Dalat Meets Abbey Road In Photographer Phuong Tran’s Work

Human moments. Social commentary. Cultural references. Photographer Phuong Tran‘s street-style shots are full of spontaneity. “And light and truth,” the photographer and advertising company employee adds smiling. Here, he sits down to choose three of his favourite shots for the latest in our series.

Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt

Phuong Tran started out simply: taking photos with his smartphone. The results were encouraging. So he invested in a Sony Alpha 6000, two lenses, and some good footwear for wandering the streets looking for that moment. Buying the camera was his cue to get more serious. “So I started exploring the work of famous foreign photographers, and endlessly watching YouTube videos on different techniques,” he continues, “and that’s when the passion took over completely”.

Photographer Phuong Tran found his passion for street style photography.

“I think photography is expressive. It’s wordless. Every image shows our personality and interests. For example, different people can take photos of the same street corner or the same beach or shore, but each one will have a different perspective, and express different emotions.”

His work encourages viewers to slow down and embrace the moment. “I don’t know which came first for me,” he confesses, “the desire to live slowly made me take up photography, or the dream of being a photographer led me to slow down”. Maybe, he ponders, “both things happened at the same time”.

Photographer Phuong Tran: “Slow down and embrace the moment.”

Since then, his direction has evolved. “Topics do change over time,” he nods. First the streets fascinated him, looking for beauty in the random arrangement of people or colours or movement, to create a compelling story. Gradually he got more into portraiture, family, friends, strangers. And more into capturing authentic emotions…

#1 View from a Dalat coffeeshop

For the first of his three favourite shots, Phuong Tran is choosing this shot taken from a coffeeshop in Dalat. “I’ll never forget this moment,” he explains. He’d been wandering around all morning taking photographs – but none of them turned out right. Bored and disappointed he retreated to this coffeeshop to rest a while and recuperate over a strong coffee.

“Like the Beatles on Abbey Road”

“It was raining, but the light was still strong, and then these four guys appeared,” he laughs. He loved the way their footsteps fell in sync “like the Beatles on Abbey Road” and he got the shot he’d been searching for all morning.  

#2 Love at first sight

Phuong Tran’s next shot captures a moment when two people’s eyes met – a barbecue guy at his cơm tấm stall and a customer. It’s another example of his fascination with street life here in Vietnam. 

A precious moment in the heart of the city.

“There was something special in the way they looked at each other,” he says re-examining the photo. Added to that there’s the atmospheric smoke lit up by the streaks of sunlight that add to the drama of the moment “when love struck”.

He captured this shot early in the morning, when the light was strong but not overpowering. “And by waiting and waiting at that spot, for people to pass by…”

#3 Smog Over The Saigon River

Photographer Phuong Tran’s third image moves towards social commentary. There’s the heavy smog over the Saigon river. And workers going about their business regardless. “This was taken last year, when the pollution problem noticeably worsened,” he remembers. Like other photographers have done, he was looking to capture the skyscrapers of Saigon’s District 1 from across the river. 

Despite the pollution problem, workers still go about their business.

“With the sun obscured by smog, it’s like a white veil had been thrown over the city,” he adds. “But it also gave this dreamlike quality.” Below, the people in the shot continue to work and earn a living. “The government at that time were recommending people limit their exposure to pollution, but the economic reality is that the poor have to continue to work under any conditions…”

Photos of Phuong Tran by Khooa Nguyen.


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