by Luong Thu Huong
|Favourite works: The leaf photo of Vy and his wife (top) and the black and white leaf photo of his wife taken when she was young. — Photos courtesy of Le Nguyen Vy
In 2007, Le Nguyen Vyõõ is recognised as the inventor of stone photography by the Viet Nam Records Book Centre. Five years later, he continues to expand his creativity by printing photos on leaves.
It took Vyõ nearly 18 years to perfect stone photography, but only six months to print his first leaf photo, drawing on his previous experience.
"I enjoy making leaf photos because leaves have special features that stones do not. Even though the veins are pure white and monotonous, leaves can produce really impressive portraits," Vyõ says.
After experimenting on various species of plant, he found that the leaves of the snowbell were the most suitable for his requirements. "Other leaves have no special structure but the veins of the snowbell leaf are quite durable. After getting rid of the chlorophyll, its veins remain strong and can produce beautiful photos," Vyõ explains.
The subjects of Vyõ's photos vary, ranging from portraits and landscapes to different works of art, but for him, portraits are his favourite. Vyõ says the human face reflects a lot about a person's life, and if the artist is capable of reading that face, he might be capable of drawing all the ups and downs of a life.
"Leaf veins are like a cobweb. A human life is also like a cobweb from which they have to constantly fight and find a way out," he adds.
In comparison with stone photos, leaf photos have the advantage of weight, as they are much lighter. Despite the difficult technique, it takes only a short time to produce a leaf photo. They are also easy to bind in albums, making it convenient to store and display them.
The price of a leaf photo is only one-third compared to that of a stone photo, at about VND5,000/sq.cm (US$0.4).
"Leaf photography, like every other form of arts, requires skill and technique to bring out the true beauty of a photo," Vyõ reveals.
Vyõ has succeeded in printing 1,000 words on an area of about 4sq.cm, and he has astonished many people by printing pieces of Vietnamese literature such as Binh Ngo Dai Cao (Great Proclamation of Victory over Foreign Invasion) and Nam Quoc Son Ha (Mountains and Rivers of the Southern Country) on small pebbles. He is intending to transfer these works onto leaves.
"I'm looking for bigger leaves to print portraits that I have taken on. For portraits of artists or famous people who have passed away, I will use archived photos."
Nurturing a dream of creating a collection of famous people's leaf photos, his favourite work, however, is a black and white leaf photo of his wife taken when she was young. According to Vyõ, black and white photos are more interesting than those in colour because they stimulate viewers to think about their depth.
Born in 1950 in Da Nang City, Le Nguyen Vyõ has spent most of his life trying and exploring new things.
"If someone tells me about anything that can't be done in Viet Nam, I become interested and absorbed in it at all costs. Simply speaking, I don't enjoy repeating anything or following the crowd. More importantly, change is my way of life," Vyõ says.
Previously, when talking about his passion for stone photography, he used to say: "Instead of following a particular profession, I have spent nearly 18 years studying how to develop a photo on a stone. Can you imagine a man with his wife and a horde of children spends years pursuing his passion while earning very little, but in the end, everything is still alright." To realise his idea, Vyõ used to get into debt, sold his motorbike and even mortgaged his house.
Vyõ's determination to pursue his own path has ultimately paid off. From the success of his first work, he has successfully created stone and leaf photos of his favourite pictures. A lifeless lumpy stone or snowbell leaf that can be found anywhere, in Vyõ's hands, all of a sudden transforms into a work of art.
"If possible, I will hold an exhibition of both stone and leaf photos of my friends and the world right here in Da Nang City," Vyõõ says, hoping that his works will contribute to building a reputation for his hometown. — VNS