Reporter Tran Viet Van of the Ha Noi-based Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper has just won the Prix de la Photographie Paris (Px3) photo contest for the seventh consecutive year (2008-15).
This year, Van won the third prize in the Press category for his entry entitled Veterans, which features the simple life of war veterans in Viet Nam.
He has also won various international prizes, including the International Photography Awards (USA 2009-11) and the Photo Master Cup (UK 2010-11).
He speaks to Culture Vulture about his interests.
Why have you been participating in the Px3 contest for so long? What are the topics that you have exploited?
I have competed in various international photo contests and Px3 is one such global one. You may know that this year, the jury selected Px3's winners from thousands of entries from more than 85 countries.
The jury members of Px3 are top international decision-makers in the photography industry such as Carol Johnson, curator of photography of the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and Gilles Raynaldy, director of Purpose, Paris. The Px3 contest strives to promote the appreciation of photography, discover emerging talent, and introduce photographers from around the world to the artistic community of Paris.
My entry will be among the winning photographs from this competition to be exhibited in a high-profile gallery in Paris and published in the high-quality, full colour Px3 Annual Book. That's a great honour.
Even the competitors at the contest are people who have received various prizes at World Press Photo or other contests such as Sony World Photography.
I want to join such contests to know where I am, whether I can approach the world of contemporary photography, which then will be a powerful force for me to be more creative.
I have taken photos of various topics ranging from press photography to an artistic [fine art] one under the theme Tuong Tran Thoi Binh (War Generals in Peace Time), Dao va Doi (Buddhism and Life) and Ky Uc (Memory, a collection of nude women). I won the Px3 2014 gold medal for my collection of five photos entitled War Generals in Peace Time, and a silver medal at Px3 2012 for the nude collection Memory.
My main interest is issues of human beings, with three constant questions: Who are we? Where are we from? And where are we going?
The answers to those questions belong to each person in each era.
What do you think a beautiful photo is?
I don't care about the notion of a "beautiful photo". A beautiful photo might be a pure tourism photo. I prefer a photo with more emotions. A photo may describe a feeling or a status, or sometimes it tells a story or many stories at the same time. Yet the viewers should get obsessed with the photo so that the image returns again and again to their minds.
Are you working both as a news reporter and a photojournalist? What is your strength?
I have never worked as a photojournalist. I have been working as a news reporter, covering culture and society for Lao Dong newspaper for years.
Photography is just my hobby, but sometimes it surpasses my communication ability to voice my opinion on various issues. I am a photographic artist, not a photojournalist. And I do not care too much for writing or taking photos. Each of these two things has its own strong points, depending on the time it can develop its maximum effect.
I care most about my inspiration and creativity.
What are the projects you are involved in? What's your plan to develop your photography skills? What are the next contests you intend to send entries to?
My War Generals in Peace Time project, which has been ongoing since 2009, will continue. I have held two exhibitions in Ha Noi. In a few years, I will meet more characters, approach them in a more profound way and focus on their innermost feelings.
I will also continue with my Buddhism and Life project, which started in 2005. I have held exhibitions on this topic in Ha Noi, Hue and Singapore. I will further develop it with various angles, and focusing not just on religion.
I will also concentrate on other topics such as Ha Noi's Old Quarter and how one should stay balanced inside in the global era. I will join other contests in the US, the United Kingdom and France. I love deadlines because sometimes I feel bored with myself. — VNS