categories apply.

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Recognizability, uniqueness, creativity and style

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Tokyo, 2007

Today’s article was inspired by a comment made by one of my readers a couple of months back: “It is interesting to look at your posts around 2 years back. I originally found the blog through reviews (surprise) but kept reading due to the good available light photography. Now a lot of the photos from back then look quite dated in comparison to your recent work, especially the processing.” I don’t know if it’s just the processing, or the fact that the processing is now entirely subservient to the idea, not locked into what is required for a certain look or style. I’ve always had an internal conflict between making images that are recognisably ‘Ming Thein’, not getting stuck in the same mould, and to a somewhat lesser extent, making images that are different from everything else. To anybody serious enough about photography that they seek to make a name for themselves – be it through commercial or gallery work* – I suspect this is not a unique conundrum. So what can we do?

*Arguably the same at times

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