Thy Tran takes emotive pictures where two women can “simply be whoever they wish to be”

As fate would have it, plunging into the visual medium was a risk worth taking. In 2015, Thy moved back to Saigon and began experimenting with a 35mm point and shoot, producing a mix of candid and staged imagery – the type that housed her memories and was used to explore her relationship with her partner. Thy and Trang Doan, her current girlfriend and cinematographer, met in 2018 and the pair have collaborated widely in making art together; she’s a great inspiration behind the different lighting techniques employed throughout Thy’s pictures, like the darker and moodier ambience that she’s become known for. “The work is increasingly staged with a more vivid palette, and there’s also an introduction of props which I would carefully consider: from the theatrical to the somewhat grotesque,” Thy explains. This transition from the more documentary style of photography has enabled Thy to explore the more ethereal, creating an arrangement of dream-like scenes where the subjects’ face is often hidden from view. “The camera helps me to create the ‘other self’, showing the viewers an imaginative space between two women where they can be themselves, or simply be whoever they wish to be.”
In other works, Thy has built a collection of surrealist narratives as she captures her subjects adorned in strange props and embellishments. From the more human-centric poses to the downright bizarre – take a pair of arms reaching out from a laptop as a prominent example – Thy’s image making is utterly transfixing in its hypnotic qualities. And, with an already impressive portfolio to boot, Thy hopes to continue her dreamy practice and continue collaborating with Trang in the future; “it’s an amalgamation of strange dreams,” she says of the work in mind. “I think, personally, if anyone looks at my work and it provokes or makes them feel something, then I will be glad.”
Ever since the pandemic arrived, Thy has purposefully slowed down her working hours, “I think I’m still in the process of recovering from six months of a super intense lockdown in Saigon,” she says. This means that her typical day commences with a “calm” breakfast, some plant TLC and a cycle around the city; planning future projects and re-aligning her approach to work after not being able to shoot over the lockdown. A recent project, though, is one that she completed in collaboration with her girlfriend. It’s a lyric video made for a friend where slowly warping visuals evolve to the soft and quaint vocals for the song Sundown Shores, released last year. “In this series, Trang painted on the negatives I took and I love how it was a complete myth; we didn’t know how it would turn out until we scanned the negatives.”

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