Sunday, January 24, 2021

Photography

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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Patrick S. Ford

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© Patrick S. Ford

Photography to you means…
Another medium in which to explore and experiment.

When I frame the image…
I make the first in a countless series of decisions.

A camera is…
A tool for initiating, developing or documenting a piece of work.

This time I used my map and numbering system as a reference so I would be able to pinpoint the exact location of any source information gathered, in this case: colours.

Originally I was born and grew up in the UK but since May this year, I have been living in Ho Chi Minh City, arriving from Hong Kong where I had lived for many years. Coincidently I relocated to Vietnam exactly 25 after arriving in Hong Kong, 25 years to the day.

I studied at Leeds Arts University and Northumbria University in the UK and also with RMIT University whilst living in Hong Kong. At college, I concentrated mainly on the making of sculpture with an additional interest in printmaking because of a desire to introduce a more physical aspect to my drawings. Over the years though, constraints such as lack of storage space, the high cost of studio space etc. pushed me to gradually embrace exploration in other, more portable media.

To earn a living I worked as a professional modelmaker for around 15 years, the final 10 years of which was as a partner of a modelmaking company based in Hong Kong.

The skills and awareness of materials gained during this time have proved invaluable and have allowed me more freedom in the decisions I make when making work.

I have also taught art for around 15 years, including 13 years full-time teaching, 7 years in Higher Education. For 3 years I worked on the development of a BA (Hons) Fine Arts degree programme, acting as course leader for the initial cohort of students, seeing them all through to successful graduation.
For a time I pursued threads of investigation in drawing, printmaking and small sculpture but these projects remained quite separate in nature and it took a long time before they began to converge.

These days my work has revealed potential for multiple connections between different media, for example, a drawing may suggest further investigation in relief sculpture, or work towards a digital print may lead to performative walking and psychogeography. I tend to follow the work rather than attempt to push it where I would like it to go.

For the previous few months, I had been working on digital prints that involved the creation of layers within the print’s image with blocks floating on the uppermost layer. The configuration of these blocks was derived from a previous sculpture, made several years earlier, entitled ‘Excavation’. As I had been using cross-hatching to differentiate between the blocks within the image I felt that the print had taken on some of the imagery I had noticed within geologist’s maps, notably the way they employ a range of graphic patterns to denote the various geological materials present in the area covered by the map.

These digital prints were abstract in appearance and also abstract in the sense that they did not refer to actual locations. As I had recently moved to Vietnam, the thought came to me that I should create the next print based upon an actual location here in Saigon.

From a downloaded map of a certain area within District 7 of the city, I made a simplified version and numbered the road junctions. These intersections would be the focal points of the image in the print. The numbering of the junctions allowed me to keep a record of particular details collected. In total, there were thirty-four intersections within the area I studied.

I had walked around the area to gain an overview and a general feeling for the area but now was the time to revisit the location with a specific aim in mind. This time I used my map and numbering system as a reference so I would be able to pinpoint the exact location of any source information gathered, in this case: colours.

As I had already become familiar with an app for the mobile phone that allowed for the collection of ambient colours in a chosen location, I had confidence that it could contribute to my working method. Using this app I collected a colour sample for each of the thirty-four road intersections and used them as place-markers in my digital print. Of course, the app was only a data gathering tool, whereas I would retain the final say in how that data would be used.

Back in my studio, I isolated each of the collected colours and created a square-format swatch for each of them. This made it easier for me to review and drop them into place in my print.
Although systems-based strategies intrigue me, I always prefer to retain the final say based on considerations of the composition.

My work is often described as being conceptual in nature; nevertheless, I work with a mindset in which I grant the final say to the work itself, which is necessarily interpreted by me. I keep an eye out for unexpected serendipity, chance encounters or unpredictable outcomes if they appear to resolve the logic of the work. My working method could be described as systems-based but tempered with an editing process that is driven by an instinctive judgment developed through experience.

The final appearance of the digital print included overall grid lines to tie all the blocks together, but these are rendered in grey to push them back in space a little, contributing to the layering effect. The grid could provide a frame of reference without being too dominant in the hierarchy of elements.

As the placing of the colours within the print relates to the location where they were collected, the final configuration of the print could be read as constituting a map of the area studied.
Whether or not anyone would be able to use the print as a map when negotiating their way through the area remains debatable.

The user would need to be sensitive to the ambient colours, and the colours themselves may change over time. Some colours were collected from flowers and others from local advertising. Both of these elements could be subject to change, thereby removing points of reference. There is nothing to say that the print should or should not be regarded as a map, or whether it should function successfully as a map. The mere suggestion that the print could be regarded as a map could work as a trigger to initiate a line of thought for the audience. This line of thought is quite personal to each viewer, allowing each individual to create their own meaning for the work.

The work was printed out in an edition of 30 and with an overall paper size of A3. I envisioned the work as a personal psychogeographic exploration of the area. For this project, the aim was twofold: to become more familiar with the area and to take particular notice of the colours found at certain locations within that area.

 

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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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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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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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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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Michael Groissl – Daily Life in Northern Vietnam – The North

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© Copyright Michael Groissl

Photography is a way for me to travel back in time. To see history through the eyes of the photographer. Everyone has there own way to tell a story, and evoking emotions.

When I frame an image I try to have everything I want inside the frame and everything I don’t want out of the frame. It’s not that I don’t agree with cropping but why not skip that step if you frame your shot properly.

A camera is a way to freeze a moment in time, the good and the bad. It’s like having a superhero power. Freezing time would be my superhero power if I had one.

My name is Michael Groissl. I’ve was brought up in upstate New York. For the people that don’t know, upstate New York is not New York City. As a child I was always outdoors doing anything from hiking, climbing trees, swimming, etc.

My first camera I had was a Polaroid IZone. It was a green instant film camera. I thought this was the coolest thing I could have gotten for Christmas that year. Years later I saw my friends taking 35mm film black and white photos and developing photos in the darkroom.

Photography is a medium that I’ve fallen in love with it. I feel that I can really express myself through this medium.

I was fascinated with the pictures they were taking and knew this was something I want to get into. So I bought my first Pentax film camera and a few rolls of film. I took a few classes to learn how to develop film and photos. I loved every about it from the smell of the darkroom to the creative and technical process of taking a photo. This was my first real introduction to photography.

My mother asked me, “What I wanted to do when I was older?” I told her, “ I wanted to move far away from the United States and live in another country.” It was always a dream of mine to experience how other people live in this world. I would always see beautiful pictures of places far away and knew I would see these places one day.

Later on, I joined the United States Navy. I was an (AD) Aviation Machinist Mate. This was my first opportunity to travel abroad. After finishing my training in the United States I was stationed with VFA-27 in Atsugi, Japan. I couldn’t have been happier to live in another country. Taking the opportunity to travel and take pictures around Japan and documenting the workplace on land and sea.

Photography is a medium that I’ve fallen in love with it. I feel that I can really express myself through this medium. I’ve tried other mediums but for me the best way to express myself through a creative way is photography.

The project I’m currently working on is a photo book called Daily Life in Northern Vietnam – The North. I choose this project because of my love towards this country and the people in it! The book is divided into three parts landscapes, cities, and people to show daily life in Northern Vietnam.

The photo book is a 30×30 soft cover, in both colour and black & white, printed on high-quality paper from Japan. The book is in both English and Vietnamese. Everything about Vietnam has inspired me to do this project.

From the beautiful, kind, and generous people, the stunning mountains and the hustle and bustle of the cities. The real question is there anything that Vietnam can’t inspire you to do?

The biggest obstacle I faced was myself. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to perfection in my photography. A lot of times a photo will be great but in my mind, it’s not good enough for my expectations.

I capture all of these photos over the last two years around the Northern regions of Vietnam. My friends from high school made me fall in love with photography. I would see all the hard work and creativity they would put into it and made me want to do the same.

Anthony Bourdain has inspired me to do a lot including my photography. I would see the passion he would put into his work and I wanted to do the same with photography.

In the next few years, I hope to see myself still travelling the world and documenting different cultures, landscapes and people through my lens. I have also started to pick up a new hobby in filming so I would like to see this myself completing more projects in filming too.

My advice I would give other artist is keep following your passion. Someone will appreciate the beauty of your creative work. The hardest part of this assignment was cutting the book down to 200 pages.

There are still so many pictures I would have liked to include. On the other hand, this gives me a good excuse to start another project with the pictures. I would like to start a project more local next about the beautiful city of Hanoi but I’ll take one project at a time for now.

 

Cover Issue No. 3
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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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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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