Chu Viet Ha is one of my best friends in Hanoi, and also one of my favorite contemporary street photographers.
Eric: Dear Ha, it was so fun making that video documentary. I want to use this as an opportunity for you to explain your thoughts more on photography. To start off, why do you shoot street photography? And how do you define “street photography” for yourself?
Ha: First, of all, thank you Eric for recording a video of me shooting street photography. I hope to have the opportunity to take more photos with you, haha.
Street photography is not my profession. However, photographing the streets became something indispensable to me. That is because street photography helps me with my life-work balance, helps me communicate with the world through my camera, and helps make my life more colorful.
Not only that, but street photography helps improve my health because it is good exercise. Whenever I shoot, I walk around 8-10km, haha.
To me street photography is very simple. It is all about recording everyday moments of life, the mood of the people, and scenes of life that I have come across from my eyes and heart.
What are some of the main cliches you see other street photographers make, and how do you suggest people to avoid those cliches?
In order not to repeat yourself, I think the best is to always find new things, like new places, new lands, and new people to help you make sense of the world differently. Then shoot by instant, and it will be different in your heart.
Another thing: try to learn new techniques. For example, I never used to shoot with a flash, but then I started to use it. It made things different.
Another tip — look at a lot of photographs from other photographers in the world. It helps you develop your thinking and your eyes.
How would you describe your personal style in your street photography? What do you think makes your work unique from the work of others?
These are two things which I feel like make up my style, and how I pursue street photography.
Another thing is that I try to make my viewers feel like they are standing next to me, in the context of the situation.
What I loved about shooting with you is how you interact with your subjects. Why is that important to you?
Let’s take away the idea that street photography is just “hunting.”
The importance of interacting with your subjects is that you will gain more joy and happiness. Not only that, but I feel the journey of interacting with my subjects in photography helps me bring more memories, and it also makes it more personal and emotional.
I love the journey of being immersed in the streets. But also, I love to communicate and interact with my characters on the streets — it brings me closer to them.
One more thing — I realized that when you interact with subjects, you communicate with people and learn about their lives. You understand how they’ve gone through life, about their culture, and their humanity.
If you started street photography all over again, what advice do you wish people gave you?
If I started street photography all over again, I wish I were more equipped with knowledge about life, society, and cultural-human history. This would help me make my images be richer in content and meaning.
Who are some other photographers you recommend other people check out? Why do you like their work?
I’m inspired by Alex Webb, in how I like to play with light, layers, and colors. I love the photos he shot on film in Istanbul, Mexico, and beyond– they’re great.
And I’m inspired by Eric Kim for useful lessons from his YouTube Channel and his articles on how to shoot street photography. It helps a lot of other street photographers find inspiration and orientation in their photography.
What are your hopes for the Vietnamese community for street photography?
I wish that street photography of Vietnam will grow strong, and there are more young street photographers who assert their talent, and share that talent with all other street photographers in the world.