Copyright Francis

Francis – Babes of Saigon

0
Copyright Thierry Beyne

Thiery Beyne

0
© Copyright Loes Heerink
0
Copyright Morgan Ommer

Morgan Ommer

0
Copyright Kelly Pagett
0

Photography

David Dredge

0
© David Dredge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Front cover MADS Issue No.4
Cover Issue No.4 – Click to BUY

Tom Hricko – Echo Beach

0
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.”

 

Cover Issue No.2 – Click to BUY

Nana Chen – Discarded

0
Copyright Nana Chen

When I createI feel calm.

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

A camera isA tool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cover Issue No.2 – Click to BUY

Loes Heerink – Merchants in Motion

0
© Copyright Loes Heerink

Photography to you means doing what I love.

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

A camera is a tool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cover Issue No. 3
Cover Issue No.3 – Click to BUY

Fabrice Wittner – Rồng Di Sản, Dragon Legacy

0
© 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.

 

Cover Issue No. 3
Cover Issue No.3 – Click to BUY

Francis – Babes of Saigon

0
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.

 

Cover Issue No.2 – Click to BUY

Darren Tynan – Ghost

0
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.

 

Cover Issue No.2 – Click to BUY

Hagan Nguyen

0
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)

 

Morgan Ommer

0
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.

 

Cover Issue No.2 – Click to BUY

Kelly Padgett – Story of Life, Câu Chuyện Cuộc Sống

0
Copyright Kelly Pagett

Photography means to me: Documenting time and space

When I frame the image: I’m looking for that brief instance where everything comes together.

A camera is: A memory box.

My name is Kelly Padgett, I currently live in Apex, North Carolina which is a suburb of Raleigh. I lived in Vietnam for approximately four years, and I still have close ties to the country. I believe my first camera would have been a disposable camera, the type that requires you to send the entire camera in for development. Later I started using my parents Canon Photura, which is an automatic point and shoot style camera.

Growing up I had to use or play with whatever I could get my hands on. Other cameras I experimented with were things like the Canon AE-1 and the Nikon N65. The first digital camera I ever owned was a Fuji Finepix compact camera. I don’t think photography was ever a conscious choice, it’s always been something I’ve been drawn to. It has to be the magic of capturing a moment in time and being able to hold that moment in my hands.

It has to be the magic of capturing a moment in time and being able to hold that moment in my hands.

Story of Life, Câu Chuyện Cuộc Sống, is the title of my ongoing project. Most everything we see of Vietnam feels like a well-polished travel brochure, I want people to see a personal side of both the country and its people, that there’s a much deeper and complex side to both. I wanted to create something a bit different than others, by showing the intimate side of life in Vietnam.

Cover Issue No.1
Cover Issue No.1 – Click to BUY