As one of Vietnam’s foremost photojournalists, Linh Pham has a penchant for capturing the most unlikely of places. With a love for complex, busy photos that are more than what they seem at first glance, Linh captures the stories behind some of Asia’s most overlooked places. We dug into what it’s like to capture Asia’s charm through a camera lens.
Tell us a little bit about how you got started in photography.
I got into photography by accident. After watching the documentary film ‘War Photographer’ about the legendary photographer James Nachtwey, I know I had to make photography a part of my life. So, I forged my path into professional photography after graduating with a degree in graphic design. All the while, that film has been stuck in my head. It’s truly addictive.
What do you think is the difference between a photographer and a photojournalist?
I’m not really sure – and I don’t want to be classified because the gap is small – but for me, photojournalism is about solving problems through stories, and the photos must be unstaged. Photojournalists must make a firm commitment on following ethics and delivering the truth.
What kinds of things do you most enjoy capturing in your photos?
I’m looking for photos that describe the human condition, intimacy and personal moments. I tend to take ‘off-moment’ photos that don’t describe an event or place obviously. I want my photos to make people feel or think a bit, and that tiny clue will lead a viewer to a bigger idea. And for me, life is like that; it is much less dramatic than what we see on the news.
Though you’ve done some work internationally, you seem to have lots of photography in Hanoi and Vietnam. Why is that?
After spending a few years traveling and photographing in many different places (including conflict- and war-zones) I recognized that I can only do my best in a place that I understand the most and connect to spiritually. That place for me is home in Vietnam, where my roots are planted. I feel like it is some sort of responsibility, as well, to create some work here.
“I want my photos to make people feel or think a bit, and that tiny clue will lead a viewer to a bigger idea. Life is like that; it is much less dramatic than what we see on the news.”
What’s been your most memorable photography experience in southeast Asia?
There are so many memorable experiences that I can’t really choose only one. I travel frequently throughout the region for work, and Myanmar is always my most favorite destination. There’s something mystical there; when you’re sipping some iced tea, watching a purple sunset over a golden Sule Pagoda through layers of white bed sheets, waiting to dry on the top of a colonial building in downtown Yangon. And, when I have a chance to take a break from work, I try to avoid the camera so that I can truly enjoy the moment.
You have many photos that capture busy environments. What makes photographing these complex locations a favorite for you?
At first glance, Vietnam and Hanoi are difficult places to find a quiet environment. I find Hanoi to be fascinating and playful, so I try to illustrate that mood in my photos. Plus, people sometimes say that your photography represents yourself, and I would consider myself messy and complicated.
Where can visitors to Vietnam and Asia see your work?
I have no plan for exhibition, but you can always follow my work on Instagram where I post mobile photos regularly, and my professional work on my website. I’m also a part of a group project called “Everyday Vietnam” portraying everyday life in Vietnam. Photos there are contributed by some of the best photographers in the country.
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