personal project

Hey, blog, I am sorry that I have left you alone for a year or so.  I had writer's block.  But I kept on shooting since.  :) . I worked on a new personal project called, #PhillyOver9000.  I was able to shoot two sessions of people who work in the food and beverage industry in Philadelphia.  Not the greatest turn out, but I was able to photograph about 12 people.  Which I am very thankful for.  I wanted to do a fun white seamless portrait project that was also slightly high key.  

You do you, unless you want to be a photographer.

Since my last post, I finally was able to meet Penny De Los Santos and take her workshop up in NYC, went to California, and posted a ton of photographs onto Exposure.  I am not sure why I came back from California on Monday, but I did.  I pretty much abhor snow and winter.  

Then I read a story from Bridget Eldrige Photography about her time with Foundation Workshop.  And thought about some thoughts that were passed around, while I have been pursuing this photography work.  One thought was, "be yourself." Now everyone says, "be yourself" which is all well and good.  But not entirely good if you are a photographer.  Well specifically, an introverted photographer like myself and Bridget, in the provided link.  One of the key non-technical things that make or break photography is connection.  I don't mean the subjects in the photo, but that in itself also makes a stronger and compelling photograph.  But I mean between photographer and subject, specifically live beings- people and animals.  Food? I don't know photographer and subject is relevant for that.  

For introverts, it is hard to open up and just talk to people, let alone allowing them to open up to you as a photographer.  So that's what I mean by being yourself as a photographer doesn't necessarily cut it.  If you are wondering what Foundation Workshop is, it's a workshop on wedding photojournalism.  They throw the students into an in depth situation for them to document, which doesn't have to do with weddings.  The goals of Foundation, as the name implies, is to create a foundation of strong visual story telling.  You need to know all the technical aspects of photography prior to come out of it better.  But then again, why would you be spending $4k or so of hard earned money if you didn't know how to use your camera?

Creating a connection with the people, or animals, that you are photographing is one of the top traits that need be able to conjure up in seconds.  That is if you want to be a successful photographer.  

Knowing that this is an issue for myself, I have been since trying to strike up small talk and discussion with anyone.  So far it is going alright. I do realize that I am much more talkative to strangers, if I am traveling.  I have to say that, that while I love the in the moment photographs, but those in the moment photographs are stronger and freeing if there was a connection made between the photographer and people you are photographing.  

But, man, it is hard!  I just want to go in make some photographs and head on out of there.  Just like with my realization with my personal project, in order for me to make a story more compelling is to get them to open up about themselves.   

That's what I got when I read Bridget's blogpost, talking to people really helps make your images better.  Being serious here. 

Anyway, as mentioned, I recently came back from California.  Still beating myself up here for coming back.  I was out there babysitting my nephew Vincent for the week.  As with every time I am out there, I ponder to myself what am I doing.  Or well, what am I doing staying in the East coast?

So what do you think?  What areas do you think you are falling short in being whom you want to be?


33.  That is the age I turned to on the 20th of Sept.  So to celebrate I went to Zahav on Saturday and then to South Philly Barbacoa on Sunday.  I completed my Solomonv-Cook shop circuit Saturday!  Well till they open the Rooster Soup... I really want to make some portraits of Mike Solomonov.  So Universe, please make that happen!  What can I say about Zahav?  The food is amazing, the setting is cozy and beautiful, and the wait staff were extremely nice and helpful.  Can you ask for better?  It was a great experience.  I am really glad that I saved Zahav for last on my Solomonov circuit.  It's like a continuous crescendo of great food & service!

Then on Sunday, the actual day of my birthday, I spent the morning at South Philly Barbacoa for the mixiotes special.  Sure I ran two miles first thing in the morning and biked to South Philly Barbacoa to help digest the amazing meal I had at Zahav.  For this weekend they had a special called Mixiotes.  I didn't know what it was, but it sounded good so I wanted to eat it.  This is what it is, according to Wikipedia: is a traditional pit-barbecued meat dish in central Mexico; especially in the Basin of Mexico. It can also be prepared in an oven. It is usually made with mutton or rabbit, but chicken, lamb, and pork are also used. The meat is cubed with the bone and seasoned with pasilla and guajillo chili peppers, cumin, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, cloves and garlic. It is then wrapped in small packages made of the tough semi-transparent outer skin of the leaves of the maguey or century plant, which gives it a unique flavor.  Diced nopales are often included with the meat before wrapping.

After I ate the mixiotes, added a little too many peppers, I biked off to the Fairmount park area.  As always on these rides, I think about how far I have gotten with my photography work.  I keep thinking of how much further I need to go to make it to the next stepping stone, the end goal never in sight, just another stepping stone. 


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.