Capturing menswear trends on the streets of Amsterdam as a hobby propelled street style photographer Thuy Nguyen into a full-time career behind her camera. Victoria Jackson caught up with Nguyen to discover more about her signature style, the highlight of her career so far and her favourite city to shoot in.
When did you launch your photography career?
In 2011 I started pursuing photography after I received positive responses on my Amsterdam Street Style series of men I shot for the daily newspaper Metro Amsterdam.
Was photography something you had wanted to get into from a young age?
No, I actually got into photography by chance. For years I always thought I would become a fashion designer. But after I graduated from fashion school in Zutphen in 2007, I felt a bit lost, because I wanted to do something completely different. After a few failed studies, which included Applied Psychology, I chose Media, Information and Communication at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA), where I graduated from in 2015.
It was during this study that I found out that I have an eye for photography. One assignment included starting your own blog. At the time, street style blogs like The Sartorialist were getting hugely popular and, influenced by this trend, I tried to shoot some street style pictures of men too.
Near the end of 2010 I showed my blog to a friend of a friend, who worked at Metro Amsterdam. He told me that the editor-in-chief was looking for a men’s street style photographer and that he wanted to show him my blog, which at the time only contained a few pictures. At first I was hesitant and initially said no to his offer, because I didn’t see myself as a photographer. I gave it a shot anyway. My street style series of men and articles, which I shot and wrote for my own column ‘Amsterdam Street Style’, were published in the newspaper in 2011.
How would you describe your signature style?
I would describe my work as stylish and elegant. In both my street style and portrait work I like high contrasts and a strong look or pose. My favourite light is one light source, natural or artificial, to light my subject with. I love dark shadows to create a bit of drama and mystique.
Who is your inspiration in terms of photography?
Peter Lindbergh. I love the way he sees and captures women. He makes them look so graceful and natural. His photos could easily be film stills. I’m naturally drawn to interesting faces. Men and women, the night time and artificial lights all inspire me.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Anyone you’ve photographed in particular?
Last year was my best year yet and my biggest highlight was definitely shooting at New York Fashion Week Men’s and New York Fashion Week in January and February 2016 respectively. It was my first time shooting at a Fashion Week and, despite the snowy and freezing cold weather, I had such an incredible time. I met and shot so many great people and on some days it was hard for me to comprehend what I had experienced and who I had met.
I had been following The Sartorialist for years and suddenly, while street style shooting, Scott Schuman aka The Sartorialist stood next to me. I talked with him for a bit and asked if I could take his picture. This moment was kind of surreal for me, so my hands were very shaky as I pressed the shutter button. The picture luckily turned out pretty decent.
After this New York adventure I decided I wanted to chase more Fashion Weeks in other cities, because the rush and the chaos that I felt were so addictive, and I haven’t stopped since. Also, standing face to face with Karl Lagerfeld at the Dior Homme show last year in Paris and shooting him was pretty surreal too.
In terms of designers, who are your standout ones?
In terms of clothing I am inspired by menswear and I only wear men’s clothes. I love Dsquared; their menswear designs are raw and sexy. I especially like their cropped denim jeans. I can’t get enough of the rock’n’roll designs of Hedi Slimane and Kris van Assche is pretty badass too, with his punk-influenced collections for Dior Homme. I have a special liking for slim and straight cut designs with a raw edge.
Which is your favourite city to shoot in?
Paris. Fashion Week or not; the people in the city are very sophisticated in their appearance, whether it is classy or rugged.
How does it feel to get such an instant reaction to your work with your large Instagram following?
I put a lot of energy and effort into taking the best pictures and it’s such a great feeling if someone appreciates what I do. I get a lot of energy from these reactions and it’s a constant reminder that I should keep on doing what I love to do most.
What makes a great picture?
For me it’s when a picture is attention grabbing and when it speaks to me. A great picture also truly reflects the photographer’s personality, passion and unique style.
What’s next for The Fashion Tourist?
I’ll be chasing more Fashion Weeks of course. I haven’t been to London Fashion Week before and I’m very curious about that, so hopefully I can put that on my agenda soon. Just keep an eye on my Instagram account to keep up with my adventures.