I’m a photographer from Hanoi, Vietnam, working in the domain of photography, videos and drawings. As of now, I’m more known for my editorial/fashion photography which incorporate creative story-telling with whimsical visual aesthetic. On the other hand, I also work on more fine art oriented projects, in drawings, photography and videos around themes of physical public space and virtual privacy. Currently I’m in Columbus, Ohio to complete my under-graduate in Fine Art.
Columbus is a complete opposite of Hanoi. It’s definitely a growing city, and an underrated one. There are a lot of activities, innovations, and creativity here, even though changes take place at a much slower pace than Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, where I was for the past 2 years.
The cultural diversity of Columbus – it’s a city with a large immigrant community. I love learning about other cultures through food and Columbus is quite rich on both. Worst thing: not having a car, which inhibits a lot of my exploration. My time in Vietnam was very meaningful, as having a motorbike lent a lot of freedom to me as well as my creativity.
Essentially no one is paying for your time to be “an artist” whatsoever: social and financial pressures have been two of the many reasons why people hold back from doing art, but things are changing.
I have always identified with being a creative in Vietnam more than in America. Flexible, self-driven and humble are the 3 words I would use. Among many young “creative industry” peers and friends I have made in Vietnam, I noticed this common pattern in a lot of them. Many come from families that don’t have anything to do with art, thus they have to work doubly as hard to prove their capacity. Essentially no one is paying for your time to be “an artist” whatsoever: social and financial pressures have been two of the many reasons why people hold back from doing art, but things are changing.
I have it the easy way, was very lucky to be able to pursue Fine Art in my under-graduate. Even though I still have 2 minor in Photography & Graphic Design, knowing that will be my source of income right out of college. And that was true, during the past gap years in Vietnam that’s how I sustain myself: working both commercial photography and graphic design gigs. I still work on independent art projects on the side, as they are good chances where mistakes are acceptable (versus in a professional work setting there’re not a lot of room for experiments and mistakes). Though they don’t come with financial rewards directly – based on the ephemeral & mundane nature of my work, these projects have often led me to the most interesting people and can open a lot of doors in the future.
I was very fortunate to be born into a family of architects so yes. My parents are very business-minded, so as long as I’m making money they are supportive of my choice. Obviously friends are supportive, even though I don’t see myself as an artist. I prefer to see this whole “commercial” work as a career and the side projects as a life-long hobby and education. Plus there are so many jobs out there that involves creativity, that “creative” as a work title kind of cringes me a little bit. What does that even mean? Or what if one works a really boring job 9-5 but is the most creative person when it comes to his gardening hobby? I think about that a lot: the dissimilarity between hobby and work, and how they don’t always have to be in one thing.
I think about that a lot: the dissimilarity between hobby and work, and how they don’t always have to be in one thing.
I’m trying to learn more about 3D modeling, as it is already very big and still has a lot of growth room in the future, in photography & advertising. Thinking about taking an image without having to use the camera excites me. In the near 5-year future, I want to gain more experience in art direction, both in photography and graphic design. The upcoming semester is the year where I focus more on graphic work. Eventually, I hope to work as a creative director, as the real exciting part of any project to me is the planning, the research, the pre-production work: translating a brief into visual communications with the users in mind. My fine art projects can happen on the side, hopefully, they can help me get residencies in different countries. The last residency I did was at Objectifs Center for Photography in Singapore and it was very eye-opening. One month of focused work was an intense period, academically, personally & emotionally. So yes, different things on my timeline but I have time.
David Lynch. When it comes to collaboration, I want to learn from the other’s work ethic and how they draw inspirations. Curiosity and ambition are two deciding factors in any creative project and Lynch’s work is a manifesto of that. Sometimes we forget/ can’t afford to be curious as an adult. Thinking of his work is a good reminder.
Fierce. Vietnamese women are the strongest, most graceful and most beautiful women I know. Living in such a patriarchal society, that’s why they have to work three times as hard to be recognized. Recently thanks to social media & #Metoo, the younger generation have been more vocal on women’s rights issues & gender inequality, but even the older generation – my grandmothers’ generation – still offers many role models in terms of work spirit, strength & resistance. My grandmother is still working as a researcher in biochemistry – even at the age of 70. To me, that’s very inspiring.
Vietnamese women are the strongest, most graceful and most beautiful women I know.
My mother is an architect and a business-women. It’s cheesy to answer “mom” for this question but she truly is. I don’t think I have met anyone as aggressive and fearless as she is. Growing up seeing her directing crews of male workers on-site (she works in the construction industry) while killing it as a college professor, aerobic teacher, serial real-estate dealer, and home cook, all at the same time is daunting and inspiring. “Get shit done” is her mantra and over the years I have stolen that too.
I work with a lot of women all the time, in both commercial practice and fine art. At least not in this industry, as women seem more dominant than men. Even though having babies and family are definitely obstacles that females still have to face when it comes to time management and career advancement. As I said, the women I know often work three times as hard as their male counterparts, to gain the same recognition. Just because it’s invisible work doesn’t mean it’s not work.
Just because it’s invisible work doesn’t mean it’s not work.
Be observant and critical, take inspiration from different sources & your own experiences. Non-art experiences and take-away are as valid as a visually aesthetic “mood-board”. Nowadays, everyone is a curator so make sure your inspiration finds are unique. Work hard & make lots of back-up plans.
Photos courtesy of Lac Hoang.
December 15, 2019