"More Like Water than a Rock" - The Kamaryn Truong Interview

Editor Note: Kamaryn Truong is a photographer based in Austin, Texas, and a recent participant in the Photographer Takeover Project on Human Influence's Instagram account. H.I. writer Wanda Lough recently sat down with Truong for an interview to explore how Truong captures her photos, sees the world around her, and #influenceshumans.

Interview by Wanda Lough

Human Influence: I really know nothing about photography. Could you explain the difference between developing film versus scanning film?

Kamaryn Truong: Developing film is just. . .  When you get film, its light sensitive. When you develop it goes through chemicals. It freezes the frame so it's not light sensitive. So you can take it out in the light. Scanning it , you just run it through a scanner. It picks up the frame and it puts it either in positive or negative. That’s where the photo comes from.

HI: I did a series of interviews where I asked artists what their economic obstacles are and where they exist in the art world. But particularly for photography, what are some the obstacles for being a photographer?

KT: I usually shoot with film and film costs money. But luckily I work at a camera store. So I get a discount on scanning. Its called Austin Camera Imaging. It's the cutest little store ever. And I walked into the store knowing nothing about photography. Just knowing how to barely work my camera. And I was like ‘hey matt’ - which is the owner - ‘can I work here?’  And he was like, ‘well we have a lot of people trying to work here it’s not going to work.’ ‘Okay, okay.’ So I came back a few weeks later. ‘Hey can I work here? ‘Ok, just come in next Wednesday’ or something. So I did a bit of an internship there and I learned so much. And everyone there is so nice. It’s a small business so there is only 6 or 7 employees . . .

Yeah so I scan my own film there at a discount so that's a bonus. For someone who doesn’t have a hook up, it can be economically straining because you have to pay for the roll of film. And then you have to get it processed or printed, and that can cost anywhere from $10, $11 to $16, especially if you want to get it high res so each shot is around a $1.

HI: Do you pre-plan most of your shots because of that?

KT: No, but I would be super conscious of what I was shooting. Digital you can shoot all day as long as you have enough memory on your card.

HI: I see a lot of people getting into film more. Is film in right now? Is it better?

KT: Some people prefer film and some people prefer digital. It really depends on the person. I guess digital is really appealing for fashion photography. And I guess some people like the look of film. You don’t have to edit photos from film. They’re just naturally beautiful. I know I take a lot of time editing my digital photos. When it’s my 35mm photos, I spent so much time looking through the little view finder and planning my shot. Okay this shot will be amazing. I hit the shutter and when it comes out, its great.

HI: Just curious, the shots you took of Teeta, was that film?

KT: Yeah. :)

HI: You say - "I take photos because I want others to see how I visualize the world. I want to influence others by observing and documenting the beauty in everyday life that would otherwise go unnoticed. I’m fascinated by people and their stories because I’m always searching for empathy by seeing myself in others." What have you learned from doing photography?

KT: I once read this quote from someone, I don't remember where i read it but it was somewhere along the lines - “Each artist is expressing themselves through their art / When they take a photo it's a reflection of the artist.”

I just see beauty in everyone. I think what i have learned really  photos no one is real black n white, there is always a gray area. Unless its film, like black n white film.

[We laugh for a bit]

KT: I have just met so many people just because i'm passionate even though it's just for fun. I like having people just enjoy what I give them

HI: How do you choose your subjects?

KT: I don't. I just go up to them and ask. Hey can I take your photo. Everything is no unless you ask. . . and I have never had anyone say no.

HI: How do you get them to relax?

KT: Recently I did a fashion shoot in San Antonio. My friend, Manuel actually started a fashion line and he ask me to take shots for him. Yeah, sure, no problem. And I am doing it for free. And there's this model. His name is Saul. He has never modeled before. He was accidentally thrown into modeling.

So Saul has never modeled before.

I stopped and said - ‘Ok. . . lets think about it like this. You have an expression that how you move is different from anyone else in the world. And I have an eye. If I like something, just keep on moving, I’ll tell you if I like it and I’ll tell you to hold it and stop. Or If I want you to move a certain way, i’ll tell you to move your arm or whatever. Just try your best to interpret what I am seeing things.’

Thats for fashion shoots. But when it comes to strangers’ portraits - ‘just do what you’re doing. I like what you were doing before you saw me or before saw you were in front of the camera. Don’t look at me. Just Look at the street or look at your phone. Just do anything but don’t look at the camera.’

HI: I guess everyone is a little camera shy.

KT: The way you see yourself in the mirror isn’t what other people see. It's weird and they say you wouldn’t recognize yourself if you saw yourself in public.

HI: Are you serious?

KT: Yeah because you see yourself so differently

HI: Jean Luc Godard says cinema is “Truth 24 frames per second”. What is the difference in your opinion between cinematic film and photography film?

KT: It's catching a moment rather living in the moment.

HI: What are you obsess with? And it doesn’t have to be anything close to photography?

KT: I’m obsessed with myself. I think. I am pretty sure. Here I am talking about myself and my photography. I really value bettering myself for the love of humanity.

[laughter]

KT: Well, I mean that in the most literal way. I don’t want to make it worse. That’s the worse thing you can do. If you hate humanity, of course, you're going to be a bad person and spread negativity. But if you love people, you’re going to spread that positivity. If you love yourself, you’re going to spread that positivity.

HI: Yeah that's very true.

KT: So I guess I’m obsessed with myself.

HI: Does that come out with keeping yourself balanced? Or how does that come out? How do you obsess about that?

KT: I went through a rough period really young ya know and I was in a really bad spot. And then all of sudden, I thought this is bullshit. I was like you gotta work on yourself. I guess ever since that period, I am trying to get a point I don’t let other people determine my happiness.

And so . . .  what I am trying to say is that if I can work on myself and be happy with myself. Just accepting what happens and be like water; be fluid. But still investing in people and caring of course. Trying to treat people like you want to treat yourself. Treating every person like its their last day. . .  Nothing is black n white, you can’t say this person is a bad person or this person is a good person. There’s a reason that they’re that way. You can’t assume that they meant malicious intent. So that's the way I see it. So i’m obsessed with trying to have a better view on things. All the time. I hope I am not being too dramatic.

HI: No way!

KT: So like I wanna be like water rather than like a rock.

HI: A medium?

KT: Mhmm yeah. More adaptive rather than stubborn. Though I am a really stubborn person. If someone tells me what to do, now that you told me what to do, I'm not going to do it.

HI: What kind of advice would you give to other photographers?

KT: Just keep on shooting because eventually you are going to figure out what sticks to you and what doesn’t. Eventually, you’ll get your own style. You know what I mean? Because I can’t say, you should follow so-n-so’s style. You should look at one person’s style and you’ll be just like them.. . . .  Let it flow between you and the model, if it’s fashion photography. Envision what you want the person doing rather seeing what they’re doing first. Or do both!

HI: What’s your next challenge?

KT: Probably more minimalistic stuff. I don’t know but I’m always working on the shots i see. The shots I post I think I could of done that better. I could still be improving now. Everything is still a challenge for me.


Wanda Lough: Autodidactic. Reads a lot. New to Austin area. From New Jersey and Arizona. No college degree. Art enthusiast and a professional admirer. Favorite album of 2016 was Wildflower.