Monday, September 28, 2020

Photography

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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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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David Dredge

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© David Dredge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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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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Nana Chen – Discarded

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Copyright Nana Chen

When I createI feel calm.

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

A camera isA tool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Kelly Padgett – Story of Life, Câu Chuyện Cuộc Sống

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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.

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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.

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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Les Roberts

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© Les Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Front cover MADS Issue No.4
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