Nhung Dang interview
Blue Mitchell: Where did you grow up? Can you tell me what it was like for you growing up?
Nhung Dang: I was originally born in Hanoi; my families were among the boat people who left Vietnam in the late 70s. We came to live in England where I grew up in the South, in a small town with small attitudes. As far as I can remember I desperately craved an opportunity to break free and find my independence and individuality.
My parents tried to give me a strict traditional upbringing where creativity was tolerated but certainly not encouraged. After many battles, my rebellious nature finally took over when I made my escape at 17.
When did you start making artwork?
I have always sought ways to develop and express my creativity through various art forms including music and video.
I discovered my passion for photography whilst trying to work on an idea for a short film, I found that I kept reaching for my SLR over my video camera.
We are featuring your pinhole photography, what draws you to this technique and why?
Pinhole began for me as an experiment. I had been playing around with cheap toy cameras and utilizing the unique results gained from the lo-fi equipment. Therefore I thought what could be more crappy than making my own camera. I just love the tin pot-ness of my biscuitcam, where I can achieve an incredible quality of image while details like megapixels and ISOs are just meaningless.
Pinhole completely appeals to my nature as a photographer as I tend to work instinctively, so without a viewfinder or light meter I will line up my camera, look at the sky and guess the minutes to count away.
When I pinhole I concentrate on creating an atmosphere over worrying about technical precision. I love photographing the portraits as the mood that I can conjure up simply astounds me every time.
Who or what inspires your creativity?
I’m inspired by images of the past, decay, travel, industry, people, stories…
One of my projects includes a photo blog called the Lost Promenade. It gives me the opportunity to seek out my inspirations through visiting various seaside towns around the coast of Britain. My photos are probably quite romantic as I try to capture the atmosphere, the fading grandeur, the strange quirks of the place as we explore ….each trip is like living out a childhood outing to the sea….. It’s also a good opportunity to go prop/costume scouting for my pinhole portrait shots!
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
I used to I feel under pressure to try and develop a personal style in my work in order to stand apart from everyone else. I used to get frustrated about being able to find my niche.
The problem is that there’s a tendency to mirror your peers, mentors, and influences which I sought to avoid. For me, personal style developed through life experience and practical experience.
Now, I look over my body of work and I can see how my style and individuality has shaped over time and I realize there’s no point in being impatient as you can’t rush the creative process.
If you were to teach a class on photography, what would be your first advice to your students?
I would tell my students that if they wanted a lesson in the history of photography and the textbook way of doing things then this is not the class for them. I would tell them not to get weighed down with technique and the correct way of doing things but to just go out, take risks and experiment.