Keeping the Passion Alive
Many photographers saw their careers coming to a pause in recent years, but Nguyen Thanh Tung, a photographer from Vietnam, was able to navigate the challenge and kept his burning passion for photography through it all.
Hailing from Ho Chi Minh, Nguyen Thanh Tung spent most of his childhood in the countryside in his mother’s hometown in Rach Gia city in the Kien Gian province. His interest in photography stemmed from his time in university, and after graduation, he worked as a photographer for newspapers and magazines in Ho Chi Minh city. He was eventually hired by The Saigon Times and became one of their key photojournalists.
In his spare time, he conducted professional photography training courses for young photographers, which further established his reputation in the photography community.
For Thanh Tung, photography is a special profession that requires one to take the first step into the world, absorb the sights and experiences, and be inspired creatively. "In the last 2 years, everything stopped. I could barely do anything, but I had never intended to stop or give up my passion. It was a time of unexpected upheaval and unprecedented experiences for many. I have faced constraints and limitations such as distance, frustrations and difficult times, but I know I will eventually get through them”.
Like the rest of us, the sudden pandemic-enforced isolation was tough on Thanh Tung. “Being constantly at home often made me feel useless. I could not let negativity fester forever, so I started occupying my mind with things like exercising, cleaning, growing plants on the balcony, taking care of the children and even watching movies to cope." On top of that, he also kept a habit of taking notes and commonplace photos of daily life from food, potted plants, and children reading books.
Eventually, everything became a subject for his photography. Photo-taking became a daily activity, which Thanh Tung shares on Facebook and with his circle of friends to endure the long days. To keep the negativities at bay, he would occupy himself by watching and learning from other photographers on YouTube.
There are difficult days, but Thanh Tung discovered that by doing the little things, he is able to keep his passion aflame. "It is about observing, paying attention and staying sensitive to your surroundings. Creativity is all around us, happening in every moment. It is our role to witness and record them. This offers us perspective and an appreciation for things, which in turn motivates us to keep working. Passion is not doing it because you like it but having a goal and purpose for the work ⎯ be it from a short-term or long-term goal. Setbacks might slow me down; but eventually, I will achieve the outcome I set out for my photography projects," said an enthusiastic Thanh Tung.
No matter what challenges are thrown at him in his daily life, he soldiers on as work, to him, never ends. If he cannot work on compositions, he will pivot to other things such as building his portfolio, organising photos, or even managing his business' stock photos.
Although he remains as steadfast as ever, the lessons in the last few years are still fresh in his mind. Having learned from peers and drawing from years of professional experience, he is still as keen as ever to share his knowledge with others.
"Consider photography as a passion and hobby before turning it into a career. You should understand it well and equip yourself with knowledge and adapt to it according to your own abilities and capacity. Patience is what results in great work, and all it takes is the willingness to take photos of things happening around you every day," said Thanh Tung.
Upon reflection and with the world slowly opening up again, he has found life and health more precious than anything else. "To appreciate life, slow down, and live every day to the fullest is what I intend to do. I hope to travel to new places and record new experiences, as well as finish the projects I have placed on hold. I have two projects I am razor-focused on this year, and I plan to exhibit my "Wild Life In The City" and "Saigon Yesterday" soon," added a hopeful Thanh Tung.
Today, Thanh Tung is looking forward to sharing Vietnamese life through his photography. “I am excited to work on new projects on Vietnamese traditional culture, craft, villages and festivals soon, and I hope these projects – with their more graceful, meditative and simple tone – can help many find joy again after the hardships of the last couple of years,” he added.
For Thanh Tung, genuine emotions create masterpieces. He believes that a photograph should naturally capture the personality of the photographer.