(No.2, Vol.9,Apr-May 2019 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)
“Out of Class” by Luong Nam Nhat Long – Junior Vietnam Heritage Photos Awards 2018 First Prize
A photo of Hue by Nhat Long
A photo of Hue by Nhat Long
In the first days of the New Year 2019, Thuy Lien had a conversation with photographer Luong Nam Nhat Long from Hue, First Prize winner in the category of Young Authors in the 2018 Vietnam Heritage Photo Awards for the photo “ Out of Class”
Hi Long, please talk about why you took part in the 2018 Vietnam Heritage photo contest?
I was wandering randomly on Facebook and stumbled on this photo contest ad of Vietnam Heritage, and the exciting ao dai theme made me register.
I browsed through the pics of ao dai I took that had some element of heritage, and stopped at the one of young female students on Trang Tien Bridge. In this picture, a film crew was re-enacting a scene of students of Dong Khanh School of the old times for a music video background.
How did you feel about winning the first prize in the category of Young Authors in the 2018 Contest of Vietnam Heritage Photography?
I was happily overwhelmed. I knew I won a prize, but not which one. When I came into that room and heard my name, I was dumbstruck. People had to call me again to come up the stage. I was overjoyed.
In Hue, there are so many great masters of photographing ao dai, while I am not even a professional at that. All children of Hue love their native land as much as I do, I guess. But I both do and don’t want Hue to develop, because its quintessence is in peaceful and slow pace of life, not boisterous like other cities.
What is photography in your life?
I took photos all the time to record moments of my life, but with my smartphone only because that was all I had. I liked my pictures and sent them to the contests of photos taken with a smartphone. I got a prize, which was a real photo camera.
Actually, my major is IT, which has very little to do with photography. Programming is mechanical in nature. It is not artistic at all. I currently work as a photographer for a few newspapers in Thua Thien – Hue and freelance in web programming.
How does your family react to your working as a photographer?
In fact, at first they didn’t like the idea that I followed the photography craft and even tried to stop me. They wanted me to work in the field I studied. Another reason was that nobody in my family practiced photography.
So I quit for about a year. Then I felt the itch to go out and take pictures. Later, as I achieved a few small successes, my family stopped opposing me and even started supporting me.
Can the 2018 Vietnam Heritage Photo Awards be seen then as a pivoting point in your career?
The prize won may very well be an important milestone in my career as a photographer. After the contest, many more people have come to know me, certainly.
In the prize-awarding ceremony the authors had a chance to mingle and meet, and that was a great way to network. I personally had a chance to meet many people I have been long admiring but never got to see.
Share with us some little stories you find interesting about your practice?
In my practice, there are plenty of such stories, but the ones about photographing the Milky Way are the most memorable. I have never succeeded to take a decent picture, not yet.
Theoretically, one can see the Milky Way from everywhere, but actually it is impossible to photograph it in the city. One has to go away, far from human settlements in order to capture it.
In Hue, the Milky Way usually can be seen at about 2 – 3 am. To have a good picture, one needs a unique and unexpected angle. Once a friend of mine and I went to a cemetery to sit and wait. It was so eerie; we both sweated profusely although it was quite cold.
Another time, quite recently, I went with three friends to Bach Ma national park to take pictures of red maples, but we took very little food because we thought it wouldn’t take too long. We had only six packages of biscuits, all in a bag carried by the chubbiest guy..The scenery turned out to be too beautiful along the way, so we stopped a lot to take pictures, and the day passed by unnoticed. The biscuit carrier had chewed all the biscuits involuntarily because he was very quick at getting hungry. We had but a little water left, and a lot of laughter.
We have seen the famous red-shanked douc at Son Tra, but they were too far away so I could only enjoy watching them without taking any picture.
You obviously have a special love for Hue, which is also a familiar destination for tourism in Vietnam. Is there anything special about Hue that you would like to share?
I have plenty. Take for example the ao dai of Hue, or the Hue rains. But a photo set taken in just 1-2 years can never be enough.
You can go around to see how Vinh Thanh fishermen catch squids, and to see their hardship during the high water season. Recently, photographers took very beautiful pictures of the Ru Cha mangrove, mostly using flycams.
Hue is also famous with the craft villages such as bronze cast village, delicacies village, and mussel village that make many dishes with tiny mussels.
Talking about Hue. one must mention the great ceremonies such as the staged Heaven and Earth Consecration, Nation Consecration, and the New Year tree erection inside the citadel at 3am.
The Heaven and Earth Consecration is a men-only ritual. Attendees must wear traditional outfits. The high ranking mandarins host the event and conduct the ritual. They are accompanied by a drum team, a blowpipe team and a dance team. The offerings normally include fruits and five different animals.
The ritual includes presenting to the deities wines, reports and a seal. The ritual is always solemn and full of grandeur because Hue people have high spiritual values. The people attending it always take home some godsend. They say it has power so I also take it (laughter).
What 2019 will be for you, a year completely devoted to photography and Hue?
Yes, sure. I will learn to improve my technical skills, and earn more to acquire some dream equipment. In addition, I hope to collaborate with many more entities to bring the image of Hue to more people.
I wish that your plans are realized in 2019. Thank you for a sincere and enthusiastic conversation.