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A Vietnamese View of Photography: Artsy vs Trendy

Over the past four years, young Vietnamese have been paying more attention to photography. They’re not only keen on the qualitative aspects but are also eager to learn how to create these images by themselves. As a result, they are buying photography equipment and are quickly finding out that it is a ‘luxury hobby.’

Compact vs. DSLR

Compact cameras or point-and-shoots are famous for their light weight and convenience. This product line is suitable for those who seek user-friendly capabilities that meet the need of storing memorable moments but stick to the automatic mode. These are quite affordable at VND 3-5 million. The biggest advantage of compact cameras is the ease of use, requiring little time to get comfortable with the devices. But for many Vietnamese, point-and-shoots are not meeting the demand for top-quality images which is getting higher every day.

The first DSLR to appear in Vietnam was the Kodak Retina in 1998. At that time, DSLR cameras were adopted by professional photographers - those working for newspapers and TV stations. Thanks to the high price tag, DSLR cameras were out of reach for the average Vietnamese.

Photography Folks or Camera Folks?

We cannot deny the high quality of photos taken by a professional camera, but in the end, it is the photographer who must bring their own style to create outstanding work. About two years ago, many young Vietnamese appeared with extra-large backpacks and DSLRs.

At first, the ‘luxury hobby’ was only adopted by students with artistic focuses such as fine arts, architecture, etc. But gradually, this style, where DSLRs drape over their owners chests as they roam the city, has been adopted by young Vietnamese who have some money saved up. Today, DSLRs are a popular ‘bling bling’ hobby, another branded accessory.

They rush to snap beautiful landscapes, gorgeous models and explore strange and unique shooting angles, feeling that they have somehow proved that their work, or in fact their cameras, are worth the high cost. For sure, there are some young Vietnamese who have the talents to succeed in this field and run their own studios without going to any photography classes; of course, this is a minority. In fact, many amateurs don’t really care about the artistic value of their photos but rather the functions of camera. There are those who own expensive cameras but still nag themselves for not taking photos often or well enough. After all, machinery is machinery.

Cell-phone Photography Trends

Once again, photography in Vietnam is being tested. Thanks to cell-phone technology, we can now forget DSLR and compact cameras and challenge ourselves with this mobile tool. The cell-phone photography folks believe that the phone you use is not as important as the way you take photo, emphasizing technique. And so, the youth have become addicted to photo applications such as Instagram, PhotoWonder, Photoshop Express etc. 

No matter the criticism, Vietnamese interest in photography is a good thing since the new generation no longer relies on theory and books, yearning to unleash their inner creativity. Still, young Vietnamese need to find a way to balance this hobby with their real needs and interests, not just buying cameras purely due to their trendiness.

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