arts • 21 Oct, 2015
The Strange Figures of Yatender
We Chat To Saigonese Photographic Artist Ngan Ao
Saigon-based photographer Yatender (Ngan Ao) creates some of the most striking and distinctive images we’ve seen. Highly-stylised and skewed, Yatender’s work is at the forefront of a new and more artistic trend in Vietnamese photography; something more elusive than capturing mere beauty…anyone can do that.
One of the most unique characteristics of Yatender’s photos is the abstract way in which she represents the human body– often herself. The figures in her work are oddly contorted; weirdly sculpted in strange ways. The faces are often obscured or hidden. Interestingly, Yatender puts her subjects in everyday surrounds, only magnifying the peculiarity of the positioning. It makes for intriguing viewing and you can’t help but wonder what the story behind each person/image is.
We caught up with the young up-and-coming artist to try and find out the story behind her fractured constructions.
Looking at your photos, one of the most striking things is the positions of the figures. Why do you pose people and yourself in such strange ways?
Why do we need to capture people in a normal way?
People are so contorted, in uncomfortable positions with faces often obscured, but the setting is so mundane and ordinary. Why do you construct the image like this?
Because strangeness and unusualness are always intrigue me.
You photographs capture intimate moments: people are usually alone, naked and looking vulnerable. Is that what you are trying to capture?
Sadness and loneliness are always part of us, I just try to capture their beauty in my own way.
Hands feature very often in your works. Why is that?
Personally, I think hands are the most beautiful part of the human body. they are charming and show who we are just by look at them.
You do a lot of self-portraits, what’s the reason behind this?
To understand more about myself.
Do your self-portraits say a lot about you as a person/artist?
Yes, that's my story.
You shoot stuff on 35mm and digital too. Which do you prefer and why do you use film?
35mm! Because there are some limits while shooting film that i've always wanted to surpass.
What attracted you to photography, instead of say, painting or music?
Photography is a great medium. each moment always occurs once in a lifetime. I want to keep them just so I can look back whenever I want.
Who are some local Vietnamese photographers whose work you respect?
My fantastic partner Thy Tran.
What about international artists/photographers?
Lukasz Wierzbowski and Lina Scheynius.
As a local photographer in HCMC, how do you see the art scene here and how do you think the creative community will/could develop in Vietnam?
It’s extremely difficult to stay inspired and motivated here, and the art community is so small in this city. I wish there was more funds and programs to support the young, emerging artists here.
How long have you been taking photos and when/why did you start?
I started a self-portrait series, which means shooting in digital since last December. Then I started to shoot in 35mm this April. The reason? Someone gave me a camera and told me "do something, don't waste your talent.”. those words mean alot to me, alot.
How would you sum up your work for people who haven’t seen it?
I would show them a few of my images and let them decide what my work is all about. I think it will be exciting.
What’s coming up for you? Working on some new images?
My own projects and another collaboration with my friends.
All photos by Yatender from her self-portrait and 35mm series