This week’s Featured Photographer is Ted Nghiem, a food and travel photographer and blogger residing in Philadelphia who is working on a photo project he hopes to turn into a book. Ted uses his trusty Canon 5D Mark III to capture the food and culture of Vietnam here in the US. I met with him in downtown Manhattan for coffee a few weeks ago to learn more about his project.
ARC: Tell us about this project you’re working on.
Ted Nghiem: Well, at first I wanted to travel Vietnam and go along the highlands and photograph every food I could. But since I have a day job it would take away from my vacation days so I decided to just travel Vietnam that’s in America. I’m still checking out other Vietnamese cuisines, so I’m just traveling where ever I can find little Vietnams in different cities.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I would say it’s more of a documentary style. I’ll sometimes arrange the plates to have a different look. But I’m not a big fan of setting things up. I like to see the ebbs flow, as it goes.
What other cities have you explored? You’re from Philly and you’re here in NY. Have you been anywhere else?
Not yet but I’m looking at the ones in New Jersey. I heard there are Little Saigons in Jersey City. I Google “Little Saigon” because people will call their restaurant’s Little Saigon. I’m looking for a huge community, like in California. There is a specific community there that people refer to as Little Saigon and there are pockets of little Vietnamese shops. I thought I would find something like that here but I’ve just found these small markets. I’m going to California next month. Ultimately, I hope to take it across the states. I plan on visiting Virginia. I’ll probably head down south at some point, but I hope to get to the four corners of the US.
In regards to your project, what do you hope to achieve with it?
I just want to see how we translate our culture from Vietnam to here. I’m a first generation because I was born here, but I want to see those who immigrated here. How they situated themselves. What they brought from their culture and tried to keep here. In a sociology textbook they say that Vietnamese hold very strong to their culture, so I wanted to document it. I’m getting to the interview part, eventually. Right now it’s just photography but I figure I will have to interview people at some point.
I’m blogging an entry of each place I visit. I’m using Blurb to self-publish and I’m just sending mailers to see if they’re interested in the story. It’s tough because in photography you’re one in a million out there so you’re fighting each who’s probably mailing their work to editors. So figuring out a way to catch their attention is a whole other project as it is. Which I’m thinking of how I’m going to package this already.