Thursday, April 15, 2021

Photography

Aron Schuftan

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© Aron Schuftan
Attitude

Could you share a bit about your background and what you do for a living? “MUTT”– My friends have called me this my whole life and, to be honest – I don’t mind. My mother is Vietnamese and my father was born and raised in Chile to German parents. I spent my adolescence in Nairobi, Kenya, but have been fortunate to have lived all over the world including Cameroon, Spain, Puerto Rico, Chile and the US.

For me, the art is in the capture, not later in front of a computer. What you see is what I saw, when I saw it.

To be honest, these various clashing of cultures have never made me feel like an outsider- if anything, it made me feel always accepted where every I went which I feel has translated into my life and my art.

I am a 43 years old doctor, specializing as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Family Medical Practice and American International Hospital.

I have been living in Vietnam for 4 years now, but have been coming to Vietnam regularly (first time I came here was 1986) since my parents relocated to Saigon from Kenya in 1995.
Besides photography, I love to travel, play soccer with the Saigon Raiders, Saigon’s oldest ex-pat team and I recently began playing the “Handpan”, a relatively new instrument for me.

How would you describe your Instagram wall? My wall is an honest diary of what I see in my day-to-day, from the many countries/places I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in and visited.

As a “street photographer”, it is important to me to capture a moment, a feeling –without manipulating my subject or environment. I try to be “a fly on the wall” and capture exactly what I see. But at the same time, I try to capture the unusual or the ordinary but in a new way.

How did you start? What was your inspiration? I started taking pictures at an early age to document my travels, but really started getting into it while in college in New Orleans, when I was gifted my father’s antique Zeiss Ikon camera… it’s been a love affair ever since.

What are your favourite elements to use in your visuals? I love to find repeating patterns and use natural “frames” in my images. I also try to use wide-angle lenses and incorporate “leading lines” into my shots.

I find both to be great tools to pull the viewer in and to capture as much of the subject’s environment – which I believe makes a better visual story.

For me, not only is the image important, but also the title. Often I have the title of the shot before I even take the picture – in essence, the title makes my image. I think it stems from the first picture I ever saw that “moved” me.

It was a black and white photograph of a pair of feet by Annie Leibowitz and the title was “Pele”. As an image alone perhaps not so special but with the added title, a whole new meaning evolved – a portrait of arguably the world’s most famous feet. Since then I always strive to find a title that makes my viewer think one-step beyond the image.

Do you see social media as a tool to inspire or the other way around? I believe it’s a double-edged sword – yes, the mass, instant, dissemination of information and images can help and inspire, but at the same time, I do believe we have crossed the line: it has bred a new generation of completely self-absorbed narcissists and given fame (and a platform) to the ridiculous and menial. I mean, really, do we care what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast? But I guess I may be the wrong person to ask; I am not exactly the social media demographic. Then again, social media got me this article so I guess it can’t be all bad, can it?

Who is your Instagram for? Mostly for family and friends, but I do secretly admit that I enjoy getting likes from strangers around the world.

What do you hope viewers get from your work? I hope my images allow my viewers to see and experience new places, a new culture and feel an emotion. This desire has often lead to me to capture moments that some of my audience find displeasing (eg: my series of photos from a dog meat market in Hanoi). But to be honest, I appreciate the positive praise as much as negative comments. For me, the fact that my images cause a strong emotion (good or bad) is what I strive for as an artist.

What is challenging about Instagram? Not only as relates to Instagram, but to social media in general: it is hard to get noticed as an artist and have your work really appreciated. Today EVERYONE is a photographer and people’s attention span is shrinking.

Also, with the advent of Photoshop, the nature of photography has changed – now it doesn’t matter so much how good you are at capturing a moment, but rather how good of a graphic designer you are. Some would say it is the “evolution of photography”, or “it’s what we used to do in the darkroom”.

But for me, as a purist, I try to do no post-production of my work (no cropping, no Photoshop), so I don’t buy it. I believe the art is in the capture, not later in front of a computer. What you see in my pictures is what I saw, when I saw it. But then again, as this is a hobby for me, I have the benefit of making that decision. I totally understand (and sympathize) with my professional photographer friends whos clients want a perfect image and they don’t care if you got it on your first shot or after 10 hrs manipulating it on a computer screen.

Looking back at when you started, how much has your style evolved and how? As I look back through my photos I can see different phases that I went through.

Abstract, architecture, fashion, nature- having only done photography as a hobby, I have had the freedom to take pictures of anything I want. But I find that what currently inspires me is the people of Vietnam: I shoot mostly children and the elderly. I find “innocence” and “wisdom” interesting subject matters. In any case, I always try to incorporate visual elements in my shots that tell a story and are not just “pretty” pictures.

What are some of your favourite insta accounts to follow? I love National Geographic’s Instagram (and to be honest am jealous of it). It would be my dream come true to work for them (if anyone can introduce me I would appreciate it!). But I am also a big fan of Justin Mott’s work (@askmott) who was a fellow contestant/judge of mine in “Photo Face Off” – a photography reality show on History Channel that I was lucky to be a part of. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjMW4-o1kv8)

What can we expect to see on your Instagram in the future? Hopefully more of the same, but better 🙂

 

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Vuong Nguyen – Lover of no one

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© Copyright Vuong Nguyen

Photography to me means telling visual stories of humanity and love.

When I frame the image, I try to create an imperfect – romantic photograph.

A camera is a moment keeper.

Vuong Nguyen is my name and Saigon is my hometown. I am a photographer, an artist and a self-taught filmmaker; recently I’m studying Visual Arts at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Regarding photography, I’ve taken photographs for more than 5 years, the very first chance for me to use a camera is when I went out on a road trip to Long Hai in Ba Ria provide with my friend, she lent me her camera, and it was a Canon 60D, we took many photos of the sunrise and the ocean.

I still remember precisely the beauty of that moment, when I was gazing at the large yellow light that is slowly coming out from the horizon of the ocean, the sun of that time was like a massive fireball in my taken photos.

I still remember precisely the beauty of that moment, when I was gazing at the large yellow light that is slowly coming out from the horizon of the ocean, the sun of that time was like a massive fireball in my taken photos. Therefore, I was fell in love with photography from that day.

So, taking photo became my biggest hobby, I got for myself a Nikon D90 which is also my first camera; I spent much time just hanging out Saigon and some places to take pictures. Taking photographs means you can freeze special moments that happening around you. I would say photography is a ticket for you to become a time traveller whenever you have a look through all your pictures you have taken.

Since then I’m having for myself more than five cameras including digital and analogue ones. Now I’m using mostly is Nikon F5 and Nikon FM II which are amazing cameras. Lover of no one is the newest photographic series of mine; I used an analogue camera which was Nikon FM II with Rollei 35mm film to capture pictures of street life in Sydney. Also with photos in black and white, there is more contrast of deep feeling that I want to give the viewers.

Moreover, Lover of no one also is a recognition of a disconnected society. Even though Sydney is a most crowded city in the world, but somehow, I found the emptiness, loneliness of people in modern society. Each person is invisible to another, and there is no contact, not much engagement between people.

It was challenging when I decided to make the series, and there was two big obstacle that I faced. Firstly, my biggest question was how can I put strong human emotions into photographs? It was difficult to describe my feeling by photographing, so when I took a photo for the Lover of no one, I applied different compositions and techniques.

You can see some of the pictures are made by using long exposure photographic technique. Secondly, always be carefully adjust a camera because I was using Nikon FM II, not like a digital camera I could not see photos after taking it, so understanding of photography technique is essential.

When I have been studying deeper both practical and theoretical lessons in photography, I love photography more. The deeper understanding about photography, the fewer photos I take, I think due to my philosophy of photography has been changed. Therefore, I’m using analogue cameras instead of using digital ones.

Using film cameras help you to calm yourself and you must understand your camera before taking photos. Otherwise, the images from an analogue camera, for me, is more valuable, not only about the process of developing the negative but also about the narrative of each photo cause sometimes you have a roll of film that’s mean 23 or 36 times to take a photo.

So, you must have thought about the moment you should or should not photographing. Honestly, I was inspired a lot by the works of Fan Ho, Saul Leiter, Stephen Dupont and Sebastiao Salgado. They are all great photographer. Every time that I feel lost, need the motivation to create a new project, always look at their works as a simple way for me to recharge energy.

The next few years I think I could challenge myself in cinemaphotography. I could apply photography knowledge into making a film because I think a connection between photography and filmmaking is a very close gap.

If I have a chance to advise another one who wants to become a photographer, I would have two sentences to send out: – “Understand your camera and believe in your eyes”. – “Your first camera is for practising, but your last one is to tell stories.”

 

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Morgan Ommer

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Copyright Morgan Ommer

Photography to you meansA way of life.

When I frame the imageI hold my breath.

A camera isThe missing link between my right eye and my thumb or forefinger (right hand).

If you are careful and compassionate, any camera will do to tell a story, including your phone.

Please tell us about yourself. Where you are from and other tidbits.

My name is Morgan Ommer, I was named after a pirate, or … after an English luxury car, depending on whom and when you ask. I was born and brought up in Paris. I’ve since lived in different places, but I love Vietnam. Driving a moped here is fantastic.

Your first camera?

My father gave me a Minolta when I was 12. When I was 16, I lost it on a train to Cologne. Stolen… Later I inherited a little money and I bought a rangefinder from a German camera brand. I still use that camera today.

What made you choose this medium?

I cannot sing, or draw, I find writing painful, a friend of mine persuaded me to overcome my reticence to take pictures just because my father is a well-known photographer… I believed him, so here we are.

What made you choose this project?

I often get asked, “what is a good camera?”

Having never worked in a camera shop, I actually don’t know the answer to that question. My answer tends to be “what is happiness?” Then I decided to test what Eve Arnold said about the camera’s “The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.”

What do you want to tell?

If you are careful and compassionate, any camera will do to tell a story, including your phone.

What inspired you?

Streetlife mostly.

What was the main obstacle you faced?

The phone camera  I use is not always a very good camera 😉

When and where did you capture these images?

Over the past 4 years, in the street of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, I even shot an actual fashion series with models, lights, makeup, dresses at a resort in Central Vietnam.

What made you fall in love with photography?

Counting, for me, is an issue, so is spelling.

Dancing or painting were definitely out, for I’m rhythmically challenged,  have 2 left hands and no sense of perspective or direction. 

I did, however, feel an urge to express myself, so photography seemed an accessible solution. It took a while, but eventually, I taught myself how to click the button when I saw something. Now I love it.

Who inspires you?

Stanley Kubrick, Wong Kar Wai, Imura Ihei, Raghubir Singh, some of the Magnum boys and girls, Boris Vian, Rene Magritte, my uncle Bob and sometimes my mother.

What is your advice to other artists?

Persevere, don’t stop.

What was your hardest assignment and why?

Shooting in the Himalaya’s was hard. Not enough oxygen and I’m scared of heights.

 

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Nana Chen – Discarded

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Copyright Nana Chen

When I createI feel calm.

When I frame the imageI only display paintings at home or friends’ photographs, not my own.

A camera isA tool.

I was born in Taiwan but left when I was around six during the martial law period. Leaving the country then was very difficult and we had to pretend we were going on summer holidays when in fact we were leaving everything and everyone. The first stop was the Philippines, followed by USA briefly before settling in Chile and Argentina, where I formed an identity.

However, we left after three years for Bolivia to obtain residency on the way back to the USA. In case my parents did not find a way to stay in America, we had the option of becoming Bolivians and find a way back to Argentina. My parents were not in the military nor were they diplomats or corporate executives. There was no plan. We simply moved where they knew someone.

My brother and I went to all the local schools, about 15 of them in 12 years. Needless to say, the constant change was very difficult, particularly for a shy child, but I always found a way to cope.

I returned to Taiwan when I was 20 and didn’t want to move or travel for fourteen years. Then in 2005 I moved to Copenhagen, where I met a group of very talented photographers and photojournalists, some world-renowned, helping each other until the early morning hours, whilst competing for the same award. It was a true inspiration for not only photography but seeing how they’re helping each other made them all stronger.

I was inspired by these passionate people with talent, generosity and kindness. I started my journalistic career as an arts columnist for SCMP after years of writing English learning textbooks in Taipei.

In 2005 I moved to Copenhagen, where I met a group of very talented photographers, some world-renowned, helping each other until the early morning hours, competing for the same award.

My first camera was the Keystone spy camera bought at a garage sale at 14 in the suburbs of Atlanta. There were one button and one dial. All pictures came out grainy and soft. I loved it. I’ve been a visual person ever since an early age, either drawing, painting, or making things with my hands. It’s just something I’ve always liked doing. Photography was not my first choice of medium. I started out painting and enjoyed that very much.

But with photography, I liked the idea of freezing real life and people to study later. It’s a preservation of sorts, and that’s important for someone who’s moved as many times as I have. Before I’d stumbled upon the site where I made the pictures for Discarded, I had never seen such a large area of destruction and wondered what was left in the rubble, what sort of things people left behind. Curiosity made me explore. The photographs are simply a way to weave a story based on the evidence of daily life. I didn’t face any obstacles while working on this project. The area was open when I started the project in 2010 in Ho Chi Minh City, District 2.

I am currently working on several personal projects and plan to continue doing more, plus exhibitions and meeting new friends along the way. My book on the Chungking Mansions—The Last Ghetto of Hong Kong will be launched this October in Hong Kong, then the UK in November and the USA and Canada in March 2019.

I will be doing a book tour and giving talks about my work along the way. My advice to aspiring photographers is to keep working if it feels right, despite what others say.

Sometimes, a project takes a long time before you’re clear about its message. It is a visual thinking process. The key is to keep going and look after your health. The hardest assignment was covering a student political protest for The Observer Magazine. It was hard to watch young, passionate protesters being taken away by police.

 

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Loes Heerink – Merchants in Motion

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© Copyright Loes Heerink

Photography to you means doing what I love.

When I frame the image I try to look at the foreground, middle ground and background. I also think about what it is I want to see in the image beforehand.

A camera is a tool.

My name is Loes Heerink, 29 years old. I was born and raised in the Netherlands. I bought a Sony when I was 19.

There was a dragonfly in my parents garden and I thought it was so beautiful. I wanted to enjoy it in the winter too so I decided to buy a camera. I spent days in my parents’ pond to take a photo of it, like literally in the pond. I realised dragonflies fly in some kind of pattern. I picked a nice spot and waited patiently. When it finally sat down and I knew I got the settings right I was so happy! I never really put the camera down after that. I learned how to shoot in manually years after. Probably somewhere in 2014.

What made you choose this project? When I first arrived in Vietnam in 2011 I immediately liked the street vendors. All the colours. But more importantly all the stuff they carry on their cycles! I am from the Netherlands. My family owes more bicycles then it counts people. I also have two cycles. I was impressed. I wanted to take a picture of the vendors without any of the distraction of the city on the background. Just the vendors.

While waiting on the bridges I got a glimpse into the lives of the vendors. They all seem to know each other, make a chat and walk on again. The vendors really inspired me.

As much as I like Hanoi, the hustle and bustle just seemed a distraction to the vendors. So I decided to go up, take a higher vantage point. While waiting on the bridges I got a glimpse into the lives of the vendors. They all seem to know each other, make a chat and walk on again.

The vendors really inspired me. They are so kind and every single one of them I spoke to let me into their lives and told me their story. I think street vendors make Hanoi the city that it is. It is so convenient, plus all the colours! I hope in ten years, or twenty years there will still be street vendors in Hanoi.

What was the main obstacle you faced? Not a lot, rainy days maybe. And sometimes no vendors walked past the bridge for hours.

When and where did you capture these images? In 2015 from August to December and in March 2017.

What made you fall in love with photography? The thrill of chasing good pictures. I really like that moment when you know you got the shot you have been thinking of. With the vendors series, it took me some months to get a flower vendor on a picture, when I finally saw a flower vendor approach I was ready for the shot, I took the shot and I knew it was a good shot! I was so happy!

Who inspire you? French photographer Rehanh, Hans Kemp of course. But also Chris Burkhard and Pie Aerts.

Where do you see yourself going within the next few years? I don’t know. I will just continue walking on my photography projects like I am doing now. We will see where it leads. Or not leads 🙂

What is your advice to other artists? You can only get better. Each time I go out photographing I grow as a photographer. Looking back at my pictures I try to think about what makes it good or what could I have done to make it better.

 

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Thiery Beyne

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Copyright Thierry Beyne

Photography to you meansCreativity!

When I frame the imageI sometimes frame my photos, but very rarely, I always try to frame the image in my lens.

A camera isA Nikon D300 17/55 mm lens, and a Nikon D610, lens: 50 mm, and 14/24 mm

Passionate about graphics, I went to Corvisart, an art college in Paris. After 4 years of art studies, I worked for several advertising agencies. There I met many advertising photographers who no doubt gave me a taste of photography.

Whilst doing my job as an Artistic Director, I practised photography more and more with my first Canon. At that time it was a film camera with Ilford film. Then, in the 1980s, I went to Asia, where my passion for travelling and photography developed. I travelled from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and of course Vietnam, my favourite.

The essential part for me was being at the heart of the Vietnamese population.

It’s almost 20 years now that I have travelled through Vietnam and photographed it from north to south, in it’s most remote corners. I am married to a Vietnamese woman from Hue. My wife and I worked for Franco-Vietnamese NGOs. That allowed us to be in direct contact with daily life and the authenticity of the country.

The essential part for me was being at the heart of the Vietnamese population. Living in the Khanh Hoa area, which I know very well, I decided to become a photography guide for major hotels in Nha Trang. 5 years of happiness where I guided many amateur photographers as well as professionals, of all nationalities.

From 1995 to 2018, I participated in many photo exhibitions in Paris and Vietnam. In 1997, one of my photos titled “In Bombay Station” was awarded at the “International Nikon Photo Contest” and exhibited at The European House of Photography in Paris. I now share my time between France and Vietnam.

My first “real” camera was a Canon FTB QL silver with Ilford 400 films, black and white. At the time the Canon brand was very popular in France. I followed the advice of my photographer friends who all worked with a Canon. But I must admit that one day I tried a Nikon. Ever since, for the last 30 years, I only work with Nikon, and of course for 10 years now, in digital.

Since returning to Paris, I have been working for a year on my new photographic concept called “Mes garçons de café parisiens” (My Parisian Coffee Boys) For 1 year I went through Parisian cafes in search of our “authentic coffee boys”. Still dressed in their traditional aprons, white shirts and bottle openers, proudly carried in the pocket of their black vests. Staying discrete is the concept and the main idea of my photographic work. Taking the snapshot, capturing the gestures, the dexterity, the skill with which they work, always in a dizziness of speed, whereas the customers, sitting quietly sip their black coffee. Putting aside the misconception of “unpleasant boys”, these men and women are for the most part the affable ambassadors of their cafés, caring about the hospitality of the establishment, playing with verbal expressions that belong only to them and tirelessly repeated, Parisian humour and even sometimes translated into bad English for our tourists who remain questionable or even doubtful.

Without them, Paris would not be Paris. The coffee boys of Paris (Mes garçons de café) have often been photographed, my concept is to photograph them, while staying very discrete, surprising them in their natural gestures, “not posed”, the difficulty is also to not show their faces, France has very strict image rights, unlike Vietnam.

Once my work is done, I will look for a publisher and publish a book on “Mes garçons de café” series and of course, organize photo exhibitions in Paris on this subject, in Asia too, because I know that the images of “Paris” and its Parisian cafes are very popular in Asian countries. The great photographers inspire me, SALGADO, MC CURRY, MAPLETHORPE, WILLY RONIS, ROBERT DOISNEAU. To look at their photos, to try to understand how their “photographic eye” works, that is my inspiration, they are my masters.

The biggest obstacle for a photographer is probably when a photographer must meet the commercial constraints of a customer. The work corresponding to one’s “eye” is not always that of the client. I have sometimes faced inconvenience, even a customer’s refusal of my photos that I found very good.

It is for this reason that I prefer to work on personal projects that will only have my personal censorship. All my photos are done in Paris when it comes to “Mes garçons de café”, as for my “BACK PHOTOGRAPHY” series, in Vietnam and Paris. To be in love with photography is to be in love with the image. Even without my camera in hand, my eye can not help framing the images. I am looking for the unusual image, photography is an obsession for me.

As I said above, great, real photographers, those who do not cheat with effects like photoshop and other software. The great masters of photography do not cheat. My wish is to continue to photograph Vietnam, France and why not other Asian countries. I also want to take part in many more photographic exhibitions with my work. It’s difficult to give advice. I would just tell young photographers, to “look” at the life around you, that’s how you will forge your photographic eye. The most difficult part for a photographer is patience. It takes years to understand and master “the” photographic eye. I think one cannot be a photographer without having taken thousands of photos.

 

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Julie Vola – Vietnam in Cyanotypes

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© Copyright Julie Vola

Photography is for me the extension of an intense but elusive emotion of Beauty in the world. I am captivated by the power of an image (photographic or not), in love with it and being able to create one is the most exhilarating thing I know.

When I frame the image I sometimes find myself overthinking geometry, lines, or directions. This may be the result of having taught the same photography classes for too long.

A camera is a poetic device.

Photography is my happy place. Light and Time and Space. How they intertwine together is so much more than pushing a button. The Light moves me so deeply, I could almost cry, it makes me feel it all so much more. Photography freezes time, holds it still on the surface while digging deep in the human consciousness to expose our relation to memories and time passing by.

All of this, contained in the space of a frame. How you arrange the elements, the decisions you make about depth, what you do about the off-camera is just as important as what you put in. All of this resonates within me.

I came to Vietnam in 2010 initially for a three months trip, and after three weeks I decided not to return home. This is somehow a common story you hear among foreigners in Vietnam.

I am out there in front of the world, from the fringe looking at it, and at the same time I am fully engaged in it, I am all in. I came to Vietnam in 2010 initially for a three months trip, and after three weeks I decided not to return home. This is somehow a common story you hear among foreigners in Vietnam.

What makes my story a little different though is the strong familial bond that I have with Hanoi. My grandfather was born in Hanoi from a French family established in colonial Vietnam since at least 1880; he grew up here as well as his sister. In 1950 he was sent to Vietnam as a surgeon to run a field hospital north of Hue. He left Vietnam before the battle of Dien Bien Phu.

About his childhood, I have very few details as he rarely talked about it. After he passed away, my family discovered, forgotten on a shelf for decades, old photo albums. These came from my grandfather’s own grandfather.

As a photographer, I naturally became very interested in these. There were a lot of photos of the railway construction he worked on. But it was the landscape photos that I liked the most. These old black and white landscape where the only images I had purposely looked at before coming to Vietnam. I did not want to look at modern images to not spoil the surprise.

I wanted a cultural shock to shake my preconceived ideas. And what a shock it was, that did not stop me from falling deeply in love with the country. My first camera was a Minolta SLR my parents had given me when I was 16 years old, I think. My dad is an amateur watercolour artist who can draw well. I always wanted to do the same but could not draw as well as him and very early on I got self-conscious about it and stopped pursuing it.

I liked the idea of photography though; taking photos was a lot more pleasant. I could easily capture the moments when I would feel something strongly about seeing the world. I played around for a bit but I had no idea what it was really all about. I really started learning the craft later in the USA during a year abroad program. I had teachers who were very supportive of my work and without whom I would not be here today. They gave me the confidence to go study first in a Fine Art school and later on in a photography school.

Vietnam in Cyanotypes is a collection of some of my favourite photos of Vietnam and its people. They come from almost a decade of exploring Vietnam on assignment, as a traveller and as a resident of this beautiful country. I chose to use a 19th-century cyanotype printing technique.

At first, I used cyanotype mainly as an experiment but quickly it re-established an analogue and handcrafting aspect in my photography process that I had back in school and that I had put aside when I took digital photography. The cyanotype process was one of the first non-silver technologies used to create photographic images that originated in 1842 after Sir John Herschel discovered the procedure.

The typical procedure is to create the sensitizer with a mix of equal part green ferric ammonium solution and potassium ferricyanide solution. Despite the chemical sounding names, these products are not dangerous. Once the sensitizer is ready you can apply the solution onto paper, or fabric (or any porous surface really). Let it dry completely in the dark. The cyanotype process is a negative photo process, black will become white and white/transparency will be blue. You can choose an object (like a Rayogram), a flower, a drawing on transparent paper or a photo negative (anything you want really).

I use two large pieces of glass to make sure the paper stays flat. Finally, you put the sensitized paper under sunlight or UV light and let it be exposed until the yellow/green colour turns into grey/bronze.

Exposure time varies depending on the light source. Once exposed, rinse the paper under running water until clear, now your cyanotype is blue. Let it dry. Sir John Herschel did not intend to use cyanotype for photography, but as a copying technique. The cyanotype processes were widely used to create copies of technical and architectural plans and were called blueprints.

These photos, in their monochrome format, are, in a way, my blueprints of Vietnam and its people. The print simplicity and yet depth give a dreamy aspect to the photos. They add a layer of poetry, one that extends beyond the content within the frame. It abstracts the photos from their mundane context and gathers them under a poetic evocation of my memories.

 

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David Dredge

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© David Dredge

Photography to you means: A great deal. Sebastian Salgado explained it best: “Photography is my life. It’s my way of life, and my language.”

When I frame the image: I’m telling a story.

A camera is: A tool for stopping time and starting a dialogue.

Do personal work. Make art that is meaningful to you. Don’t compare yourself to others – no one can be you and express you better than you can.

Please tell us about yourself:
I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe but I have been lucky enough to travel all over since I was very young. My father has travelled to almost every corner of the globe for most of his life, as a pilot, and growing up he inspired me to travel, to try new things and to leap. To risk failure in the pursuit of happiness. Vietnam is the sixth country I have called home, and I have lived in Saigon for seven years so far.

I’m a creative person at heart. My mother and grandmother were both talented artists. My mother is a skilled painter, and sketch artist and my grandmother was a skilled sculptor. As a child, I was always drawing, building, dismantling things to understand how they worked, painting, and writing short stories. I first picked up a camera at the age of 18 but at the time it was a tool to document family occasions and us kids were not encouraged to use Dad’s camera: it was almost always hidden away. Today I am a portrait photographer, a retoucher. and occasionally, an artist.

Your first camera?
I borrowed the family camera when I left home to study film production and media writing in Cape Town. It was a horrible plastic shit box that devoured 3-volt batteries but it was small and it was: there! A 35mm film camera, not of the charming, well-made mechanical variety but rather the loud, whining, plastic 80’s VCR variety.

It had a ridiculous 10 times zoom feature, and a phallic, plastic Darth Vader-esque member protruded awkwardly outward if you were foolish enough to zoom as this would invariably exhaust the battery. I occasionally used the camera to create storyboards for film courses that I majored in, but mostly I walked around the city capturing scenes that interested me. I was always short of money so the film was a real luxury and developing it was even more so. Later, I began to shoot positive film and slides because I didn’t have to pay to get them printed; I could just hold them up to the light. For my 21’st birthday I was given a Minolta SLR, which I never left home without. It became an extension of my personality.

What made you choose this medium?
I spent most of my childhood and teens in boarding schools, which taught me to be self-reliant but also kept me in school a lot
So, when I left for University, it was to a completely new and alien city. I knew no one there but it was going to be a huge adventure. So, I felt I had no choice, but to liberate the family camera.

Later that year I befriended an assistant working for a commercial photography studio. I recall visiting the studio, which had been set up in what was once a stone church. The greeting area for the studio had huge light panels installed on the walls.
The commercial work was carefully housed behind panes of glass. The images were all medium and large format slides, and monochrome positive slides, some 8 inches by 10 inches in size.

Back-lit by the panels the effect was mesmerizing. Similar to studying a stained-glass window up close. Each frame depicted an expertly composed scene with flawless lighting and the colour was like nothing I had ever seen. I was amazed to see in person what could be achieved with film. Especially since I was at that moment in possession of a film camera.

I was instantly hooked, I started using positive monochromatic film and slide film and I devoted much of the next 10 years of my life to creating moods and colours, attempting to create something close to what I had experienced that day. I found my way back to film fairly recently in Saigon.

Your project
The images here are a small selection from a project I began late last year. The project began as a personal challenge to shoot and develop one roll of black and white film every day for 2 weeks, giving me just over 500 frames. This was the plan anyway. I chose to use Kodak Tri-X 400, as it is generally readily available in HCMC if you know where to look, and it is a sharp, contrasty film with a pleasing grain. At least to me.

I quickly found, however, that despite my best efforts, I was wasting a lot of film rolls. I had chosen to capture candid street scenes, an area of photography that I am new to and one that demands a great deal in terms of skill, style, luck and persistence.

So, after developing, scanning and discussing my failures with friends, darkroom pro’s, and scan shop aficionados, I resolved to archive the first 10 rolls in a distant and obscure folder and to start afresh. I continued to shoot Tri-X 400 but I resolved to get closer to my subjects and to only press the shutter if I knew exactly what I wanted the image to say. Only if I knew the frame contained a story and had a purpose. The selection here is a small collection from rolls 11 to 25. Or 1-15 depending on how you look at things. The project is ongoing.

What made you choose this project?
It was difficult. It was different from the digital work and extensive retouching that I had done a lot of. It would challenge me and encourage me to explore the city. It would force me to learn how to develop, work within the limitations of the format. It would be a chance to create something more honest, since I have not altered the image in any way – not even contrast adjustments nor sharpening in Lightroom. But more than all of this the project would force me to create more collaboratively.

It is rare that a film photographer does everything alone unless s/he owns a darkroom. Thus, every frame is seen by at least, it’s creator, the darkroom owner (to ensure that the chemicals are fresh etc) other photographers using the darkroom, then the scanner(s) and finally back to the owner. A single process is often a communal effort, and this body of work improved when I sought feedback and applied what I had learned. In short, I started the project to learn a different approach to my craft and so far I have learned a great deal.

When and where did you capture these images?
These images were captured in Saigon. I explored several districts, but the ones included here are from District 4 and 5.

Who inspires you?
People. Faces, expressions, movements, gestures, and interactions, because the smallest look or gesture can tell a story and make or break an image. Also, good art and well-conceived, well-crafted work.

Where do you see yourself going within the next few years?
I would like to be creating more work, to have evolved and improved as a creative. I see myself continuing to work with like-minded creatives, photographers, artists, designers, models and stylists on projects that challenge and inspire me.

What is your advice to other artists?
Do personal work. Make art that is meaningful to you. Don’t compare yourself to others – no one can be you and express you better than you can. Set expectations and goals and push yourself. Work hard and strive to master your craft. Be kind. Be helpful. Smile.

Learn from mistakes and failures. Try not to take yourself or your work too seriously. Some may seem generic, but they have worked for me.

 

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Tom Hricko – Echo Beach

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Copyright Tom Hricko

Photography to you meansA process which allows one to extract elements from consensus reality and transform those elements in a variety of ways.

When I frame the imageWhen I frame an image I concentrate on what to remove from the frame and then how to arrange what remains.

A camera isAn image extracting device.

I was studying painting when, in 1967, I was drafted into Uncle Sam’s army and sent to Vietnam. Cameras were cheap at the PX in Nha Trang so I picked up a 35mm Petri 7 rangefinder camera. It wasn’t long before I was taking it everywhere and pointing it at everything.

When I returned to the US, I decided to switch my major from painting to photography. Initially, I studied photojournalism influenced by the work of W. Eugene Smith but moved to medium and large format black and white landscape work influenced first by Edward Weston and later by Paul Caponigro.

Eventually, I was exhibiting, had a dealer and was teaching advanced black and white printing and technical photography at the art school of the State University of New York, Purchase campus.

The title Echo Beach comes from the 1979 song of the same name by Martha and the Muffins with the chorus “far away in time” which seemed appropriate for this series.

In 1994 I decided to take a short sabbatical in Vietnam which turned out to be not so short as I am still here. The 2017 Echo Beach series was created in Vung Tau, Vietnam. It is the result of many experiments with the light, space, colours and object placement at Back Beach and how the photographic process could transform these picture elements. The prints are 70cmx46cm on bamboo fibre fine art paper, which works well to complete the watercolour feeling I wanted. (Many thanks to Danny Bach, master printer at VG labs in Saigon).

The title Echo Beach comes from the 1979 song of the same name by Martha and the Muffins with the chorus “far away in time” which seemed appropriate for this series. This quote from Ralph Gibson nicely connects with my view of photography: “I believe photographs are better than the photographer and the art is better than the artist. I’m not the music; I’m the radio through which the music plays. So I follow the work, I don’t lead the work. I go where the work sends me.”

My advice to artists is not to listen to any advice and just “follow the work.”

 

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Fabrice Wittner – Rồng Di Sản, Dragon Legacy

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© Copyright Fabrice Wittner

Photography is the best way I found to communicate.

When I frame the image I ask myself if another angle would have been better.

A camera is another tool.

I’m a French artist (mostly photographer), father of two, nature enthusiast and adrenaline lover. Self-taught in almost everything I do. I might be hyperactive, but I’m not sure yet. During teenage-hood, I went through drawing, painting, tattooing… to finally find my way to photography.

I bought a Nikon Coolpix 5000 to shoot my work back when I was tattooing. I quickly felt better with a camera in hands than a tattoo gun. We don’t realize how stressing it can be to ink someone for life. So I decided to sell my tattoo gears to my best friend to buy a better camera.

From there, I started to learn photography and never stopped learning. Never stop shooting either. Once I felt good enough with that new tool I decided I could try to make a living in photography. I shot a lot of outdoor sports like snowboard, free ski, mountain bike or slackline. I had a great time doing that because I was myself a big outdoor sports enthusiast.

Most of my works include photography, although I love to try new stuff. Lately, I spent some time designing and screen printing tees.

At the same time, I was working on other projects, mainly portraits and light painting. Most of my works include photography, although I love to try new stuff. Lately, I spent some time designing and screen printing tees. I must be a kind of Swiss army knife artist.

Several ongoing projects are based on other mediums than photography. I work on a book with an illustrator friend. It is about tales and legends from Alsace, our homeland.

I’m also about to start a collaboration with a sailboat expedition named ATKA. I’ll be working with kids on Arctic endangered animals and light painting.

Besides, I have a full-time job at Slack.fr where I’m a designer, illustrator and photographer. No chance I get bored before a while…

This project is called  “Rồng Di Sản, Dragon Legacy”. I wasn’t looking for that kind of ethnologic project when I started. But I met a young tour guide in Sapa who pushed me in. We were drinking together every evening for almost a week.

We became friends as we gave English lessons to the kids from some nearby villages. He invited me to visit his home in Ha Giang Province to meet different minorities and take some portraits. I was staying in Hanoi and wasn’t really busy so decided to follow him.

And that trip was actually epic. We were both riding a single bike all around the mountains of Ha Giang. We weren’t travelling light as I was carrying a lot of gears. I knew how I wanted to picture these people with their traditional costumes, no matter the logistic…

We drove around the province for a week, met a dozen of different ethnic groups, drank more riu than we should, we were invited to a wedding, twice, ate dog, also twice, we drank even more riu to finally end at the jumping fire festival in Tân Bắc, Quang Bình, surrounded by more people than I could count. It was a very special experience for me. I met numerous people within that week and portrayed thirty of them.

It was a great week and a wonderful time. Although it was sometimes tough. It was the first time I shot total strangers with such a difference of culture. I mean not in “holiday travel” way. If I never had the feeling of having a lack of respect while I was shooting, I mostly felt uncomfortable to “buy” the pictures I was taking.

I first thought it would be an exchange, but I didn’t realize I had nothing to give. But money… Once back in Hanoi, I decided to print the pictures of every “model” and send them to my friend in Ha Giang, he would be the postman from there. Unfortunately, the pictures never arrived at him.

I felt bad about that and realized I was not quite prepared to do these photos the way I wanted. Understand in an ethically correct way. But the photos were good, the experience was however enriching. I also had an encouraging feedback from the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi that pushed me to continue the project.

Two years later I was once again on a motorbike with my friend’s cousin and all my gears, going on an adventure across Loa Cai, Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Son Là and other provinces of the northern region of Vietnam. I brought my Hasselblad 500cm with a Polaroid back to make some pictures I could give to the models.

The Polaroids were quite successful, what makes me happy too because I finally had something to share. In 2014, I realized I had more to share and to learn. Thanks to Mr Vinh. Vinh is a tour guide in his 60’s I met in 2014 in KonTum. We only spent two days together but we quickly liked each other.

Vinh is from the Bah Nar minority and a well of knowledge about the minorities of Central Highlands and the southern region of Vietnam. He proposed to help me plan my last journey across the southern part of the country and I met him again in 2015 for the last part of my project.

During the long talks that we were used to having, I understood the meaning of that project. It seems obvious that these photos are some still memories of Vietnamese traditions. People from the minorities wear more and more western clothes, keeping the traditional costumes only for ceremonies or special occasions.

I grew up in Alsace, a part of France were traditions were strong. In one hand, it remains a fantastic architectural heritage, but in the other hand my generation is not speaking our dialect anymore, the last traditional costumes were worn a century from now.

Most of our culture is now to be found in museums. The strong and living heritage in Vietnam probably helped me realized how much we lost in Europe. It’s without any nostalgia that I went through that project. It rather made me realized and appreciate how rich and fragile was the culture I was witnessing.

 

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