Celebrating the first wedding anniversary of Nguyễn Văn Hùng, who is dubbed a 'tiny teacher', and Lê Thị Diễm My. Photo courtesy of Trần Văn Trà
by Lương Thu Hương
The optimism and determination of people with disabilities have inspired a 22-year-old student in Hà Nội to create a series of photo collections featuring their lives.
By sharing these meaningful photos, Trần Văn Trà, a final-year student of the Faculty of Architecture and Planning of Hà Nội University of Civil Engineering, wishes to spread positive energy to the community.
“I hope to boost the confidence of people with disabilities in society by seeing themselves in my photos, and inspire ordinary people to find beauty in diversity,” he said.
Beginning last year, the architecture student with a passion for photography has released 10 collections portraying people with disabilities so far.
Trần Văn Trà is a final-year student of the Faculty of Architecture and Planning of Hà Nội University of Civil Engineering but has a passion for photography. Photo courtesy of Trần Văn Trà
He has found much pleasure in taking portraits since his high school years. His first works were taken with a smartphone and received praise from both friends and relatives.
Earning money from a part-time job during his third year at university, Trà purchased his first professional camera, a second-hand Canon 6D for VNĐ15 million (US$650) and started to take photography more seriously.
Using his architectural background, the amateur photographer has been able to apply new colour effects in his works. He has also accumulated specialised knowledge by teaching himself via instructional videos of professional photographers.
According to Trà, taking photos is not difficult and anyone can do it, but the most important factor is the emotions conveyed in each photo.
He said that photography has helped him to extend his relationships, gain more experience and earn a little extra income.
The smiles of the characters in his photos give Trà more motivation in life. Photo courtesy of Trần Văn Trà
The idea of taking pictures for disabled people came to him when he learned about the couple Nguyễn Văn Hùng and Lê Thị Diễm My through their YouTube channel, which has over 528,000 subscribers.
“They both have the disability pituitary dwarfism or growth hormone deficiency. I was fortunately given the chance to make a photo collection that celebrates their first wedding anniversary,” Trà said.
Since then, the photographer has also become a volunteer of Nghị Lực Sống (Will to Live) Centre, which provides free vocational training for disabled people and supports their social integration.
It also gave him chances to get to know more disadvantaged people and create more photograph collections of them.
He said that he found no difference between taking portraits of disabled and normal people, and faced no difficulties in creating his special photo collections.
“There are various types of disabilities. What I have to do first is to win their trust and as long as I can do that, they can truly be themselves in my photos and confidently showcase their beauty,” he said.
“I also tend to choose the backdrops that are convenient for my characters to access and feel most at ease. They then become cooperative and do the poses that I expect.”
For example, when photographing a girl named Thương in a wheelchair, he carried her on his back from one flower bed to another.
Meanwhile, the photos capturing the tiny couple Hùng and My have a nostalgic backdrop, which Trà discussed with them beforehand. They were taken at a coffee shop in an outlaying district and a nearby meadow.
He carries out every process himself, from brainstorming to post-production. Every person has a different disability and life story but all the photos are made with passion and taken free of charge.
The young photographer said that photos that capture the happiness of people with disabilities were meaningful to him.
“Their smiles make me feel more optimistic and have more motivation in life,” he said.
Nguyễn Thị Vân was honoured as one of the most inspirational women in the 21st century by the BBC in 2019. Photo courtesy of Trần Văn Trà
Among 10 inspirational collections taken in the past year, he is most impressed with that of Nguyễn Thị Vân, the CEO of the Will to Live Centre and the founder of social enterprise Imagator, which provides jobs for disabled people.
Vân, 32, born with spinal muscular atrophy, was one in two Vietnamese women honoured by the BBC’s 100 Women, a series that examines the role of women in the 21st century, in 2019.
She also inspired Trà to become a volunteer at the Will of Life Centre.
Vân loves lotus flowers so he came up with the idea of having her lie on lotus leaves and surrounding her with lotus flowers to make her feel like she was lying on a real lotus pond.
“She could not walk so I had to help raise her arms and legs on the spot, trying to capture the best and most convenient posture for her,” he said.
Most of the collections have been shared on Trà’s personal Facebook and received many likes and positive comments.
However, the 22-year-old wants to pursue architecture as his main profession after graduating and only considers photography a hobby.
“I am very happy to receive everyone's support and know that many young people have deep sympathy for disabled people. That will be a great motivation for me to release new quality photos in the future,” he added. VNS