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Long and the Winding Road
Old 04-30-2006, 02:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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<CENTER></CENTER>

I got a call the other day from one of the people I consider a true genius with a camera, Long Nguyen (http://www.longnguyen.com). I've exchanged emails with Long in the past (usually when has he posted a picture that just blew me away), but I got really excited when he said he was staying in South Beach for a couple of days and wanted to know if we could meet. This was so cool, I finally get to talk to a photographer who's work has always reminded me of Newton, Demarchelier and Mapplethorpe at their most interesting (sorry, but when he has his groove on, Long belongs in this company).

The first thing that strikes you visually about Long is that he is a physically powerful man, with arms and shoulders like a stevedore working the Jersey docks. A bout with polio as a young child in Vietnam left his legs unsteady (he often uses crutches) but this doesn't seem to restrict his activity. Long is also pretty relaxed about who he is and what he does, I find this not uncommon among those who truly have a special gift. He actually seems a little surprised that others make such a fuss over his work. I should also mention that as luck would have it, Tatiana had dropped in while Long was here. I had her review Long's website, she was so impressed she asked if he could arrange to photograph her the next day. (Ah, those Russians, they can raise "asking" to an art form! Long found the time.)

One thing that became a theme of our discussions was how important pre visualization was to Long as he prepares for a photographic session. It's an important point to emphasize that work of this order doesn't happen by accident. Long (or for that matter most fashion photographers who have posted here in the past like Avenaim, Striffler, Behr, Weber, Norton, Lee, et al) doesn't just have a model show up, pick up the camera, and hope that something interesting happens while they are pushing the button. Long will develop some ideas, discuss those ideas which are to be explored in advance with the model, assemble props, then (and only then) the shoot begins.

A sidebar here. Long went into this amazing story about how he got his hands on this tricycle which became the focal point of a wonderful set of images with a fashion model in his studio. That editorial is one of my favorite works that Long has photographed, but the story about what he had to go through at the last minute to acquire the critical prop was priceless!

<CENTER></CENTER>

We discussed how Long began his work as an artist using a camera as the vehicle to express his ideas. He originally approached art in a more traditional way, sketching and painting, but became interested in photography as it was also offered in the school he was attending. It's my personal belief that this early training in art actually gave Long a head start with the camera. You have to think through what you want to put on that blank canvas before you start sketching, or your going to waste a lot of time. One of the problems with photography is you can just point the camera at something and push the button. Whether the image is worth looking at is problematical, but you don't really have a lot invested physically, intellectually or (thanks to digital) even economically, so who cares? Well, Long actually does. And his work clearly illustrates this. He also shoots primarily film with a medium format camera, which again puts a premium on preparation before the button pushing begins.

Bill Cooke (http://www.miamiphotojournalist.com) was also hanging out (my place was unusually busy that evening!) and joined Long and I for dinner at Oliver's, a delightful restaurant across the street from Southgate Towers. It was very interesting to participate in a discussion about photography from two completely different points of view, which in the end ultimately come together. Photojournalism often relies on events and situations out of the control of the photographer, while fashion by it's very nature requires the photographer to accept complete responsibility for directing the events being recorded. However, both (when they are successful) must tell a compelling story in images which neither move nor have voice.

The evening ended all too soon with Long having to get ready for his drive back to the Washington DC area. Finally something we could share! It turns out Long also enjoys driving long distances in his car, so it turns out we share the "bus driver" gene! Who knew!

Fish

PS: I have promised myself that I am going to buy a cheap little point and shoot so I will finally have a camera in my pocket to record these unexpected meetings.
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John Fisher
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Last edited by Fish; 08-24-2009 at 08:14 PM..
 
Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 04-30-2006, 06:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Very cool, beautiful shots
Excellent idea

Best regards
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Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 04-30-2006, 06:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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don't ever stop posting... one of the bright spots who's shared experiences are always worth stopping and spending some time on. thank you.
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Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 04-30-2006, 06:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I always enjoy a Fish story
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Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 04-30-2006, 07:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Nice narrative. Worthy of a column, IMO. Hit up Rolando - maybe you can become the first on-line photographic story-spinner/historian. Kind of "Avalon meets Garrison Keillor"

Long's work is great. I first ran into him, so to speak, on another forum where he'd post these most lovely b/w images - Irving Penn-esque, but different. And he was terribly unpretentious about his skills. Never met him in real time, though.

Thanks for brighting the evening.
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Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 04-30-2006, 08:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I've been also admiring Long's work. Look "simple" but it's very technical. I just wish that I "found" out about him and his work way before I moved to SoCal. Would love to assist him. Great story Fish (as always..!). I hope I come across with him on a crossroad someday.
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Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 04-30-2006, 09:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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John,

Great story (as always)...
However...
It left me wondering: What was the tricycle (prop) search & acquire adventure story?

Please share (if you're able to withing confidentiality/time restraints).

Thanks!
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Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 05-01-2006, 10:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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dude, i really enjoy reading your narratives. i know it's a bit of work writing them, but i hope you'll continue whenever you have time. btw, i've also been promising myself a point-n-shoot... for about three years now. i'll get it one of these days. maybe when casio comes out with something around a 100 MP around the same physical size as a credit card.
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Re: Long and the Winding Road
Old 05-01-2006, 11:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I enjoyed your writing. It sounds like a great experience!

-joshua
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