Saturday, July 2, 2022

Photography

Les Roberts

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© Les Roberts

Photography to me is a form of self-expression, whether it is the recording of an image in an unusual way, or as at present sharing a different form of art.

When I frame an image I do so after evaluating carefully the subject and its surroundings to create the maximum impact.

The camera to me is a mechanical instrument, which can be manipulated to create a variety of effects.

My search for a new process continued, with many disappointments along the way until I found what I now call Chromography.

I’m Les Roberts, originally from North Wales in the UK. My earliest recollections are of my accomplished father’s passion for cine photography. Possibly because of his passion I became interested instead in still photography. The work of Ansel Adams enthralled me. Over time I came to reflect on the power of still photography. All the iconic events in the recent history of the world are frozen in time in photographs. The moving image is for me a transient affair.

In my youth the local mountains beckoned me and armed with my Voigtlander I started taking rock-climbing photos. At the age of sixteen, I had my first home processed print published in a boys’ monthly magazine. I met many skilled photographers who were generous with their advice. One great influence on me was a dear friend, the late Wally Nelson A.R.P.S. He showed me how to keenly observe my surroundings wherever I was. I remember him telling me, “When looking for a shot walk from right to left you will see much more.”

I am still doing so when out and about. I also developed an urge to create something different, often spending hours experimenting.

I tried many forms of photography, but it was macro that really appealed to me. Sitting in a bank of wildflowers patiently waiting for that elusive butterfly to appear became a regular event. This process was, in fact, my only use of colour film apart from family photos. All my other photography was in black and white.
Later while working with disabled children I introduced them to photography, including printing their own black and white photos. The impact on their self-esteem was tremendous.

While working in education I was also chairman of the local photographic society several times and a tutor for the British Amateur Photographers Association. At about this time I was persuaded to shoot a wedding for some friends. The shots were ok, but it was an experience never to be repeated. When it was over I felt like a hack or worse.

My search for a new process continued, with many disappointments along the way until I found what I now call Chromography.

It all started when I spilt some paint into a bowl of water. As I looked I could see a reaction taking place. I watched and saw something totally new unfold. I then began to experiment in a more structured way. It is a process that is both rewarding and frustrating.

Using just one colour quickly led to the introduction of several colours. Pushing the boundary further I started to combine different paints that were incompatible.
Experimenting with different chemicals and fluids a further discovery emerged.

Different fluids, which I now refer to as active agents, react in different ways. Some have minimal effect, while others can be more active. This activity can be aggressive, causing different paints to react in ways that show they are trying to overcome one another.

Others can have a calming effect on the combination of incompatible paints with active agents. These fluids range from chemicals to liquid household products.

Throughout the interaction between the elements, changes can be seen to develop. This is in the form of movement. Regular observation is necessary to capture and record the changes. This process can take hours, days and sometimes weeks. The purple and red example included as part of this introduction took six weeks to mature. After maturation, the decay sets in and the image is lost.

A further development is the use of different materials as a base for the colours. The range involves silk, nylon, embroidery, plastic-based material, a range of papers including some that are waterproof. Then there is a range of card with different finishes.

An essential element of this process is the addition of active agents. The base material can be soaked in such an agent. A variety of paints are used again with some being injected with a change agent. Again movement can be observed, especially when adding thin colouring to thicker paints. Using one layer on a Perspex or plastic base quickly changed into developing tiers of different materials, some dry and some soaked with different types of change agents.

The variations available are only limited by my own imagination. I have already combined processes and materials that were unlikely stablemates.

I believe I am creating a unique form of art. That might sound pompous, but if you do not believe in yourself nobody else will. What drives me is the desire to push the boundaries further. I plan to work more with plastics including Mylar. I have also just scratched the surface with the use of a limited range of woven materials.

Nothing excites me more than visiting craft and art shops. I collect a range of unlikely materials and then spend hours investigating the possibilities. The camera is the record of my successes and failures. I retain failures for study and, perhaps move on to success.

Chromography is not a process of painting by me. A combination of the elements used to activate the process. I, therefore, do not consider myself an artist. A brush is never used.

Fluids and paints are injected onto, or into the host by hypodermic syringes, sometimes with needles, sometimes without, together with some tiny squeezy bottles and droppers.
All chemicals and applicators are bought over the counter from my local pharmacy.

I have experienced a lot of frustration during my journey of discovery. Most importantly I have never given up. I have always ‘thought outside the box’, and I believe in doing so I shall continue. I live alone and this has allowed me to turn my apartment into a workshop and utilise the spare bedroom as a storeroom for the considerable range of items that I keep available for further development.

Above all, I would advise others to follow their dream. Create their own images and never cease to learn from your experience or from the advice of friends.

A small selection of my work, which is regularly changed, appears on Facebook:
Les Roberts Chromography Wall Art Vietnam.

Marketing is through either myself or Creative Images Studios Saigon. The latter also displays my work.

A standing exhibition, which is changed regularly, is found at:
Eden, R3-85 Khu Pho Hung Phuoc 1, Phu My Hung, HCMC.

 

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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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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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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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Ben Wayman – Kitsuné

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© Copyright Ben Wayman

A project means a chance to learn something new – a good one is always worth more than the sum of its parts.

When I build I am looking for some chemistry between a material and a story or concept.

A story is a very slippery thing with far too many angles.

My name’s Ben, I come from Snowdonia – a very beautiful, rural part of Wales in the United Kingdom. As a kid I was obsessed with gods and monsters and spent all my time reading, drawing and building ridiculous dens and catapults. It seemed like a natural progression to channel all of these interests into a career in art – so I set my heart on becoming a serious painter.

Luckily for me, this idea was destroyed in college when I found out that I could spend all my time learning lots of different ‘small skills’ instead. I have not looked back since.

I moved to HCMC to teach art over 3 years ago – it was a big deal for me travelling to Vietnam, it would be my first time living in a big city. Since then I have fallen hard for the pure scale, opportunity and mesh of cultures that is Saigon.

I particularly enjoy the range and availability of materials – from scrap on street corners to the huge fabric, metal and paper markets. Most of my time is spent salvaging, fixing, breaking and building things in my workshop in Bình Thạnh while working as an art teacher, freelance artist and fabricator.

My art practice consists of many different disciplines. Right now I’m really interested in mixing sculpture, costume and animation to explore ideas of identity and background. I tend to use a combination of different media to play with a story or idea, often twisting something traditional by mixing it with something current.

I draw a lot of inspiration from artists like Charles Avery and Cornelia Parker who use a huge range of objects and practices in their work.

The Kitsuné project started as a tribute to the female role models in my life, mixed with elements of a shape-shifting character from Japanese folklore. I made a collection of sculptures and animation machines that changed and shifted depending on movement and light; I loved the idea of building something delicate that could take on a fierce or independent character.

The problem was that by focusing on the changing persona of the character, I ended up highlighting a common trope in the mythology of female characters being untrustworthy, alien and imbalanced – contrary to the very core of the project.

However, after finishing these pieces, I quickly became dissatisfied with the results. The problem was that by focusing on the changing persona of the character, I ended up highlighting a common trope in the mythology of female characters being untrustworthy, alien and imbalanced – contrary to the very core of the project. I also began to question if there was any way to carry the project forward without reinforcing an outsider’s view on femininity and womanhood. What did I, as a middle-class white boy, know about being a woman in modern-day Vietnam?

The simplest answer seemed to be to ask people who would know better, so I opened the project up. It is now a growing communal piece. Using the same mix of bamboo and nylon I built a semi-transparent fox mask – something that would half reveal and half blur the subject’s identity with that of the Kitsuné fox. Each subject is then photographed with the Kitsuné mask and answers 2 questions.

Her response is added to a growing anonymous archive of thoughts and opinions from a variety of women across Vietnam. There are only 2 conditions: – Subject identifies as female/feminine – Subject must have spent at least a year living in Vietnam. The project is ongoing. if you or someone you know if interested in joining, drop me an email.

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Francis – Babes of Saigon

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Copyright Francis

I seldom experience that simple, laid back life that most people see when they travel to Vietnam. It’s all portrayed in my work — high contrast lighting, hectic, imperfect, but full of stories. Photography to you meansA tool like other art tools to help capture and express the stories as well as the human conditions.

When I frame the imageI think first of what story I want to tell. What is the message here?

A camera isJust a box that records images, nothing more than an expensive tool.

I’m Francis, but my real Vietnamese name is Van Anh; Francis is a name I gave to myself as a persona to try to be an artist. Although my work is in photography, I try to include art influences into it. I don’t make snapshot images, but images made with stories and ideas behind them. Many of my images don’t look realistic, some, more like paintings.

That’s the world I want to create, more colourful, more exciting, somewhat like an escape from reality. I was born and raised in Saigon, even my parents were, so I’m very much a city person. I seldom experience that simple, laid back life that most people see when they travel to Vietnam. It’s all portrayed in my work — high contrast lighting, hectic, imperfect, but full of stories.

I love taking portraits and editorial fashion photos, there’s so much freedom in it to explore. I translate how you see the world in pictures. I also get to meet and work with a lot of people, get to know their lives. With portraits, few people have ever had their portraits taken. Their reaction, when I show them how I perceive them, is always interesting. It’s not a walk in the park, but giving people the experience of their portraits taken is always a thing I’d want to do.

My first camera was a Canon 500D with a kit lens. I saved up a few months to get it, and it was also my first big investment. Then, I started taking photos of my friends. Most of them happened to be musicians, then it kind of clicked and I moved forward from there. How I view people and things have always been much different from others. I’ve always wanted to experiment with ideas, meet interesting people. But, I can’t draw. I don’t know how to paint and didn’t go to a proper art school like the rich kids.

Photography was the fastest and most accessible way I could use to translate my ideas into art. This happens to be the medium that I got involved with in my life, and it’s been a hell of a journey. Most of all I love the process of a photo shoot. The people I meet, the things everyone comes up with by working together. I used to tell people “I feel most alive when I’m on set, the rest of the time I’m just inside my head”. Because photoshoots are where my ideas get the main playground. Where my ideas get to go out there to see the world, and that’s what I’m living for.

I seldom experience that simple, laid back life that most people see when they travel to Vietnam. It’s all portrayed in my work — high contrast lighting, hectic, imperfect, but full of stories.

Babes of Saigon (I’m still not very sure about the name), it’s still an ongoing project I’m trying to push. I’ve always wanted to document this “phenomenon”, a theme I want to explore further and keep taking pictures of. So, in my mind, it’s still an ongoing project and I want to share the process with others.

In Vietnamese culture, women don’t have to cover their faces or hair. Yet, they are always so concerned with how they look to a culture standard. Many of them would go to ridiculous lengths, no matter how silly they look, to keep their beauty ideas. For instance, cover all their skin from the sun to keep the porcelain white skin. You look at someone covered from head to toe with 10 different types of floral fabric, plus giant sunglasses. It is hard to even tell if it was a person underneath all that or not. But once they stop the bike, and they take all that hideous “aprons” out, there’s a beautiful girl underneath! It’s kind of like magic—the Vietnamese magic. Haha.

I am inspired by pretty much anything that’s different from the norm. Non-conforming while telling a story at the same time. By things that are provocative, surrealistic, but not superficial and empty. I love how you can distort and transform reality only with a little black box and some glasses. That’s what I love about photography.

Most of the time I’m inspired by movies and music, painterly photographs. I watch a lot of movies and always listening to music. My ultimate inspiration is the classic Blade Runner (1986). I also get inspired by David Lynch, Paolo Roversi, David Sims, Annie Leibovitz, Harley Weir, Julia Hetta and Nicolas Jaar. Female beauty especially draws a lot of my attention. There are so many different standards and stigma attached to it. That makes it an inexhaustible source for a lot of artists.

My current favourite photographer to draw inspiration from is Harley Weir. I’m fascinated by city lights at night, like around 1am to 4am it is a magical time. Everything seems so still, so dead—yet so vibrant and so alive. My main obstacle would be financing and finding a stable team to work within photoshoots. Because the like-minded people I work with come and go out of Vietnam all the time.

If you want the best team you gotta have the budget, but that’s not the case for personal projects like mine. I’m looking forward to collaborating with other photographers/artists alike. I want to do projects together, to develop Saigon’s art scene more and more.

My advice: focus on your work and what you want to do most. Don’t waste time comparing yourself with others in the same field. These images were shot for Word Vietnam magazine, the Fashion issue. We shot these right in front of the Word office, utilizing the classic Vietnamese alley.

 

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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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Tuan Ngoc – Paris, a dream wanderer

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Copyright Tuan Ngoc

Photography means to me: My life.

When I frame the image: I follow my instinct.

A camera is: A tool.

I am a Hanoi born photographer. I worked for Deloitte, studied e-commerce in Sweden and wandered about Paris. Now, I am running a professional wet darkroom in Saigon which I opened since April 2017.

Over times, I have had too many cameras to remember them all. My main camera these days is the Pentax 67 with Kodak Tri-X and Ilford HP5 Plus film. I always loved Black & White (B/W) film. With my new and only darkroom in town, I specialise in B/W photography only, completely analogue. “Why?”, because of its look and feel. It is very different and to me, photography is all about emotion. B/W film does that best.

Film photography is magic; you turn time and light to prints that you can hold in your hand. I want to become the best printer in Vietnam. To offer international printing quality. Also, to improve as a photographer and put on more exhibitions. Practice makes perfect as they say.

I always loved Black & White (B/W) film. With my new and only darkroom
in town, I specialise in B/W photography only, completely analogue.

“Paris, a dream wanderer”, a project born in Paris, France. I made silver gelatin prints of the B/W negatives captured on the streets of Paris. Now that I have a fully functioning darkroom, I can print the best quality pictures. My youthful dream of Paris comes to light again. Paris is a city of love, young people in love, lovers’ dream.

Inspiration came from many sources. Such as the book “Paris mon amour”, works of Robert Doisneau, Jeanloup Sieff, Brassai to mention a few. I captured these images between 2006 and 2010. Finding the time to print my own personal work was my biggest challenge.

 

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Darren Tynan – Ghost

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Copyright Darren Tynan

Photography to you meansA reflective process of observing, documenting, and creating the world around you.

When I frame the imageI position visual artefacts and anomalies crawling across TV screens in a rectangular box.

A camera isA sometimes unnecessarily complicated device for drawing with light.

I watched the ghostly faces morph on the TV screen as I got electrocuted through the rabbit ears in my hand. The faces trespassed through me in one jolt. I had been moving the antenna back and forth and side to side like a kind of superstitious ritual. I took a picture of a distorted face on the screen just before I was shocked, an image my friend later described as a ‘horror-struck female pharaoh atomised in a digital matrix’. That was the last photo I took in the electrocution room. I was dazed for a while, counting my luck and pacing back and forth in a small Airbnb on Nguyễn Cư Trinh Street in Saigon.

I moved here in January from Perth, Western Australia. When I arrived I couldn’t help but gawk at the way that the streets’ electrical cables were wrapped around utility poles like seething masses of venomous vines. At night, a flickering red glow from a sea of motorbikes complimented the vines’ danger and allure. There was a similarly messy jumble of cords growing around the analogue TV where I was working. I thought maybe I’d created a bad omen. My girlfriend had warned me about it; the electricity in our room wasn’t grounded properly and we’d both been zapped a few times through our laptops. I only got electrocuted once before I moved out of the Airbnb.

I took about 50 pictures before it happened and then I narrowed them down to a smaller series named Ghost. As a photographer, I explore serendipity as a generative device and embrace the technical instability of broadcast technologies. I use TVs from various eras, different antennas, a digital camera, and a good dose of superstition and a chance to make my pictures.

I see this process as a kind of ‘photographic archaeology’ whereby I’m trying to unearth something psychological within a fractured and distorted video landscape. I don’t always know what I’m trying to achieve, so for me, the process informs the result and it comes down to experimentation and inquiry.

I took a picture of a distorted face on the screen just before I was shocked, an image my friend later described as a ‘horror-struck female pharaoh atomised in a digital matrix’.

To create Ghost, I transformed video footage from free-to-air Vietnamese television channels into a photographic sequence. I tuned into public TV stations and manipulated and distorted the video broadcast by moving around an antenna in one hand as I took pictures with the other. I deliberately introduced a lot of video transmission errors and took pictures up close to different parts of the footage as it was morphing and undergoing a process of disintegration in real time.

In a way, I am ‘scrambling’ video and then working from that to create new pictures. When I’m up close to the screen, faces will appear ghostly and distorted through the camera and are completely unrecognisable from the originally intended broadcast.

Each TV has its own idiosyncrasies: modern, high-definition technology combined with digital stations will produce a strong ‘macroblocking’ effect, which is a kind of transmission error where there’s a discontinuity between the blocks of pixels in decoded video frames. The video breaks apart into bars and squares and everything becomes rearranged and distorted. Severe broadcast transmission errors on modern TVs will also feature strong pixilation, and the transitions between each error will be very unpredictable and sudden.

When a video signal is interfered with or interrupted on older analogue TVs, the visual anomalies will be different, more soft and ghostly. The video breaks up and disintegrates in a different way as well. For example, everything appears ‘grainy’ or film-like due to the inherent lack of definition.

When I shot Ghost, etched lines and scratches would appear in the photographs and comet-like artefacts trailed across the footage, unlike experiments I did with newer TVs.

For a while now I’ve found video codec errors visually interesting. So with Ghost, there are a lot of signal interference anomalies, aliasing and tracking errors, and other visual artefacts that manifest unpredictably during my creative process. There’s a lot of randomness, disintegration, and transmutation in these works. I can never go back and take the picture again as it’s an organic process where I’m actually photographing the video footage on the TV as it’s mutating.

I see value in running scripts and altering the code in post-production to create glitch art but I prefer this organic approach because of how physical, ephemeral and unrepeatable it is. Quite often technical errors in video and photography are dismissed as undesirable, whereas I try to embrace technical errors and visual anomalies as a way to create new things.

I can’t say I ‘fell in love’ with photography, I just fell into it. Growing up in rural Western Australia, my mum had an interest in photography and there were always cameras lying around the house. This was a time before everyone had a camera in their pocket, so to me it seemed cool and interesting. It’s a common situation I think – a lot of the time you become interested in what your parents are into and you make use of what you have access to.

Photography was a way for my mum to document our family holidays along the southern coast of WA, and to take pictures of my sisters and me as we were growing up. Cool bikes, toothy toddler grins, and beloved pet cats frozen in time on tacky checkered lino floors.

As a young boy, my first camera was probably one of those Kodak single-use film cameras that you could buy from supermarkets. Those cameras had charm in that they were an irresistibly bright yellow colour and they came in a similarly garish box; they almost leapt off the shelf and were strategically placed near checkouts to encourage impulse buying. They were kind of like the camera equivalent of a Kinder Surprise or a Chomp bar. I liked how faux-mechanical they were, with their shitty plastic cogs and whirring sounds.

Once I got hooked I started to care more about my pictures and considered saving my pocket money for a more reliable camera. I knew my pictures weren’t that great even though no one told me outright. But I kept taking them. More often than not, the pictures went to the ‘could be better’ shame pile. I still feel the same way now. I’m never really happy with my photos.

In high school, my English teacher gave me a book of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, and I remember thinking it was an astonishing cross-section of everything incredible and awful about humanity. These images left a deep impression on me so my interest in photography developed further. There is mystery, humour, triumph, love, suffering, irony, beauty, terror, chance, error, and banality in pictures.

A picture can make you cry or laugh or groan or sigh or gasp or say nothing. Or it can make you reflect upon your life or scare you or annoy you or confuse you or bore the shit out of you or make you wish you were exempt from humanity. You can take a picture of something from countless angles and dance around a street scene like a crazed firewalker or stroll down a train carriage with a selfie stick as you crane your neck out like a flamingo. Or you can take a picture of your feet at the end of your bed and hashtag the shit out of it before you eat breakfast.

Photography can be anything you want it to be. I find it interesting to try to make sense of the world through a viewfinder, deciding what’s important to show and what isn’t. And how that changes over time. And how you view the world differently as you get older and presumably wiser. I’ve had an on and off relationship with photography for the last five years. I went through clichéd bouts of frustration and inspiration, and put my camera down for a short while.

A photographer once told me that photography is supposed to be a miserable lonely endeavour, and will eventually kill you. In 2016, I studied photography at university and went on what I can only describe as a photojournalism ‘boot camp’ in China, which was really challenging and inspiring and gave me some new insights as well as some amazing stories and memories.

I can’t say it killed me but there were some hairy moments walking around late in Shanghai, such as getting chased by an angry and unwilling photographic subject. Lately, I’ve been enjoying the experimental and bizarre side of art photography. I’m inspired by the creativity of the Surrealists and Dadaists, and by contemporary photographers like Asger Carlsen and Roger Ballen, who are exploring the fringes of their psyches and pushing the medium to its limits by toying with photographic conventions, and by doing strange and wonderful things with photography, sculpture and drawing.

I enjoy the absurdity and transgression of their photographic worlds. It’s often tongue-in-cheek, like you’re looking at a picture and thinking, ‘what the fuck is going on’ and you can’t help but laugh.

But it’s never one-dimensional because you’re looking at all the layers in an image for a long time, and it bounces around in your mind for weeks. While it’s a far stretch from the documentary photography that initially inspired me, experimental contemporary photography has encouraged me to explore my own ideas and creative processes and to value the medium more greatly as a way of expressing abstract and artistic ideas.

At the moment I’m working towards a solo exhibition and I have a few photography projects in the works. I’m also open to collaborations with other artists, so feel free to get in touch via my website.

 

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Hagan Nguyen

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King Canyon by Hagan Nguyen
King Canyon by Hagan Nguyen

Photography to you means: Photography is my only means of communication, to others and to myself.

When I frame the image: It is the same as when I open my eyes.

A camera is: The most honest being, it has never failed me.

My name is Hagan Nguyen and I am an emerging fine artist specialising in photography. I am currently working between Vietnam and Australia. In 2o16 I moved to Melbourne to attend a Bachelor degree in Creative Arts.

During the year I was living here, I was influenced by the diversity of the multicultural city which is also an inspirational material to develop my works. My practice mainly focuses on alternative photography such as Xerox Art, Photogram and Overpainted Photography.

Previously, I chose Film and Television as my major with a dream to become a director. If moving images can tell a story with different elements i.e time and space expansion, vision and sound, then how photography with just only one still image can truthfully express itself. That is when I was totally awakened by the power of visual language.

My very first camera was a Pentax 35mm camera which also taught me a lesson that artwork always comes from the vision of the artist.

People are always surprised at how #patient I am even though I do not seem so.

I am and will always be #independent for my whole life.

I am #pessimistic, #introvert and fortunately very #curious.

My latest work is a research-based practice of overpainted photography which employs photography to incorporate and explore the visual effects of painting. The body of the work is inspired by the photographic method in the 19th century called overpainted photography.

In times past, hand-coloured photography was used to create a sense of realism for monochrome images, yet in the context of contemporary art, the act of adding more colours to realistic photographs would make them more abstract. The combination of these mediums blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy, importance and insignificant as well as photography and painting. This suggests the feeling of “lost in transition” and requires audiences to understand the work in a different way.

If a musician can write a song to talk about his love story and an author can write down his thoughts on a piece of paper, my feelings can only be listened to through visual artwork. With the urge to share what I have experienced, I used layers and colours to describe the infinite sadness of sunset in Glenelg or the healing warmth of autumn in Kurrangat Park. This is a way for me to be honest with myself.

The research-based practice of “Overpainted Photography” was first started in my third year of university. I have been assigned an experiment project in which I had to develop a final work without any expectation for the outcome. My work back then was a series of monochrome photographs of the suburban landscape in Melbourne city centre added with an acrylic-painted-plastic layer.

Inspired by the previous work, I once again applied this method with an aim to release my feeling and my emotion instead. It has never been easy to find the right paint for the project. Whilst I applied acrylic paint directly on a plastic layer before, I have tried digital painting for the current work which would give me more confidence and self-control. The original photographs were all taken around Australia when I travelled across this country. I was so grateful to have an opportunity to be in front of these landscapes within my short 5-year living there.

The work entitled “Overpainted Photography” is an #experimental project. It might be described as #colourful or even #chaotic but I also find #peace and #harmony while looking into it.

I fell in love with photography because of its limitless ability as well as its limit.

Photography has always been trying to find its position in the context of contemporary art which should be explored in order to go beyond the boundary. One of the artists that has done an amazing job to bring photography into a next level is Michelle Le Belhomme.

By constructing 2D photographs in a visual arrangement to how it would appear in reality, Le Belhomme has brought photography beyond its limit to create artistic expression.

I will always see myself keep experimenting in the future. It would be fortunate of mine if I still can dedicate all of the time I have left to study art and create art.

Self-recognition is always important to everyone, especially for artists because we have to recognise ourselves before we can reveal ourselves to others. By being aware of ourselves, artists can have a direct dialogue between themselves and their artworks, and also come to learn which role do their works come to play in the context of contemporary art.

Writing artist statements has always been my hardest assignment. As a person who is never so great at writing, I use visual language instead. Yet, making art and putting those into words are equally important; that an artist statement should be recognised as a separate piece of art itself.

Kurangga by Hagan Nguyen
Kurangga by Hagan Nguyen

 

More artworks on display in Issue No.5 (Coming soon)