Reporter Tran Viet Van of the Ha Noi-based Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper is one of a few Vietnamese journalists who have succeeded in the art of photography. He is the first Vietnamese photographer to win the Prix de la Photographie Paris photo contest for four consecutive years (2008-12).
|Reporter Tran Viet Van of the Ha Noi-based Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper is one of a few Vietnamese journalists who have succeeded in the art of photography.
He has also won various international prizes , including the International Photography Awards (USA 2009-10-11) and the Photo Master Cup (UK 2010-11).
He has also exhibited his photos in solo and group exhibitions in Viet Nam and other countries like Singapore, Malaysia and UK.
He chats with Culture Vulture about his passion.
You have just won a silver medal in the Fine Art-Nudes category of the Prix de la Photographie Paris photo contest for a series of five photos entitled Memory. Could you talk about the collection?
This series is part of my project entitled The Mystery of Woman, which I have been working on for many years.
Memory helps people feel more sharply about their existence. There are many areas in memory, one of which is the memory for love. There is no perfect memory – there remain vague points, sharp points, things worth remembering, things that would be better forgotten. It's like sweet and salty tastes.
I want to tell a story of memories so viewers can see the impact of their memories there. The collection bears imaginative abstract characteristics.
The beauty of a woman's body is very important but the charm in her soul is even more essential.
What's your main principle in creating?
I'm interested in what belongs to spiritual life, intimate and personal stories with distinguished personalities. I'm fond of the ambiguous border between imagination and reality.
A photo should tell the viewers a lot, surprise them and make them think twice.
I don't like using software and modern techniques to process my photos because real life is already vivid and interesting.
You are among few journalists who have succeeded in photography. Do you think photography assists journalism? How do you distinguish between art photos and journalism photos?
Photography helps me imagine better, which has directly improved my writing. A good photo adds more information to a newspaper article and makes the article more persuasive. Journalism photos respect reality and bear objective characteristics while art photos are influenced by personal creativeness. Art photos may be both realistic and surrealist. The common thing between the two genres is that a good photo, either journalism or art, should send a sharp message by a sensational depiction.
You have taken part in a lot of international photo contests and won various prizes. How important are the prizes to you?
Prizes to me are like a small current beside the main current – exhibitions. The aim of an artist is to create and express personal feelings on life.
I have organised eight solo exhibitions on different topics in the last seven years. International contests are a chance for me to review my work because they are assessed objectively by judges from the New York Times, National Geographic, Lucie Award and others.
I search for competition information and send entries and fees online. It's fairly simple yet some big contests require significant fees. The most expensive one was US$75. The contests all encourage creativeness. My entries all send sharp messages and meet technical requirements. They bear messages on human-interest issues throughout the world.
What are your plans for the future?
Besides taking pictures of contemporary life, I will still continue projects on the monks, and take a deeper look at former war generals in peace time. Soon I will start a new challenging topic. Let me keep it a secret until my next solo exhibition. — VNS