Words Stefania Tejada
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Vince Aung. I’m a fashion photographer based in San Francisco, California. I was born in 1992 in Yangon, Burma.
When was the first time you used a camera?
I think I was around 12 or something. I don’t remember. But I remember that was a point & shoot film camera my father had. As a kid, I loved playing around with that - you know, just looking through the viewfinder and pretend like I’m actually taking pictures. And I bought my first camera when I was 19. It was also a point & shoot camera but a digital one. I’d say that’s when I first got into photography in general.
How did you get started in fashion photography?
So, I started doing photography in 2011 with a point & shoot digital camera. I was mostly taking pictures of landscapes, objects, and portraits of my friends back in Springfield, Missouri. Until 2014, I was trying out different genres of photography (on & off). I knew I wanted to do fashion photography but I never had any connection and I didn’t know the right people. One day, I posted a Craigslist ad for collaboration because I figured that was the only way to start off. Next day, I received an email from a stylist that she needs a photographer to do an editorial shoot for her class project. I was really excited and it was a good experience. From there, I got in contacts with more people and started building up my portfolio as a fashion photographer.
Where do your influences originate?
I look up to Irving Penn, Tim Walker, Kristian Schuller, and Miles Aldridge. They’re my absolute favorites.
What do you intend to communicate?
A relationship between a story and fashion.
What is the concept of your work?
I don’t know how to describe it, but I like to do dreamy and moody stuff mostly.
What are you working on right now?
My love life. Just kidding! I have a few projects coming up. One of them is inspired by Burmese daily-wear fashion. My stylist friend visited Burma this summer and she brought a lot of stuff from there. It’s going to be really exciting! And another project is also going to be really fun and exciting. It’s a bright & colorful concept. We’re planning on building a candy land, like giant lollypops and candies and things like that. I can’t wait!
How is your relation with color? What role does it play in your work?
I love colors. And patterns! Color plays a vital role in my work. I love neutral colors for clothes and cool colors for mood in my work.
How much of your work is intentional?
Most of it is intentional, like 90%. I like to do things that wouldn’t normally happen in reality.
How do you develop an idea?
Daily objects and instrumental music. They inspire me a lot. You know, anything can be an inspiration. Daily objects inspire me for visuals and instrumental music inspires me for mood and story.
Do you draw or think about every photo before you start shooting?
Definitely. I draw in my doodle book. I draw set designs mostly and I draw poses for models sometimes if there’s something in particular that I want. Coming from a filmmaking background, I think about story and I like to plan things out before I shoot. I think it’s always important to have a vision before shooting. And sometimes, the vision comes in or changes during the shoot.
Where did your interest in fashion start?
I was always into fashion. I like experimental things. I don’t know.
How did you begin to work with platforms like PhotoVogue?
Just to be clear, it’s not Vogue “VOGUE”. It’s called PhotoVogue. It’s by Vogue Italia and it is a really good platform for photographers to build up their portfolios. I started submitting to PhotoVogue in the beginning of 2015. They definitely have their own style. And it has made me develop my own aesthetics as a fashion photographer.
Who are the girls in your photographs? What are their stories?
Most of the girls in my photographs are not actual models, but some of them are. I met one of them at a bar. She looked very edgy, so I decided to approach her. One of them was my Uber driver. We started chatting and we finally exchanged contacts to set up a shoot. And some of the girls are from Instagram and some are my friends. But all of them became my friends after all. I love all of them. I love working with them. And I’ve worked with them repeatedly. And lastly, agency models of course! I like working with new faces. They are so new and they follow my direction very well. And I like directing and being in control.
How would you describe your aesthetics?
I guess my aesthetics would be dreamy, moody and conceptual/surreal. I don’t know. I’m much of a daydreamer. Like I mentioned before, I like to do things that wouldn’t happen in reality, so I let them happen in my photographs. I guess they’re my fantasies that wouldn’t happen in reality.
How would you describe your transition as a photographer?
It’s overwhelming. Now when I look at my photos that I took two years ago and compare to what I’ve done recently, it’s very overwhelming. I’ve learned a lot through my journey as a photographer. Those experiences have taught me and brought me to where I am today.
Would you say that you have a different approach to photography today than before?
Yes of course. Before, it was random – just go out and shoot. Now, it’s a lot of planning. And of course, my style in shooting, staging and editing also have changed over the years.
What have you learned so far about you and your work?
You know how people “think” great images are produced using expensive cameras and lighting and such? I was one of those. I’ve used lighting, flash and gear before. But I’ve also learn that great images can be made with cheap cameras. I’ve shot with a film camera I bought from a thrift store for $14. It made beautiful photographs. One day at a shoot, my flash stopped working. I thought it was going to be a mess. But I still got great images under natural light. And that’s when I learned that it’s not about what gear I’m using. It’s about how I do it and what style I’m going for. Since then, I try to shoot in natural light as much as possible. Also as a person, I’ve met a lot of people throughout my journey as a photographer on the fashion road and it has given me a lot of knowledge and experiences. I feel humble and I’m grateful for having amazing people in my life.
Is photography art to you?
Absolutely! I like to look at my photographs as paintings. I was always into art and even as a kid, I was a homeboy drawing and doing paper crafts instead of playing on the street. Art is a form of creation. I like shooting in an empty room because they’re a great canvas and I can throw in things for a set in the way that I imagine – you know, like painting. I think I’m more interested in making a photograph than capturing what’s already there.
How does photography make you feel?
There’s no word to describe how I feel. Of course I’m happy when I’m shooting. I prefer to shoot on film honestly. I like how I’m not able to look at a photo I just took. On a digital camera, you can look at it immediately. But on analog, you can’t. Also, I like the connection between the model and me while shooting on film. It’s a great communication and collaboration. And then, the physical process and excitement when I develop my films in my bathroom is something that I like about the entire process of shooting analog.
What do you find in people?
Genuineness. I don’t like people that pretend.
What was the last place that really fascinated you?
What kind of films are you passionate about?
Dramas. I like sad and depressing films. Currently, I’m really into surreal & experimental films. I’d like to start making fashion films soon – in a surreal aesthetics.
What was the last exhibit you visited?
I haven’t visited to any photo exhibition very recently yet. But I went to this Art & Innovation in watchmaking exhibit at Legion of Honor museum. It was amazing.