Working With Designers – Very talented ones.
My favourite types of projects are the ones where you get to collaborate with other artistically minded people. This can take many forms, from working with pure artists to create interesting conceptual portraits or other works. To fashion designers where I get to put my own style and ideas into the photography of the designes they have created all the way to collaborating with architectural designers both interior and exterior to showcase their spaces in just the way both you and they envisioned. The last is, quite obviously my favourite as I am quite partial to interior design photography. It seems to be my zen space when making photos. Enter the wonderful people at LW Designs . This firm of talented individuals contacted me to photograph not one but two of their newly designed restaurant spaces in Ho Chi Minh City. First up was Lai A contemporary Chinese restaurant that they created with a little more flair than the usual for this type of venue. Typically Chinese restaurants use a lot of red in their designs as red is a lucky colour in Chinese culture. At Lai however, the subtle use of blue throughout the interior space is what really grabbed my attention. It fit well and was nicely understated. It gave the restaurant a cool feeling that is always welcome from the sweltering Saigon temperatures. The second restaurant we photographed was Prime XXI A much more classic and BOLD venue. To me it felt more like a 1960’s or 50’s gentlemens club or cigar lounge. Think lots of rich leather furniture, heavy wood and warm but spotted table lighting. It was like stepping back in time in a way. Of course, the mirrored wine cellar hallway was a very cool feature as well. One that I may have taken a little too much time to photograph as it was so visually interesting. Overall working with LW Design was a very rewarding experience. It is always nice when a client sees eye to eye on your vision for their space. Of course, it also helps when a client just happens to design things that are right in line with your own personal esthetic as well.
Hoiana Shores, A Golf Club Story Part 2!
Portrait day. The original brief called for creative portraits of only the top level management staff. But upon arrival at the golf club that had changed, a little. The new brief was to create original and creative portraits of all top management, second level team leaders, and their respective teams. This being a golf course the teams are, understandably, quite large. The caddie crew consisted of approximately 70 people. This was not going to be an ordinary portrait day. Thankfully I had my good friend Andy Barker with his boundless upbeat energy and creative eyes onsite to help me out. As well as keep my spirits up. It was going to be a looooong day. I am not going to include all of the large group portraits here as that would be visually tedious. Instead I am showcasing the single portraits that I am most happy with. After 3 years in Hoi An and more than that since finishing my tenure at AsiaLIFE Magazine. I have not had many opportunities for creative, editorial style portraiture that I did for many years. So this was a refreshing opportunity to put my rusty skills back into the sharpener. We started light with everyone getting a simple 3/4 portrait for official use. Wood paneled background. Single light up close. After the warmup portraits we got serious. Quickly moving around all the different areas on the clubhouse to try and show each persons position in a unique environment. Making four or five unique portraits per person was a heavy challenge. Made even more difficult by our limited one day time frame. The last part of the day was a quick set of group photos for an upcoming golf tournament happening in the region. The request was to have groups of caddies from each participating course photographed for promotional materials. It was a nice shift in gears from the other work we had been doing all day and the results speak for themselves. The most difficult part of the entire shoot was staying mentally awake and constantly finding new areas to photograph in. Even with several site visits under my belt it was still not easy. In the end though, we did it and I as well as the Hoiana Shores are very happy with the results.
The Hoiana Shores, A Golf Club Story, Part 1!
The Hoiana Shores,
A brand new golf club designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr just outside of Hoi An, Vietnam.
The brief was simple. Photograph the design of the Clubhouse to showcase the architecture as well as how it sits in the surrounding area.
That was the easy part. The golf club is situated on a set of dunes about 8km south of Hoi An and has a beautiful interior and exterior design. As you can see from the above shot. I lucked out on the weather. The sunrise behind the club as stunning with a light fog covering sections of the course giving it a little touch of the surreal. After watching an epic sunrise over the course I turned my attention to the interior. It was time to get busy. The clubhouse is massive with a large restaurant, pro shop locker rooms and an event hall. Into the interior we go!! First up was the lobby entrance. As you can see, it is grand in scale. The main feature of the lobby area is a massive domed ceiling. It is very nice. But I wish it had some sort of artwork or design painted onto it. After the lobby I moved outside to the deck areas overlooking the course. The light was still very pretty as it was still quite early so I worked that area for a while. After the terrace area it was time to move inside. The light was getting too harsh for exterior photographs. But it was just right to showcase the interior areas. Here are a few of my personal favourites from the interior of the Clubhouse. As the day wound down there were only two photos left to make. The dome being the most difficult.
Mainly because it was so large I was not sure I had a lens with a wide enough field of view to see the entire thing and include another design element to showcase it. Otherwise it would simply be a massive, bare dome.. The end result can be found below. As I was packing up I spotted one more photo. A beautiful sofa set against the wood paneled walls with soft afternoon light falling across it. I made one shot, then we felt that the sofa was a bit off center ( I personally didn’t mind) so we readjusted everything and shot it again. Unfortunately by that point the light was gone. Both shots are below. Which do you like better? For the next part.. we move to a much more difficult subject….Creative Portraits.. 170 of them.. in one day!!
Azerai Can Tho – Hoping for a Sunset
Can tho is a hub city located in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Not really known for its resorts and more for its hub of all things produced in the delta. It is an interesting location for a resort. Azerai plans to change that. Located on a small privately owned island near the center of the city right on the river. The resort is a little oasis in the center of a bustling delta metropolis. My original assignment was to create stunning architectural shots with epic sunrises and sunsets to be used as backdrops for the advertising billboards the resort was planning to create. There was only one problem. We were shooting right at the beginning of the rainy season. Which meant cloudy sunrises, bouts of torrential rain every day, and even cloudier sunsets. After four 4am start times (the sun rises early in the delta) I had some nice images. But nothing with the epic colours we were looking for. On the final day, everything changed. The sky had been cloudy all day from early morning. But right at sunset the clouds on the horizon lifted and the sky was on fire. Bright orange and red hues settled into subtle pinks and purples. I had to choose my locations quickly and set up even faster. To make things just a little more difficult, We were shooting at the same time as a video production crew who had happened to be set up in the pool for a shot. So that killed the pool shot right off the bat. In the end I managed to get some gorgeous shots of the pond villas before the speedy sunset slipped away to dark. Talk about luck. Fast forward 10 months to April 2019 and we are back at the Azerai to shoot the space in its entirety, this time properly. While we didn’t need the pool bar and other areas as we managed to get some great shots from our first visit. This time we were focused on the rooms and the villas. With the help of the GM and Assistant GM we pulled off what I think showcases the luxury and grandeur of the space, as well as the more intimate aspects of the property. All in all it is a good exercise to come back to a space and photograph it a second time. Gives you an opportunity to see it in a different light. Pun totally intended.
Radisson Phu Quoc – The Challenge of the Unfinished space
The Radisson Phu Quoc was a very interesting project. Not only were we photographing the property in the height of the rainy season in that part of Vietnam. The hotel itself was also not completely ready to be handed over to the client. Not that there were large areas still under construction. The hotel was finished. But there were small areas that were not 100% that made it a difficult shoot. Lights in some rooms would not work, Or small areas of patio were incomplete. However, the show must go on. The team was outstanding and helped in every way possible to make the property look like it was ready to go and the weather, for the most part, gave us some brief periods of sun to let me get some really pretty beach and drone shots. Well done Radisson Phu Quoc!
Apo Whang Od – The story of a tattooing Tradition
Apo Whang Od is a Philippine national treasure. A member of the Kalinga tribe in northern Luzon she is close to 100 years old and one of the last traditional tattoo artists in the Philippines. While there are others, out of respect for her they do not practice. She lives in the tiny village of Buscalan in northern Luzon. While her village is small, it has become somewhat of a pilgrimage for people in the tattoo community. I had the chance to visit her in 2014. This series is a set I photographed (and had some help being photographed as I was getting a tattoo by her) At the moment she is still tattooing and slowly passing her knowledge on to her grand niece Grace. No one knows how long she will continue working, But judging by how spry she was when I went to visit I can image she will be going for quite a while longer.
A taste of Interior Design
Working on new projects is always fun. Especially when after a long wait you get to see the fruits of your labours. For the Ascott Residences in Ho Chi Minh City I had the chance to provide the artwork for the design team fitting out the rooms at this fancy new digs. In this case, the photos I provided were used not only as photos on the wall, but also as design elements within the rooms. Giving them a different sort of depth to what could have been blank spaces. Even though it took more than a year to complete, its nice to be able to see what your work looks like once its been placed in the hands of talented designers.
Villa Royal Treasures- A Passion Project
It is always a getting a call to work with someone who has a passion for things. David at Villa Royal Treasures is just such a person. With a passion for antiques and a set of master taste buds, the man has created a unique space in Saigon. You can see and feel his passion for what he does in every corner of both locations of Villa Royal. I am personally a fan of the downtown location located in an old apartment building. For this project I was asked to make both interior design photographs of the newly opened down town space. As well as some beautiful food photos that gave the feeling of Villa Royal. I think anyone that visits Saigon should have a quick stop in at Villa Royal
Salinda Resort on Phu Quoc Island in the south of Vietnam is a beautiful property. Facing the sunset it offers beautiful views of the ocean. When we received the call to come photograph the resort we were very excited. A combination of interior design and lifestyle images, it was a challenging shoot. But Both myself and the client were quite pleased with the results.
Clubhouse Pictures – A Branding Story
Clubhouse Films, A new company started by old friends. it was a nice story. The branding company Rice Creative was looking to do a play on the company name for the branding of the business cards. A lot of ideas were thrown around and thrown out. In the end it was decided that the style would look like old Topps “tall boy” baseball cards (an easy match since regular business cards have almost exactly the same dimensions. I proposed to do the shoot on film as that was and still is, the best way to get the “film look” in anything. Shooting some sports like photos all in manual focus is not easy. But it does give it that feel of older sports photos. A lot of them were posed for a reason. All in all a really fun project and a nice test of mental skills to make film shots happen for a client. You can check out both Clubhouse and Rice Creative by hopping over to their websites that are linked in the names.
The Reverie Saigon, An exercise in Opulence
The Reverie Saigon is without a doubt, Vietnam’s most opulent property. It took years to construct and no expense was spared in its design and construction. The interior moves from mosaic tiles and designs on the walls of rooms around the hotel to lush carpets and mirrored walls. Along side that you have marble, everywhere and a specially designed clock in emerald green sitting in the lobby. I was lucky enough to have a year long contract working with the property, photographing every corner of it in an ongoing series. We did everything from hang off the 40 story roof to photograph the pool to spending hours in the suites to get the right time of day for the best shot of the view. if you have a chance, I recommend having a look.
Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers
The Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers are a central hotel location in the middle of downtown Saigon. They have been around for quite some time now and recently contacted me to update some of their photos as they had just completed renovations. Mainly to the lobby area and restaurant as well as the residences entrance. The staff here were, again, fantastic to work with and went out of their way to help make the shoot a success.
Food as Art
Not long ago I wanted to try some conceptual food photography. It was partly in response to the awards and contest season that comes around regularly and partly because I felt the desire to create something outside of the standard fare I was making for clients. I contacted the talented team of Chefs at the Park Hyatt Saigon to cook up some interesting creations and we would photograph them. Unlike previous work for the Hyatt I was not bound by corporate edict and could create the photos as I saw fit for each dish. It was a fun afternoon making art with the talented people at the hotel. These are the results.
Sofitel Phokeethra Phnom Penh & Siem Reap – Heritage and Modernity
Sofitel Phokeethra Phnom Penh and its sister property in Siem Reap are beautiful hotels. It was a pleasure being able to photograph them. The stiles of both hotels are modern and at the same time, classic Indochine. . The Sofitel Phokeethra Phnom Penh sits just outside of the main center of the city. the beautiful touches on the lobby bar and the sprawling lobby itself give it a style that feels more like the hotel has been there since the heyday of the French in Indochina. Phokeethra Siem Reap is a much more intimate property. Set in the middle of lush landscaping and natural ponds and jungle like features around it. Both had their challenges to photograph. Trying to showcase the different yet similar styles of the hotels and keep them consistent with each other from a visual perspective was a lot of fun.
The Expat Project
The Expat Project is a series of portraits I created to showcase the diversity and differences of long term expatriates. While the term bothers a few of the old guard it has evolved to mean something different over the years. Each person in the project has a unique story about who they are, where they come from, how they got here and how they got to where they are. I created a book with the resulting portraits that showcases these interesting people and their quotes that simply describe life overseas in their own eyes. There is an article or two written about it and you can find one here – http://vietcetera.com/fred-wissink-expats-in-vietnam/
Toyota TRD Pro – The Phan Brothers
The TRD Pro Challenge was and is to date. One of my most challenging assignments. But also the most fun and rewarding. The original team drove 3 Toyota trucks from Saigon to Hanoi through all the worst terrain they could find. It made for an excellent video which you can find right here – https://www.gullutube.pk/watch/nguQ4cETbXo My task was to follow along with the journalists sent to cover the drive from Hanoi to Saigon. It was an epic 10 day trek. But the real story that came out of the trip was the Phan brothers. The original offroaders of Vietnam. There are several links to the stories written about them in the media section of my site. If you are interested in their stories I suggest you hop over and have a look.
The Sanctuary – Ho Tram
Not all jobs are the same. I do shoot a lot of architecture and design work but this was a little different. Not only was I asked to photograph the brand new villas at the beautifully designed Sanctuary Resort in Ho Tram, I was also asked to add to the decor. In each room I worked with the designer to add photographs of street scenes from around Vietnam. Done all in beautiful Black and White prints. The images offer a nice contrast to the subdued tones used by the designer to fill the spaces.
Eyes – An Experiment in Beauty and Shape
While having some fun in the home studio one night we came up with an interesting little concept.” Eyes are the window to the soul” so they say. So we thought, Why not focus there. Wrapping the cloth was used to accentuate and draw full focus to the eyes of the beautiful women who were kind enough to let us photograph them.