Saturday, 20 October 2012

Huy Le

Melbourne, Australia

What or who led you to photography?

My father - before he had my siblings and me, he undertook some photography classes and would use my mum as his 'model' for his portraiture projects. It was only when I started high school that I found some boxes filled with slides and negatives from these shoots: photographs of my mother, the various parks/streets in the area they lived in, etc. ... It made me sad to think what could have happened had he pursued being a photographer. It’s a shame, because I feel like he sort of had to give up on it once he started a family. In a strange way, I want to keep his passion alive through my own photography.
With that said, I had always liked taking photos as a kid (with a electronic compact camera) but it reached a point where I was annoyed with having prints with the date burnt onto the image. So I asked my dad to teach me how to use his Nikon EM SLR and I haven't looked back since. It was a combination of both that cultivated my love for photography to this day: my dad’s influence and my love for making artwork or film posters on Photoshop during high school.

A lot of your pictures were taken on trips with friends. Does your photographic work simultaneously function as a way to document these?

Nostalgia - for better or worse - is one of the driving influences in my life and I feel taking photographs has been an effective way for me to not only document what’s going on in my life, but also to relive these moments in a strange way. I’ve always felt more comfortable shooting when I was out and about and not restricted to a confined space such as a studio. Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the ‘decisive moment’ is something I’ve always strived to achieve in my work and it’s the reason why I’ve always felt best when I was taking shots of my friends with gorgeous scenery as the backdrop.

What are your trips about?

To be honest, had you asked me this a few months back I wouldn’t have a clue on how to answer this question. This might come as a shock to those who know how much time I spend at a computer, but I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and always liked going on road trips to check out nice parks and what not. It was only when we started going camping and more people started coming along that I realised what a great way it was to reconnect with old friends and to do something different from the messy drink-ups we usually have. Many of us had this feeling that 2012 would be a big year and it truly amazes me how much I've experienced and accomplished within the time-span of 9 months. Camping with friends, seeing new sights - it's really about making new memories to cherish in the future, I believe.

So nature is a big theme in your work. What fascinates you about the outdoors?

I like to think it's a combination of both elements that are everlasting and ephemeral at the same time. There's a sense of wonder when you travel through a forest with trees that are over 1000 years old, you begin to realise how much our lives can be minuscule compared to what nature has gone through over all those years. There's a Japanese term called 'mono no aware' which basically describes an awareness of all things impermanent and a gentle sadness at their passing. The changing colours of the autumn leaves, the beauty in seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom before they disappear - it's the beauty in knowing that not everything lasts forever. It's something that profoundly changed the way I saw the world and what feeds into my own photographic works, as well.
Furthermore, one of the things I look forward to on our trips is seeing the sun rise during the morning; sitting on top of a cliff with a cup of tea, music playing in the background - depending on how excited we are - and just seeing the colours of the sky change as the scenery around us becomes illuminated by the sun. Words simply cannot describe the whole experience. Simple experiences like watching the sun rise is something not many people get to experience or truly appreciate, although it's an event that occurs everyday. Clich├ęd as it may sound, sometimes you have to leave the comfort of your own home to truly appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.

If you were to name a muse or particular source of inspiration, who or what would it be?

In terms of a muse(s), I’d say my friends. We're all camwhores at heart, well most of us anyway, and it's a laugh when you see some people subconsciously start posing when they know a camera is around. It definitely applies to my mate Neil who has got to be one of the most photogenic guys I know, yet he also happens to be one of the most funniest and clueless guys at the same time. Generally I also like taking photos of my home life; my little brother used to be my model when he was a kid, but nowadays it's either my mum or the kids she babysits. Children in general are great photographic subjects; have a browse through Instagram and you'll see that some of the most heartfelt images are the ones that mother's have taken of their kids. Still, some of my favourite photographers tend to have girlfriends as their muses and I feel sometimes these intimate connections you have with others can result in some of the most emotive and beautiful photographs. Maybe one day that'll apply for me, too, I'm hopeful!
Do you make music playlists for your road trips? If so, who did you listen to on your latest adventure

I take pride in creating playlists for the road trips we go on, because let’s face it, driving can be a bore, so it’s good to have something to pump you up. One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced is seeing the excitement when my friends hear a song they haven’t heard in years and hearing the memories associated with it. The music we listened to growing up plays a great deal in shaping who we are and I can’t thank my parents enough for raising me on good old 80’s classics during my younger years.
            In terms of the last ‘planned’ road trip, which was our stargazing trip down the Great Ocean Road, my friend made a mix which had a combination of hip-hop, dance and 80’s power ballads. One songs that I hadn’t heard in a long time was Leo Sayer’s ‘More Than I Can Say’ which was a karaoke favourite of ours back when we were kids. But besides my mixes, I usually just tune into Smooth FM 91.5, which has got to be one of the best radio stations in Australia. Generally it plays everything that would appear on the Raye's Outdoors Mix (which I'm currently working on). There’s nothing better than singing along to cheesy love songs with your mate(s) whilst cruising around late at night!

What do you enjoy most about camping? Are there any downsides?

For one, I think that the feeling of being disconnected from technology and being able to reconnect with nature is something I feel very strongly about. A few days in the wilderness and I feel great not surfing on the Internet, but then again, if my Internet gets cut off for a day then I go crazy. It’s kind of sad when you realise how dependent we are on technology. I believe  that you sometimes have to escape it all in order to really appreciate the finer things in life.
            With that being said, there are many downsides when it comes to camping. Sleeping on rocky ground has got to be the worst, even if you have a mat underneath. The weather in Melbourne is pretty ridiculous, so camping in the rain was not exactly the most pleasant of experiences. Running out of water, overpriced groceries, the list goes on! But the way I like to look at it is simple: it’s all a story to tell regardless of whether it’s good or bad. Because sometimes the epic fails we experience during our trips are some of the funniest stories to share with others afterwards.

You live in Melbourne. What would you advice a visitor staying one day to see in the city?

First off, avoid all touristy areas: Melbourne Central, Federation Square, etc. to name a few. Explore the alleyways and backstreets. Melbourne is renowned for having some great restaurants and stores but you have to go out and really look for these places. My checklist: have a picnic at Carlton Gardens, buy a few magazines from Magnation and have some 'after work' drinks at some fancy bar/restaurant. And this is just the CBD, there are so many other awesome places to check out in suburbs such as Brunswick, South Yarra and Yarraville, as well.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Hopefully I’ll be doing something productive with my life! Honestly, I would like to see myself growing as a photographer and maybe working in the print industry. To be featured on Kinfolk magazine is a dream of mine, too.

Take a chance, make a trip, don't forget your camera. Take a look at his work!