HD: In Asia, we have a long standing habit of looking to the West for a widely accepted theoretical framework. After being introduced to writings produced in/from Southeast Asia in Zhuang Wubin’s Writing Photography workshop, I have been seeking different sources as a way to escape the ghost of colonialism. Recently, I’ve been studying periodical magazines by HCMC Photographers Association  and Vietnam Association of Photographic Artists published in the late 90s – they form the official account of Vietnamese photography. Despite formidable gaps in age, practice and educational background, I found our concerns weirdly similar. They featured straightforward critique, op-eds expressing concerns about Vietnamese photography’s standing in the international scene, and published nude portraits while it was, and still is, a touchy subject. I am both intrigued and perplexed by these materials but above all am just glad to stumble upon something that might help connect the dots in our fragmented history.
ES: Michel Foucault did an interview in the French daily Le Monde, in April 1980 . Among other things, he made this observation, which has really shaped what I try to do when I write about photography: ‘I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would not try to judge, but bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; […] Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination.’ What he’s noting here is the importance of producing writing that can also offer a sense of agency to the reader, a sense that the work is being opened up to new interpretive possibilities that begin with the text, but that don’t necessarily end there.
2: Michel Foucault, The Masked Philosopher, The Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, Volume 1, New Press, 1997 (1994)