Women in Film & Photography 2023 Exhibition
As You Grow Older | Vân-Nhi Nguyễn

While Vietnam represents for many in the West a place where a war was fought or athletic shoes are made, its people bear witness to a richer and far more complex reality. To expand and challenge the existing perception and notions of the past that clings to one, is to see and understand the unruliness of it.

As a young Vietnamese, coming to terms with these contradictions has meant grappling with the traces of memories and multiple histories, visible throughout the country – some given prominence as statues or architecture, others left abandoned. Our bodies, both structural and physical, have become vessels for these layered stories.

It is necessary to question the notion of collective memory and its truth, done through the exploration of unusual and often overlooked places, as well as the people found within. As my images enter spaces that are so recognisable to the Vietnamese, and rich with personal stories, my subjects’ gaze commands their environment – they are the ones doing the looking, but not without the recognition that they are also being looked at. Using the same gaze imposed on our bodies throughout our fraught national history, this project attempts to cut through the objectifying tropes assigned to colonial objects; it is to complicate these notions, it is to see better.

I felt it was necessary for As You Grow Older to take the shape of a family photo album. It presented an opportunity to photograph and remember people at their most vulnerable, in a space they can make their own, however they like. Through such visual language – neither for nostalgia nor sentimentality – a reflection on gender, race, sexuality, and belonging can be created. In this manner, As You Grow Older becomes a rejection of previous homogeneous notions of ‘family’, which came to hinder a nation.

About Vân-Nhi Nguyễn
Vân-Nhi Nguyễn (b.1999) is a Vietnamese photographer and artist based in Hà Nội, Việt Nam. Her work touches on cultural identities and social concerns via aesthetic research and theatrical staging, and in the process, proposes interpretations and challenges stereotypical assumptions. Vân-Nhi holds a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design from Liverpool John Moores University, UK. Her work has been exhibited in different international institutions and festivals, namely NOOR Image, Hong Kong International Photography Festival, and Matca. She is also the recipient of the V&A Museum Parasol Foundation Prize, and the PhMuseum Women Photographer award.

For the rest of our Women in Film and Photography 2023 programme, visit here.