An Exclusive Interview with Minh Nghia Le

Minh Nghia Le and his wife Mai Phuong Duong are two Singapore-based photographers. Photography has nothing to do with their daily job but it has become their passion for years. His main interests currently are street photography and portraiture, which certainly have influences on his other work in travel and wedding photography.

In this “Exclusive Interview” section, today we have the opportunity to talk with Minh Nghia Le, as his photograph was winner of Photo of the Month – 35th Month, 1st Place. Let’s discover more about Minh Nghia Le, and his forays into photography in the following interview with him.

An Exclusive Interview with Minh Nghia Le

An Exclusive Interview with Minh Nghia Le, winner of Photo of the Month – 35th Month, 1st Place.

Light & Composition: Greetings from Light & Composition, Minh Nghia Le. How does it feel being selected as the winner of Photo of the Month, 35th Month, 1st Place?

Minh Nghia Le: It is such a great honour. Thank you so much! I feel deeply grateful and motivated by the appreciation to continue doing what I love.

L&C: You have been with us from the beginning of the magazine and almost every single month you have participated. Some of your photographs scored close enough to win the first position, and this time you have made it! We would love to know your experience with us in the past years and with the new award system and policies.

Minh Nghia: Yes! This time I finally made it. First of all, I must thank the Team for the support and quick responses from the submission to publication. L&C is a great platform to bring out the essence of art and photography. Also, it is a great feeling to be able to share the beauty in life that we saw to the large audience via L&C. To me, it is the first and foremost reward for submitting work to the magazine.

L&C: Your photographs, “Shadows and Light”, was selected as Photo of the Month, is a beautiful artistic photograph with aesthetic perspective, correct lighting, and very well presented. Overall, a great composition! Tell us more about your experience of taking this photograph.

Minh Nghia: It was rather a surprise for me to see the photo while scanning the film. I saw such an interesting architecture in zigzag form with its colour changing every few minutes.

I metered for the light and waited for the passengers to form some interesting shadows. I took 3 shots of the scene and then walked away. This is the first shot, and the winner of the three.

Shadows and Light, by Minh Nghia Le

Shadows and Light, by Minh Nghia Le

L&C: As we know, you are originally from Vietnam, which has its own rich diverse cultural and artistic heritage. Do you think depicting life in Austria portrays a different essence? How much does that influence your work?

Minh Nghia: I grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. When I was young, I didn’t imagine I would be able to travel and see much of the world. I didn’t know about photography back then. But the curiosity of foreign lands portrayed in the stories that I read or the postcards that I saw remains from my childhood. It all came back when I actually visited the place and it forces me to explore/ to verify my imagination.

L&C: Do you like a particular genre of photography and if so, why?

Minh Nghia: Currently I’m focusing on street photography (which does not have a clear definition…) but I don’t really have a preference for a particular genre, but rather for the photograph itself. I’m interested in photographs of people in general. I also like to see the photographs that come with uniqueness, honesty, and layers. Such photographs engage me to view and think further.

L&C: Most of your photographs were taken in different travel locations and your travel photographs are marvellous. What advice would you give our readers to become a successful travel photographer?

Minh Nghia: Well I’m not sure if I’m qualified to give anyone advice and I’m still learning to become a good travel photographer… Anyway, I think being simple and light while travelling is important. Plan in advance which equipments are suitable and use the one that you are most comfortable and confident with. Bringing all of your ultra-wide, normal or telephoto lenses could weight you down and impacts your focus. Secondly, I think we should put safety our highest priority. Study the place and navigate there well so that you can focus more on your photography. If you are not good with the map, you should go with one (I’m lucky to have my wife going with me). Finally, I think the most important part is to go with the flow and enjoy the experience. If one opportunity for a good photograph is missed, another one will present, don’t worry…

L&C: One of the keys to any style of photography is visualization. Please tell us how you started this process and what you did afterwards.
Minh Nghia: I share the same thought with my wife on this question in her interview
L&C: Do you believe it is important to develop your own photographic voice/perspective?

Minh Nghia: These are what I could quickly think of: first, using with the gear you are comfortable with (not necessarily an expensive one). Learn some basic skills so that you can realize your vision. Think about uniqueness – trying to copy some styles is good for learning, but in the end it should be about your style. And above all, be curious about life and self.

L&C: Besides digital photography, we know you still use film. We would love to know your photographic workflow and love to know how you still continue with two different mediums.

Minh Nghia: Thank you for noticing that! Actually there are not many differences in my workflow for film and digital photography. My film is developed by the lab and I do my own scanning from film to digital files (like converted RAW file from digital cameras). Usually the results from scanner still require some retouching like cleaning dust spots, adjusting contrast or neutralizing orange mask (for negative film). I used film mostly for street photography (sometime portraiture), and the rest is still on digital. Digital is convenient and the quality has been really good recently (even surpass film in some areas). But film has a certain organic look and lovely smooth tonality. I have to use both because I can’t choose one…

L&C: Which photographer has inspired you most? What’s your favorite photography quote?

Minh Nghia: There are a lot of photographers that I look up to. Just to name a few, there is the great Henri Cartier-Bresson, and more recently James Nachtwey and Jeff Ascough. I’m also into the work of some modern street photographers like Junku Nishimura and Ying Tang. My favourite photography quote would be this by Antoine d’Agata: “I think of photography as a language and I think a language should be used to speak, to say what you have to say. So, the only things I have to say about my life and what I know about the world, is the way I see it.”

L&C: Thank you, Minh Nghia Le, for sharing your feelings and experiences with us.

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