Seeker, Fighting Spirit, Human Interaction

Vu Khanh Truong

Vu Khanh Truong's street work is wholly sensory. Viewers are instantly infused with the sensations of the street. His images can be heard, and felt, and tasted. Emotion is an important component of Truong’s images, therefore, human interaction is key to his work. His is a world of opposites; joy and sorrow, present and past, light and shadow. Through his lens, Vu skillfully leads us into this world of past and present one unique frame at a time.

I come from Viet Nam, a small country in South East Asia, and I go by the nickname, Wolf. I began my photography journey in 2008. Photography to me is a joy and an adventure. I shoot pictures of everything around me. I love people; talking to them and the sound of their laughter. I love sharing happiness or sadness with everyone I meet. These are the elements I hope to convey with my images. I always say to myself, "If you think this world is awesome, show it through your pictures. If there are so many cruel things in the world, you just need to work harder to find the beautiful ones." Vu Khanh Truong

Kujaja: Describe your photographic style. How did you develop your style?
VKT: Street photography is my choice and since the beginning until now I am happy with my choice. My photographic style is very simple: I am a seeker who seeks happy moments on the street. Nowadays, it is easy to get confused or to be influenced about what or which style or trend we should follow. Whenever I get confused, I will remind myself, “Remember the reason you came to photography; remember you are a happiness seeker”

Kujaja: What is the most challenging part about being a photographer?
VKT: The most challenging part about being a photographer, especially a street photographer like me, is human interaction.

Kujaja: Who inspires you other than photographers (artists, writers, music, architects, and philosophers)?
VKT: I am not really inspired by a person but there is a sentence in the poem of the poet Rabindranath Tagore that I choose as the lodestar for me: “There is only your own pair of wings and the pathless sky”- I call it “fighting spirit”.

Kujaja: What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photography.
VKT: I love both film and digital photography. I am using both and have no difficulty with them. Digital, sometimes, makes you “naturally lazy”. So, whenever I have that feeling, I put down my digital camera for a while and use film instead. Film is not cheap, so I have to be careful about what I will shoot. I must think sharper. As a reward, it gives me more freedom to look and feel the life that is moving on. It happens quite often that when I go out with my film camera, I come back home with one or two shots, or maybe none and I am still happy with that.

Kujaja: Is there any particular genre/style of photography you would like to learn about and try?
VKT: Um, this is kind of strange but I would love to try food photography.

Kujaja: How has photography changed you as a person?
VKT: Photography helps me, pushes me out of my world to the bigger world on the street. I love to go back home with not only just a picture, but a story, a conversation, a sharing together with it. But, that is not easy, so I keep trying. I ask for permission to shoot. I smile at them. I ask them about their lives, etc. I realize that the more you open your heart, the bigger happiness you receive. Without “human interaction” street photography, in my opinion, would be much less interesting.

Kujaja: Have you ever had formal training?
VKT: No, I have not participated in any formal training.

Kujaja: How does black and white vs. color play into your work? Do you find them to be totally separate beasts—or complementary?
VKT: I try with both black and white and color. Why not? It depends on my feeling at that time. I also love to crop my photos to square size and 16:9 size.

Kujaja: When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
VKT: I do not really plan what I shoot. If I do, that plan somehow is very breakable. I follow my instincts a lot. I don’t chase the moment/picture. I strongly believe it will come to me as a friend comes to a friend.

Kujaja: What advice can you offer for those who want to get into photography but maybe can’t afford equipment?
VKT: Equipment (fancy equipment) is a dream and also is a nightmare to all, including me. It’s haunted! That happens not only with photography but many kinds of art. I don’t really have any advice, but nowadays you don’t really need a true/fancy camera to become a photographer. Instagram, Flickr, VSCO and many platforms show thousands of pictures taken by phone camera (filming by camera, too). One thing that I realized sometimes when I go out with nothing (camera, phone) in my hand, then I feel free. There is no pressure about how to take a good picture in this or that situation. I just enjoy the moment in front of my eyes and live with it with all my intention.

Kujaja: Thank you for this interview Vu Khanh!

Vu Khanh Truong at World-Street Photography (click)