Lang Duong is a Film Club Member and is currently featured in our Seasonal Reflections: Winter show. Her photographs have also caught our eye on Instagram so we decided to interview her to get to know more about her and show off some of her photos to the community!
Q: What got you interested in film photography?
A: From a young age, my favorite activity to do with my parents was to look back on pictures they captured as I was growing up as well as the pictures they took when they were in their 20s. Since they both came from poorer backgrounds, there are far and few pictures of them in their youth. Even my little sister, who is only two and a half years younger than me, has much fewer baby pictures than I do since she grew up during a period where my parents struggled to make ends meet. Once I got to high school, I started to notice the importance that these photo books held in my life and decided to pick up digital photography as a way to not only capture some of my favorite memories but to also prolong them through frozen frames. I started becoming the family’s personal photographer at events, such as birthdays, Christmas parties, family reunions, vacations, etc. This role then carried into college as my love for photographing family transferred to photographing friends. I started to explore different modalities of photography, but I had put off film for quite some time in fear of being inadequate. One day, I came across Audrie Storme on TikTok and I became instantly sucked into her videos explaining how she shoots film. She emphasizes being a novice, but her pictures always say otherwise. With the transition of moving into a new city, I thought why not try a new hobby as well, so I ran to Facebook marketplace in search of a cheap film camera in the area. Six months later, and I am not without a film camera on hand! There was a specific element to film that I fell in love with and it’s the precision that is required of it. My friends and I are known for spamming our phones and digital cameras when we try to take a picture since, statistically, one picture is bound to be perfect if you take enough. Film requires me to take in all elements of my environment and consider framing before pushing the shutter button.
Q: What type of camera do you shoot with, and what kind of film do you usually use?
A: I have become quite the film camera collector and have gathered about seven different cameras, but my favorite is the first camera I picked up: Olympus OM-10. It has such a simple build, which makes it so easy to use in fast-paced settings, but it still produces some of the best quality images an SLR can take. I feel a bit basic saying that I love the Kodak Portra 400 film, but the vibrance of the colors are unmatched - as seen in some of my work, I particularly enjoy capturing nature and elements of light, and the Portra 400 creates a feeling of warmth when looking at the photographs it produces. This may be due to my lack of experience in trying new film stocks, however, with the current rise in the price of Portra 400, I’m sure it will force me to try out different films.
Q: Your photos have a really beautiful quality of light to them. Is there anything that you purposely do to achieve this quality? What inspires you to take photos of objects or people that are nicely lit?
A: Since I am such a novice, I can’t say there is anything I do functionally or systematically to achieve this quality, but I do seek it out. In other words, I always look for ways to play around with light and shadows in my photographs to create that stark contrast. I find that light looks more golden and luminescent when paired with a shadow and it is a method to further highlight my subject and their features. Some of the facial features I find most inspiring are eyes, skintones, and lips when I am playing around with light and shadows. As someone who has really dark brown eyes, medium skin tone, and uneven colored-lips living in a world centralizing Eurocentric beauty standards, I’ve grown up hating the way it photographs; however, film photography and playing with light have allowed me to capture and appreciate the uniqueness of facial features from a diverse array of individuals.
Q: Some of your photos feature people. Do you like taking photos of people? What do you find challenging about it?
A: My pictures capturing others revolves around the word ‘sonder,’ which means: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. One of the biggest influences in my life taught me to find beauty in the monotonous, and this ideology transferred to the subjects I capture. Whenever I take photographs of others, they are usually unaware, are strangers, and/or are going about their everyday lives. The most challenging thing about taking pictures of others like this is finding a way to catch them in their natural state without being caught. Once someone notices a camera is on them, you can visibly see their muscles tense and become forced in a way that destroys the beauty of the mundane. What I want to capture is the way others see them when passing by and exchanging glances.
Q: There are also a couple self portraits of you holding your camera in a mirror. What do you like about this style of photography? How do you feel when you take these self portraits?
A: You caught me! As someone who tends to be behind the lens, it gets a bit lonely to not have pictures of yourself or to not have them taken with your eyes. While I have definitely mastered the concept of self-timer, reflections of myself through mirrors and windows still allows the audience/viewer to look at my photograph the way I saw it through my lens. These self-portraits are just a subtle reminder every now and then in each roll I finish that I was present for these frozen frames and am the creator of this work.
Q: Out of all of these images, which is your favorite and why?
A: I’ve been especially gravitated towards two images throughout the entire six months I’ve been shooting film, and they were both on my first roll: the one of my grandfather and the one of my friends riding in a blue buggy. The one of my grandfather reminds me so much of my dad - everyone has always described my dad as a carbon copy of him, but I never saw it until I took this image. The way the light frames his face smooths his face out and exudes a younger, almost child-like, face with his red-button nose. But if you look closely, the shadows portray his aging through wrinkles on his neck and blue rings around his iris. The gradual contrast of the light and shadows of this image reminds me of the aging process and it gives me some foreshadowing into what my dad may look like in 20 years. As for the picture of my friends, the context of the picture as well as the image makes it one of my favorites. It was right before I had to say goodbye to one of my friends before she left for Paris and we were riding side-by-side around our college town, reminiscent of the times we would drive around procrastinating from studying. The smiles and laughter on both of my friends’ faces was perfectly captured and will remain one of my favorite frozen memories despite the juxtaposition with its context.
Every day, Club Members take exceptional pictures. If you are not a Film Club Member yet what are you waiting for? Join today to support the photo community in Philly and to start saving money on film processing!
Hilary Nguyen - May 25, 2022
Amazing photographer and amazing person