Friday, September 24, 2021
Copyright Tom Hricko

Tom Hricko – Echo Beach

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© Copyright Ben Wayman

Ben Wayman – Kitsuné

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Copyright Francis

Francis – Babes of Saigon

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Copyright Nana Chen

Nana Chen – Discarded

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© Copyright Julie Vola
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Photography

Aron Schuftan

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© Aron Schuftan
Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

 

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

Hagan Nguyen

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King Canyon by Hagan Nguyen
King Canyon by Hagan Nguyen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurangga by Hagan Nguyen
Kurangga by Hagan Nguyen

 

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

 

Darren Tynan – Ghost

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Copyright Darren Tynan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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