The first of the five photographers selected by Collater.al Magazine among those present at Liquida PhotoFestival from May 5 to 29 in Turin is Duy Nguyen. In a brief interview, the photographer talks about his style, his relationship with his past and with the subjects that pose in front of his camera.
1. You are one of the photographers selected for the Liquida Exhibition, tell us about the project you will exhibit in Turin.
My project for Liquida Photofestival has the working title Phantom Lineage. My project is based on my own life and explores the idea that not everyone has the privilege of access to their own archive. My cultural heritage is not written down, and there are very few photographs of my family. It all lives on only in memory, but memories changes over time. What I remember may not be the truth. In this project, I’m subjectively exploring feelings, memories, and experiences around my childhood as an immigrant and foreigner. These emotions are also enhanced by being a foreigner in Italy for my artist residency at Paratissima. Practically, I’m bridging the past with the eyes of the present through images, video, and digital installations. If you come to Liquida Photofestival, you will see some very experimental works I have created and very much look forward to showing.
2. Your photos seem to be influenced by graphics design, collages, and cinema, how would you describe your photographic style?
I studied art direction and graphic design in school. I tried to separate my photography from my design work for a long time. Usually, designing was done to create income, while photography was my artistic outlet. Now that I have matured more, I’m finally learning to combine my many skills to create unique work. I think my photographic style is evolving intact with myself, but in the present, it lies somewhere in the space that blurs between analog photography and digital art. As for cinema inspiration; I really love how good cinema often makes you feel like you are part of the scene. I try to bring this into my photography as well.
3. With the evolution of art more and more towards digital scenarios, in your opinion what role will photography play in the future?
We can only hypothesize, or guess, as digital scenarios, NFTs, and digital art are still in their infant stage. It will take a while for it to become mainstream enough for all to understand it. In the past; painters used to depict reality as well as they could until photography was invented and eventually took its place. Then painting as an art form evolved, and eventually became more abstract or conceptual. I wonder what digital art will do to photography, as photography challenges painting. I guess I don’t have a good answer here because this subject is something I’m currently exploring myself.
4. The subjects of your photographs often look at the lens, what relationship do you search for with them?
I think my photographs are often a reflection of myself, perhaps even more than a reflection of the subjects. Maybe I’m searching for myself in the subject. It could be a person, an object, or a situation. I think of it almost like a performance where I’m trying to find something that I can relate to, and then drive that emotion and moment until a photograph is taken. With people, it’s usually easier to find that through the eyes when they look at me.
5. In your opinion, when can a photograph be defined as avant-garde?
I think it’s hard to look at a single photograph and judge if it’s avant-garde or not. Instead, I would probably look at the photographer’s practice and see if it’s challenging or criticizing the aesthetics and ideas of photography in the present. Another interesting aspect is also cultural context. For example, something that might be seen as avant-garde in one community may be perceived differently in another country. With my recent works that dab between analog photography, collage, and performance, I have found that some institutions find it too experimental to be called photography, while others find it challenging.