Saturday, November 21, 2015

Photographically Rich Environments

Here's a piece from Ming. For once I'm kind of neutral about it, and I didn't even look at the pictures, really.

The comments as currently trending flow with the piece, reiterating the point I am about to make, so they might be worth a skim.

The whole enterprise in which these people are engaged has the cart before the horse, or possibly they've actually got a cat in the harness backwards.

They're taking about locations, cities, and how photographically interesting or not this city is, or that, and the relative advantages to being a visitor versus a native. Ming talks about how infrequently the light is good in Kuala Lumpur.

The essential problem throughout is that these people are all shooting things. And, since they have read on the internet about The Light! They know they want 'good light'.

Who the hell wants a flattering picture of a building? There are various reasons the building's architect or owner might want some flattering pictures of it, but I certainly don't want to hang one on my wall.

If instead of photographing things, you photograph ideas, then the only quality of a location that matters is whether or not you have ideas there. I am amused that Ming finds it hard to photograph Kuala Lumpur because, basically, it looks wrong.

Nothing looks wrong. Everything looks just like itself. Why on earth would you want to shoot Kuala Lumpur like it's Chicago? Shoot it like itself and you might get something worth keeping. Shoot it like some low rent Chicago and its gonna look like a low rent Chicago.


  1. I followed Ming for a while and then gave up. He is technically superb, few can touch him, and the info he puts out is excellent. When I got my first digital camera, a Sony Cybershot, I realized that now 'any idiot' could produce a great photo. Properly exposed and correctly focused, things that always gave me trouble with my all manual SLR, was no longer an issue. I felt a great sense of relief, because I realized that I could give up the pursuit of 'technical excellence' and instead concentrate on bringing out things like emotion, and atmosphere in my photos, things that really mattered to me. Everybody has a different take on photography and mine just totally diverges from Ming's - so be it.

  2. I think that Ming Thein definitely has ideas; it's just that they don't seem to be your kind of ideas (as seem to be manifest in your Nov. 5 "Mist and Spirits"). What he seems to me to be after in today's posting (and in many previous ones) is a kind of abstract art, in which Jay Maisel's trinity of "light, gesture, color" is manifest in the lines, surfaces, and lighting of urban buildings. It's no more justified to say that he has no ideas than that Mondrian or Malevich or Sheeler had no ideas. Given that he's using photography rather than paint, he depends on the brightness, directionality, and quality of light (as well as the building geometries and surfaces) to bring his ideas to life.