Saturday, May 30 2020


Time to focus on conceptual photography, says critic

Update: May, 13/2020 - 10:11


Photographer and critic Vũ Huyến. Photo

Vietnamese photographers have won international prizes in various categories, but conceptual photography still seems to be untapped ground for local snappers. 

Quân Đội Nhân Dân (People's Army) newspaper's Trần Hoàng Hoàng interviews veteran photographer and photography critic Vũ Huyến, former Editor-in-Chief of Tạp Chí Nhiếp Ảnh (Photography Magazine), about conceptual photography in Việt Nam. 

Could you give us an overview of conceptual photography?

Conceptual photography is one of the types of photography that is set up and the photographer uses software to edit according to their intentions.

A conceptual photo does not aim to describe reality but illustrate an idea. It shows the artist's attitude before reality. It has something behind the photo.

There are photos that are set up but photographers try to photoshop as a press photo. Photography like press photograph respects truth. The artist records how life is at that moment.

However, a press photo is not a conceptual photo. A conceptual photo has philosophic ideas. It has a variety of meanings and shows the viewpoint and subjective thoughts of the photographer.

Visible subjects and objects are not the main content of the conceptual photo. To convey a message or personal viewpoint, a photographer often has ideas first and then uses photographic techniques such as symbols, lines and shades in their pictures.

Could you tell us about conceptual photos by Vietnamese photographers?

There are not many photographers taking conceptual photos in Việt Nam. Conceptual photography has not been paid strong attention. As a result, it is not an outstanding skill of Vietnamese photographers.

There are causes for this situation. Photographers have no strong points in logical thinking. They have not thought about popular philosophical thought.

Taking a conceptual photo, the photographer attempts to illustrate a specific concept or idea to convey a message. Plus, they can combine other art genres to have a good conceptual photo.

Therefore, conceptual photography is popular in European and American countries because of their logical thought.

Do you think conceptual photography is difficult for the public to understand?

There is a difference between watching and feeling a conceptual photo or a press photo. Photography is a universal art. When people see the same photo they understand it regardless of who are they.

It is completely different from literature which needs to be translated to be understood. Watching and feeling a conceptual photo is more complicated. It requires the viewer to focus on thinking about the message of the work.

Normally, a conceptual photo has a name that is an important key to understand the idea and how the photographer took the photo.

The public will create with the photographer to discover something when they see the photo. Sometimes, the discovery surprises the photographer.

I think that viewing a conceptual photo is interesting to give viewers a chance to think and imagine. 

Do you think conceptual photography will develop in Việt Nam?

About 10 years ago, the Việt Nam Artistic Photography Association held an exhibition of conceptual photography. 

Many photo contests have a conceptual photo category. Relevant agencies have encouraged photographers to carry out conceptual photo making to diversify the trade. 

I think Vietnamese photographers are skilled in photographic techniques. But it will take a long time to promote conceptual photography in Việt Nam. 

Photographers should be interested and learn about the requirements of this type of photography. 

They need to have a passion for conceptual photography which will urge a photographer to learn about it. VNS


A conceptual photo by Phạm Tuấn. Photo



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