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Vietnamese photo contests change for the better

Update: December, 12/2018 - 07:00
Nguyễn Việt Thanh
Viet Nam News

Jurors of the "Khoảnh Khắc Vàng" (Gold Moment) photo contest will begin the process of choosing the best pictures from thousands of entries next week.

It is the fifth time Vietnam News Agency has held the press photo contest for professional and amateur photographers from around the country and overseas.

The contest is an opportunity for photographers to present their point of views on politics, economics, culture and society, science and technology, sports and other issues. 

Việt Nam News photographer Nguyễn Việt Thanh, one of the jurors, spoke about photo contests in Việt Nam.

Vietnam News Agency has held this contest biennially for 10 years and it is becoming one of the most prestigious photo contests in Việt Nam. What do you think about the role of photo contests and "Gold Moment" in particular?

Photographers send press photos to all types of contests, but jurors, photographers and viewers have started to change their thinking about photo contests. The contests receive more press photos than staged or sight-seeing photos. It is a good sign for Vietnamese photography.

Just a few years ago, contests had general themes which were unattractive to photojournalists. Now we have specific themes and criteria. A recent contest by Radio the Voice of Việt Nam was successful because the contest had a specific theme entitled "Early Stage Healthcare Service". It is very specific and human theme.

The jury panel is very important for every contest. Normally, photographers see who the jurors are and how prestigious they are. The criteria and jurors decide the number of the contestants.

"Gold Moment" is prestigious. The oganising board has received more than 7,000 photos so far and almost all of them are up to standard. 

You have been a juror at photo contests in Viet Nam and abroad as well. What is different between domestic and foreign contests?

In the past, photo contests in Việt Nam did not have a limited duration for entries. Photographers could send works from years ago to a contest. But this has changed. Now, contests have a timeframe the photo must have been taken in. This is good because it will urge the photographers to try their best.

"Gold Moment" this year asks photographers to send photos being taken within 2017-18. The photographers have to discover something new for their entry. This is a big change. I think "Gold Moment" is a true press photo contest because its criteria follows the requirements of international photo contests.

What do you think about young photojournalists ?

Young photojournalists are very active. They are keen to learn from international photographers. Photography needs to be updated everyday. If we don’t follow what happens in photography elsewhere in the world we will be backward.

In the 1960s-80s, photojournalists used a tele lens to take photos. But press photos now are taken with a wide-angle lens. It is very difficult for photographers to use a wide-angle lens because it forces them to approach their subject closer. I think it is a humane way to take photos. It also helps photo editors understand what the photographer is trying to achieve.

I’m also a photo editor. When I see a photo I know how the photographer approached his subject. I know some masters like James Nachway, John Stameyer and Tim Page use 35mm-tele lens. This means they approach their subject very close, including in war.

This year, "Gold Moment" has a category for smartphone photos. What do you think about the role of smartphones in photography?

I think smartphones have made a strong impact on photography. They have popularised photography in society. This is the time of Industry 4.0. Taking photos with a smartphone has advantages. It is more comfortable to use a smartphone because it will not make the subject embarrassed. Smartphone photography is a trend of today’s press. Sometimes, we cannot use a camera to take the character. I cannot deny that smartphones have to some extent replaced cameras.

How can "Gold Moment" meet international photo contest standards?

I think that it needs to follow the criteria given by international press photo contests. "Gold Moment" will be successful if the organisers do that. Selecting and getting access to new things is a target of new agencies across the world. I hope Vietnam News Agency will catch international trends aiming at narrowing the gap. — VNS


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