One reason we take photos is to make sure we won't forget the past. Chancing upon @Ansen's LomoHome, you can picture yourself watching her daily life unfold around Ho Chi Minh City. Lomography talks to An Sen as she shares her journey through film with all the experimentation, failures, and breathtaking shots.
Can you tell us about yourself and how you started shooting on film?
Before shooting film, I already started to use digital cameras to keep lively moments through photos. My brain is the same as a goldfish, so I don't want to forget memorable stories. The first camera I had was a Canon point and shoot in grade 10. I still used the digital cameras until I met Mộc. She used to work in the film lab, and she has in-depth knowledge of analogue film cameras. The first film roll I shot was in Jan 2020 but after development, only one photo came out because I did not load it into the film camera properly. However, since then I had a lot of perfect rolls.
Your pictures come across as a perfect "slice of life." Was that your intention for your photography?
I am really happy and surprised with how you feel when viewing my photos. To be honest, I don't have any plans and don't want to create a plan to aim for any kind of photography. Taking film photos made me feel crazy happy, I just want to be happy.
How would you describe your photography?
Improvisation, capturing the moments, everyday life, experimenting, landscape, and portraits of my lovers.
Who are your influences and some people you look up to both locally and internationally?
I just know Vivian Maier since I viewed her documentary. Another movie is Kodachrome. For me, these two films have inspired me a lot and helped me realize my true values as a photographer.
You label your albums very thoroughly almost like an archive with the roll number, film stock, and a small description. Is there any reason behind it?
I tend to explore the effect of each film roll (including in-date or expired) I use different film rolls for each album and I experiment with different techniques like red scale development or I load one roll into different cameras. One example was when I loaded one roll with the half-frame Fujica Drive, a point and shoot, and a Minolta camera. This gave double exposures, light leaks, and other wonderful surprises. I rarely have a purpose or try to take beautiful pictures, I just want to experiment, do something crazy, and wait for surprising results. For me, in film photography, the process and the moment of capturing moments are more important than getting the result.
Can you share with us some of your favorite photos from your LomoHome?
The first photo is a double exposure that represents modern Vietnam. It is taken at the entrance gate of Bùi Viện Street where neon signs from small shops combined with the birds called "chim lạc" which are iconic in Vietnam. The next is a reversal film picture, the woman from the right is my mom in "bà ba" and "khăn rằn" South of Vietnam traditional costume, her friend is also a photographer with a hobby of lotus photography. The "street food bike" I think represents one of the characteristics of Vietnam. Lastly, this is the best picture I caught on Bui Vien Street.
What's your go-to gear and film stock and where do you develop your film?
I just bring a camera usually my Minolta X-700 camera and Minolta MD Rokkor 50 mm 1:1,7 lens and always develop in LLAB, District 1, HCMC.
You use a lot of expired film. Is there any reason behind it?
The pricing of film has been going up horribly so I tend to get whatever is cheaper. I also feel that the pictures from it are good as I just want to experiment.
Among all the rolls you've taken what's your favorite and what's the story behind it?
My 21st roll is my favorite because it was my first time shooting reversal film. The roll came out magical and it was exciting when holding the developed reversed film pictures in my hands and viewing it under light. I love all the landscape and portrait pictures in this roll. Some of these were taken with the self-timer and I was really surprised and happy with the results. I sent some of the reversal film pictures to my friends in the photos as gifts because this film isn't popular in my country. This slide has: my little sister visiting Saigon from Hanoi; the bridge with railway tracks crossing the Bờ Kè canal; a value working-time from Diamond Plaza Building; Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon still being repaired; a little boy with the name that means "ocean", and the first time I used the self-timer function to take pictures with my friends. These moments were really warm.
What's it like shooting film in Ho Chi Minh?
It is freedom. Nobody pays attention to what exactly you do with the camera. Some strangers will happily allow you to take them, but some feel uncomfortable when feeling like the camera is pointing at them. Be careful when taking photos in front of police stations or government locations since it seems to be prohibited. I accidentally took a picture of a police station in district 1 and was invited to "talk".
What's your favorite thing about the city? And what's your favorite place?
I can say that HCM is unlimited, where anything can happen. I love this city where new and old values coexist. Bui Vien Steet, District One is my favorite place in Saigon (I like to call HCM Saigon). It is just a short street but you can feel "Sài Gòn hoa lệ ." Sài gòn hoa lệ " is a Vietnamese sentence that almost Saigoneer knows, the meaning of "hoa" is "flower", a metaphor for beautiful, flashy, flamboyant things, "lệ" is "tear", a metaphor for pain and sadness. The appearance of this is in the streets from early morning to late night, the contrast between the rich and the poor, vibrant colorful lights, and dark alleys.
Tell us something that only locals would know about your city.
Learning how to bargain is very important and knowing where a good place to eat delicious food is usually not online but rather word of mouth.
What are your other hobbies besides film photography?
I like to walk around and enjoy the things like street style fashion, architecture, and nature. I also love researching about culture, especially coffee culture, and you can find me riding my mini bike all over the city.
Any other photographers we should check out?
Check out @WOODINOCCHIO since she is the photographer who helped me get started.
Any advice you want to share with other photographers?
For me, as an amateur photographer, photography is a hobby, not a job. Like in any other field, there will always be contradictions, from how to take film, how to use film, or how to use the camera, but as long as you feel the real joy of taking photos for yourself, you don't have to worry too much about opinions since everyone has their style. Just have fun in your way. Respect one another and be open to other photographers who want to share their work as well.
We thank An Sen for taking the time to chat with us. Check out her work on her LomoHome and Instagram where you can also see her graphic design work. Do you document your daily life through film as well? Share it with us down below or message @rocket_fries0036