Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A cry for help!

It's been a while since I've had anything to say about Ming. So now is a good time to go peek at the pictures from his latest set of photos on The Idea of Man.

Look at the pictures seriously. Be generous, assume that they are "genuine," whatever that even means.

Take your time.

I'm not going to go in to some sort of amateur psychoanalysis here, but I think it's fair to point out that there's a consistent theme of anonymity, of tinyness, of solitude. We see the isolated silhouette, tiny in the frame and dominated by the urban environment, in 10 of the 12 photographs. The other two pictures are crowds, as anonymous as the lone figure, seen from odd angles, and from a distance.

If we take this thing as a philosophical statement, as the artist suggests, it is among the most nihilistic and depressing statements I have ever seen. Is the lone figure, repeated to the point of exhaustion, the artist? (In at least one case it is, in reflection). Is it supposed to be us? I think Ming's position is that it's an abstraction of Man. Does it mean anything that the artist is almost always lurking about behind the subjects, unnoticed, himself anonymous?

It hardly matters, there's no way this is a cheerful statement.

Taken seriously, this isn't so much a portfolio as much as it is a suicide note.


  1. This post reminds me of viewing abstract art (I don't care for most pieces personally) at an art museum...I may not care for it or even agree, but I can appreciate the intent and time spent creating it. I've read quite a few of your posts regarding Ming and I'm having a hard time understanding why you devote the time to "throw stones" his way. If you don't care for his work or writing move on. Yes I know it's your blog etc and I know I could move on as well. However, you have a lot of great things to say that I think gets lost in the cyber mud-slinging. Just a thought.

    Gary D.

    1. As I've stated pretty frequently in the past, I think that Mr. Thein (and his ilk) do quite a bit of damage, and I devote a little time, now and then, to undoing a little of that damage. Pedagogy is an interest of mine, and I have devoted considerable effort to writing about what's bad out there (most of it) and what's good.

      That said, I'm not really seeing any negativity or mudslinging in this particular post.

      I simply looked seriously at another photographer's published photographs, noted what is frankly a grim pattern, and reported it here.

      You can read a lot of stuff between the lines if you choose, and some of it might even be accurate. But I didn't write any of that out.

  2. Certainly not a positive view of life in Ming's photos, but to me more interesting than most of what I see online. Definitely a downer, though not sure I'd go as far as "suicide note."

    Perhaps we have been conditioned by your previous posts, but I did read this one as a bit negative. Perhaps it was the line about "be generous" that threw me off. That does seem to imply something about the quality of the photography.

    Aside from that, I agree that Ming and some others do damage and I applaud you for calling them out. It needs to be done more often by more people. But at the same time I find it the least interesting part of your writing and usually skim over those posts.

  3. So, I looked. What's the current expression ... meh?

  4. Really? Complaining that art isn't cheerful enough? I have to agree with the previous posters. Your throwing shade at Ming is starting to seem like it's a lot more about you than about him. Isolation, nihilism, anonymity are all fairly common themes when artists reflect on life for modern man. But I guess Kafka, Camus, etc etc etc aren't everyone's cup of tea.

    1. Please point out to me where I am "complaining" in the above. I'll wait.

    2. I was responding to "It hardly matters, there's no way this is a cheerful statement". I don't see why that matters. Should art be "cheerful"?

      You state that "there's a consistent theme" in this work. Thats a good thing to have in an exhibition. The photos are technically proficient. So its a consistent body of work thats well executed, and you make a blog post to focus on the artists statement and vision. Upon examining that statement and vision, you draw some somewhat disparaging conclusions about the artists psyche.

      Seriously... if you had said that themes "of anonymity, of tinyness, of solitude" are a cliche and really just a sophomoric recycling of post war 20th century perspectives you might have a point. It would be kind of a pedantic and dickish point, but a point just the same. But to say "look at his well executed and consistent body of work. He seems to have emotional issues" comes across as petty and seems to be a lot more about you than about him.

      On the other hand, Mings consistent and well executed work seems to have elicited a strong emotional response from you. So I suppose thats a win for Ming.

      Anyway, I'll echo one of the previous posters and say I enjoy the blog, but tend to skim the "I don't like Mr. ___" posts and find them to be the least interesting parts of what you have to say. By the way, I appreciate your openness to contrary viewpoints down here in the comments section. Cheers!

    3. "It hardly matters" may have a somewhat vague antecedent, I will stipulate.

      What I meant was that while there are many possible interpretations, many possible details you can guess at, none of those matter to the big picture, which is that the portfolio reads unambiguously as nihilistic at best, suicidal at worst.

      As for my personal opinion and reaction to the portfolio, I have deliberately left that out of this post, and will continue to. It's not relevant to these remarks.

  5. I went and looked at the collection before reading, of course, and then read the blogger's commentary (huh), then went away and thought for a day or so, then looked again, and read the comments.

    So, my first reaction, and even more so this second viewing is that "Ming's latest" - seems to me to be…. very restful, with just a touch of (almost pleasant?) melancholy.
    Interesting, yes?
    ...very restful, serene… now, one of my most effective and pleasing-to-me meditational exercises is to imagine a large beautiful hotel or a city completely empty except for me, and I walk around in it. Huh.
    So - Ming appears to have fairly successfully captured (& rendered in moody B&W for-the-oooh) something like "solitude-in-a-place-that-should-be-bustling" - I respond viscerally with MMMM… RESTFUL…. while the blogger… (perceives? places a label of? responds?) NIHILISTIC…two responses to Ming's EMPTY, perhaps from opposite ends of the something-or-other - one accepting/drowsily sliding into the lovely nihilism, and one that - partly but not completely - conceals something more like "defiantly hopeful", a raging against that pesky fading of the light as it were?

    As I say, interesting.

    (It's not art/a conversation if you have no response to it, neh)

    1. That is indeed interesting!

      (huffily) horses for courses I suppose.

      I think everyone so far agrees on the basic motifs of isolation, anonymity, and distance. It's really what you do with that. I read a flat black silhouette as ominous, a note of fear or threat. That's what comes out of my life, the movies and pictures I have seen, the books I've read, and even perhaps something of who I essentially am. Naturally I assume myself to stand in for all humanity, with astounding exactitude!

      But always one must suppose the possibility that it's not so.

      I take his second set, in color, rather more as you take this knee. The color and lightening of tone do change the mood.

  6. I had a look at the pictures. What stroke me is that they are very similar to mine. When I take pictures of people, they are also either anonymous crowds or single persons in the distance. The reason is quite simple: I can’t find a model who will agree that I use their pictures on my own page. I think this is the same for all photographers who follow Ming’s blog, so Ming is tailoring his images to his audience.

    When normal people take pictures today, they use a phone camera during a party and post the images on Facebook. I don’t do that, because I don’t have many Facebook friends and I am not invited to parties. When I post pictures on Facebook, people mock me for having only flowers or cityscapes. Which is probably deserved, my pictures are a proof that I am not a social person.

    You had some comments about Ming’s followers being older white dudes some time ago. This is true: the majority of people still interested in the technical aspects of photography as discussed on Ming’s site are probably of a similar background: male, with technical interests and no social life. Basically, they are the equivalent of Dilbert with a DSLR. No model wants to be associated with them. So when the subject is “The idea of man”, they have a problem: they lack models to photograph.

    If I had a project to do on the subject of “The idea of man”, I would try to travel a bit and photograph men of different races. A bit like a National Geographic documentary on human diversity. But I can’t do that and neither can Ming’s followers. So Ming adapted.

    Ming is writing for the Dilberts of this world who still think a DSLR is cool. Social people went to social networks, social failures stayed with gurus like Ming of Michael Reichman.

    1. An administrative note. Sure some reason your comments were dropping in to the spam bucket. I have published only the most recent copy. If there's material missing feel free to post a followon!

  7. No sure anyone will read this 5 years on but I just happen to stumble across this post - I looked at the photographs in the linked so called “photosaay” and this issue is that whilst the intentions are vaguely clear, the execution is just terrible. The photographer employed no vision in approaching the subject, or subjects, in a way isolating them from their environment as solitary figures - they just merge within the rather irritating and massively contrast patchwork of black and white.