Here comes 2017

Here we are coming to the end of 2016. While everyone wants 2016, I do not.  I am not fond of who is coming in 2017.  Keeping it 100.  But, nevertheless, I will survive.  Just like you all.  If you follow me on instagram and the other socials, as well as being a reader to my blog and Exposure, you know the big thing that has happened to me this year was going to Vietnam for the month.  

It's a pretty tough to sum that adventure and experience into sound bites.  But read the stories linked and you will hopefully see my viewpoints as I traveled around Vietnam.  As well as get inspired to go there, and or travel, yourself.  All I planned when I went there was to eat and I achieved that goal.  All I did was eat.  

But what else was cool about this year, for me, was that I photographed two stories for Edible Philly and two shoots for Philadelphia Magazine.  As well as photographing a #right2work dinner.  And the Weckerlys finally opened their shop.  

Also, I finally upgraded to the Canon 5D mk IV and purchased a 85L mk II.  I now have two camera bodies!  Not only that, but I got into printing prints on a Fuji Instax and been printing 12 x 16s to put together a print portfolio.  I been printing photos from Vietnam, at that size, for a proposed idea of putting together a show on "In Search of Little Saigon in America."

My day job in Princeton, finally, made me a permanent full time.  Pretty sure that I wrote that I had a day job, here or somewhere.  So I have been able to fund more food photo walks.  As well as go to Vietnam for under $3k.

This was my 2016 in a snapshot.  I am hoping to travel more in 2017 and work on more socially conscious work onward.  Hope your 2016 was great and an even better 2017!

Falling off the wagon.

As the title says, I figuratively fell off the wagon.  By that I mean posting here on this blog and my personal project, In Search of Little Saigon in America.  On the plus side, I have been updating my Exposure site!  So if you want to stay really up to date with me, subscribe to my Exposure site.  The last work I posted there is quite cool, Felt + Fat.  

I also did a story for Philadelphia Magazine on Wm. Mulherin Son's for their September issue.  Can't post any images of them till a month or so after it has been published.  But the place was pretty awesome!  It was a really amazing experience and much more involved than my work with Edible Philly.  As the editor loved the work, here's to hoping that I will shoot more stories for them.  

But it's like this, after an assignment I just meander around, both walking and photographically speaking.  It helps me readjust from shooting for work to shooting for personal where I can take risks and do whatever I want.

With my pending adventure to Vietnam in October, I need to really get back into my personal project groove.  I guess I'll look for details and scenes, while I continue to push for portraits and interviews.  

Early Morning and the grind.

Pursuing my project, "In Search of Little Saigon in America" has been an endeavor of personal journey and understanding.  One of the reasons I came up with doing this project was to understand where I particularly fit in America and in Vietnam, well if found myself uprooting my life to live there.  As I mention in the story, I am a Vietnamese American.  My parents emigrated to the United States at the end of the Vietnam War, then had us four.  We grew up with a dual cultural identity. 

Being a food and culture photographer, the other pressing idea that I wanted to address in this project, not just to discover where I fit in, is how as our food changed.  Either from cooking methods to ingredients.

As great as all of that sounds above, the hustle is real.  I have been finding difficulty in trying to get more portraits and interviews in.  I am not complaining, it is training me to just keep going and pounding the pavement.  There are three major reasons for this.  At least in my perspective.

  1. I am not fluent in Vietnamese.  I said it.  Although I am trying to learn it, being able to discuss this prospect with the cooks and owners has been pretty daunting with me not being able to fluently speak and understand the language.  To alleviate this I have been asking friends who can speak it to go with me. 
  2. I am terrible at pitching this project.  But this could just be an issue that goes with #1. 
  3. They don't want to talk to me about their story or for me to take portraits of them

But all of those problems to be able to interview and get portraits are trite in the end.  There are always solutions to problems.  So I am just going to keep on pounding the pavement to continue this series of work.  I do really want to put it all into book form. 

One of the shops that I really want to get portraits and interview with is with Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh on Kensington Ave.  The two top photos are from that shop.  They make one of, if not the, best pho ga (pho with chicken) in Philly. 

The next project I have been working on is called "Portraits of Food in Philadelphia." It's a brief overview of the restaurants and food in Philadelphia.  Check them out on my Exposure.  On Sunday I went to Philly Style Bagels for their bagels and piece together photographs for their eventual addition to the series.  They will be moving into their own brick and mortar sometime in September.  Also I am going to do a Spot Burgers piece too.  Especially when they will get their own Brick and Mortar as well. 

Projects and work

I have been posting my projects and stories on my Exposure, so go over there to read them in detail.  I will summarize them here.  A lot of the photographs you see on my portfolio came from these projects and adventures.  So here's what you should be reading..

Dung Tran of Thang Long Philly

Dung Tran of Thang Long Philly

My current long term project, "In Search of Little Saigon in America." This project is one that is close to my heart.  As a Vietnamese American, I live a dual role of being both American and Vietnamese.  Because of that dual role, and there is a reason why I wrote American before Vietnamese, I, as with my brothers, focused on being Americans first, was not fully embracing my roots in Vietnam.  So pursuing this project has been helping me get to know my roots and understand the change that many Vietnamese refugees had to face when coming to America.  But also how the methods of cooking and sourcing ingredients for Vietnamese food has, potentially, changed. 

Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa

Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa

Not a personal project, but a food culture story that I pursued and finished.  I named the piece "Illegal Food."  Not because the food itself is illegal, rather the one who makes it is according to our current immigration laws.  Hispanics, who make up most of the group who America considers illegal immigrants, make up the major backbone force of our hospitality and agricultural industry.  Without them, those industries would not only be less profitable but short staffed.  And yet they do not have any work rights, constantly belittled, under constant threats from health, politics, economics, and social factors. 

David of Seoul Full Philly food truck

David of Seoul Full Philly food truck

Being close to Philadelphia, I have been going around exploring the food in the city.  As a way to put faces and stories behind the food that we eat here, I made an ongoing series on my Exposure called "Portraits of Food in Philadelphia." You can discover the individual shops that I have explored and photographed with that sub heading. 

Special soft shell crab pita from Dizengoff on Sansom Street

Special soft shell crab pita from Dizengoff on Sansom Street

Along with my roaming "Portraits of Food in Philadelphia" posts is an indulgence guide to Philadelphia.  I call it "Treat yo'self Philly." Probably not as hardcore and stringent as many food reviewers, but it lists the places that I have gone to and enjoyed.  Much so that I think that the visitors of Philadelphia would too.