Viet Nam News
HCM City-based Trần Hạo Nhiên recently made headlines by becoming the first ever photographer in the country to get permission from local cultural authorities to open an exhibition of 50 black and white nude photographs. He spoke to Thúy Hằng about the journey to Tạo Tác (Nature’s Artifact), which held at the HCM City Fine Arts Association.
Inner Sanctum: Tell us something about yourself. How did you become a photographer?
I was born and grew up in HCM City. Before devoting myself to professional photography in 2007, I was a dancer and choreographer.
I made acquaintance with nude photography accidentally, about seven years ago. A girlfriend expecting her first baby asked me to take some photos of her pregnancy. I had no idea how difficult nude photography was. I assumed it would be like any other shoot. When I started shooting nude photos, I realised it was an extremely challenging job. I never dreamed that I would be successful in this tough field. I see myself as a very lucky person to have had access to this opportunity to learn about nude photography.
Inner Sanctum: Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your work?
I study a lot of photographs taken by many other nude photographers, hoping to learn something. However, I want to ensure that my work is mine alone.
Inner Sanctum: Why black and white rather than colour?
I also shoot in colour, but I give priority to black and white as these are two favourite colours. I even select what I wear based on these two colours. I also feel nude photos are best presented in these basic colours. These colours add depth, elegance and mystery.
Inner Sanctum: What is your focus in nude photography?
To depict feminine beauty, it’s unnecessary to expose the whole body, just the curves will do. That’s why my photos focus on these details. Another detail that attracts me a lot is the hands of the women.
As I said earlier, I used to be a dancer and a choreographer. That’s why I pay a lot of attention to the hands, which, for me, symbolise the touch, the connection, interaction, and harmony.
Of course any body part of the woman is very sexy and inspirational.
Another thing that makes my photos different from others is that the model’s face is not seen at all. That is deliberate because I don’t want to admire the beauty of any specific woman. I just want to honour feminine beauty.
Inner Sanctum: While nude photography is more popular and prevalent in Western countries, it has been a sensitive, even taboo topic in Việt Nam? What are the difficulties Vietnamese photographers face, in this genre?
Actually, that one word ‘sensitive’ says everything about the difficulties we have to deal with.
Inner Sanctum: What’s the secret to your getting permission for the exhibition?
I don’t have any secret. I guess that I’m lucky.
I nurtured this idea (for an exhibition) for three years. However, I knew that so far such an exhibition had not won approval from culture management authorities. I sought help from experienced photographers. They gave me a lot of support, from guidance on how to plan for exhibition to how to select photos for display. I selected 50 that I liked the most, and luckily all of them were approved.
Inner Sanctum: The success of your recent exhibition is a significant ‘starting block’. What are your plans after this show?
If I continue to attach myself to the nude photography, I hope I will have other chance to introduce my creations to a wider audience. At the exhibition last month, I also launched my photo book Nature’s Artifact. The 120-page book has about 100 nude photos.
I also have other non-nude photo projects that I need to complete.
I hope that after the exhibition, people get a chance to enjoy the works of other famous nude photographers like Thái Phiên, Trần Huy Hoan and Dương Quốc Định. — VNS