Ly Vo Phu Hung specialises in photographing actors, singers and models. He is noted for his portraits that capture his subject's very essence. It is said that anyone who appears in one of his photographs will inevitably become famous one day. Hung talks with reporter Hong Nga
about his career.
Inner Sanctum: You are not only the regular photographer of many musicians and cinema and stage actors, but also their close friends. How do you come to understand their unique states of mind so that each photo won't repeat the previous one?
To understand states of mind, I first watch a performance to get a feel for the basic points of strength of the artist. I learn which genre of music a singer performs best or what kind of character an actor most successfully portrays.
Only with these conditions can I express one's personality and state of mind via photography.
Every year, I seem to take different photos of my same subjects.
One year, they might be wearing a certain kind of clothing or hair style, but the next, their clothing and hair would change according to fashion trends or developments of their own character.
For example, pop star Dam Vinh Hung last year only sang upbeat dance songs, so I took photos that showed him as young and modern. But this year, Hung sings old songs, and my photos of him reflect, to a greater extent, his inner feelings.
Inner Sanctum: Your strength is the natural way you shoot portraits of artists, with an ability to make someone look modern and fresh. How do you do this?
Yes, my forte is portraits. This is partly just from an inborn aptitude.
To further develop, I had to practise and study this genre to learn about the ways that world-famous photographers take photos.
For example, for an artist with beautiful eyes, I have to consider which eye is more beautiful to focus on. Body type matters as well. I try to limit the use of Photoshop software to adjust the photos.
Inner Sanctum: A special thing of your photos is how the bright eyes of your subject captivate the attention of viewers. How do you do this?
Since I began my career, I've enjoyed photographing women's faces. I often focus on the face, especially the eyes, because they can express the depths of the soul.
Sometimes, a person may not be smiling, but her eyes still smile, which is enchanting to look at. It is very difficult to express this.
People who have their portraits taken often ask me to bring this feature out, but without using Photoshop and changing their face.
So, in addition to naturally beautiful eyes, lips or noses, the person should "act" to express their state of mind. It is easy for artists, who are arguably more involved in their states of mind, but for ordinary clients who do not know how to act, my job becomes five to ten times more difficult. I have to try to encourage them, helping them feel relaxed so their faces look natural.
Inner Sanctum: Many unknown people have become famous after you took photographs for them. Have you got any interesting stories about them?
Maybe it is fate that arranged for me to meet such people. I took some photos for Dam Vinh Hung in 1998, and I never expected that just few years later he became a famous pop star.
I have taken photos for model Quach Ngoc Ngoan since he was a student. When Ngoan applied for roles in two movies Khat Vong Thang Long (Thang Long Aspiration) and Long Thanh Cam Gia Ca (The Fate of a Songstress in Thang Long) I took photos that revealed the character in him that the directors needed. Luckily, he won prizes for both the movies.
I have taken photos for many other singers, actors and actresses. When I take photos for these stars, my reputation grows so I don't think too much about the income.
Inner Sanctum: How do you teach your children?
My wife is a primary school teacher. I used to be a music teacher, teaching guitar and piano skills. But later I turned to photography.
I managed to create a cultural and artistic foundation for my son and my daughter from a young age.
My wife and I do not impose knowledge on our children. We guide them and let them study all subjects, so that they have a base from which they can develop and select their future careers.
Our guideline is: let children follow their own tastes and inborn aptitudes. But this requires parents' guidance.
One day, my son asked me: "I want to learn martial arts, why do you ask me to learn how to play music?"
I replied: "I want you to follow art. But I don't force you to be excellent in this subject. Studying art has many benefits: if you learn painting, you will have knowledge of colours, if you learn how to play musical instruments, you will have a good sense for music."
Inner Sanctum: Does your wife complain when you are far from home so frequently and work only with famous beauties?
Women often have similar worries and points of jealousy. But for my family, each person believes in the other. We try to maintain this belief, which is our most precious treasure. — VNS