I only hope that someday, I will take a photo that pleases me in its wholeness. That one perfect photo. A perfect photo comes in layers: peak personal emotional resonance, perfect technique and composition, and a touch of mystery.
Who is Kim Bao Tran?
I originally came from Vietnam and settled in Canada in my early 20s. I came from a long line of photography legacy as my father was a war correspondent photographer and my family owned a photography studio in Vietnam back when photography was still a novelty in our country and only the middle class was able to afford portraits. Hence, though I have a computer science background, photography is always a part of my life, as a young photography apprentice and now, as a devoted professional photographer.
What kind of works do you create?
I am interested in all types of photography that bring out the element of LIFE. Such can be a general comment since life encompasses so many facets, and because it’s so generalized that it probably is the most challenging kind of work to accomplish. I try to recreate life in portraits, wildlife, landscape, candid, lifestyle, and photojournalism. I don’t limit myself to any form because life encompasses all.
Where do you find inspiration?
Whenever I am about to click the shutter-release button, I ask myself will this image become alive after? Will it display a taste of life? Will it evoke the emotions of life? I find inspiration from my past, my childhood, and my happy times back in my home country, before the war brought destruction and devastation. They say you learn from the past but you must live forwards. Nostalgia is my biggest inspiration but I am aware it can also be a barrier to creating more contemporary themes so I am consciously balancing the two to achieve works that are close to my heart but also more relatable in this modern era. It is a symbol of self-reconciliation in a way, to reconcile my work as a young Vietnamese immigrant and now as a fully assimilated Canadian. I possess the qualities of both cultures, and I want my work to reflect both: a little bare-feet boy roaming among the banana trees in the scorching tropical sun, and a mid-age guy in his maple-leaf sweatshirt bracing the Canadian winter stomp to catch a glimpse of a snowy owl.
What motivates you to do what you do?
As mentioned, I am easily provoked by images from my past, the sort of sensory recollection without the need for a direct external stimulus. Hence, my motivations are always within me. They say if your primary real-life nightmares often consist of you going somewhere and never having your camera around to capture that perfect shot, then photography is in your blood. Photography is not just a trendy hobby for me. It is a way I vicariously hope to build the life I want to have, reshape the life I wished I could have, or recreate the life I am curious about. Creativity is the freedom to shape some form of concrete reality, within the context of your works. Within that photo, I can create a reality of dreams I have missed, and opportunities I have squandered.
Which work or series of works are you most proud/satisfied of?
I don’t think any artist is entirely happy with their work or else they will stop creating. I think the motivation to create comes from that slight dissatisfaction with your work. There is always something you wish you could have done better or differently and you continue to attempt the theme over and over again until you are more satisfied – but never completely proud of.
I have done many candid and formal photography projects but I can’t say I am most proud of any. Perhaps if I reply to this question when I am no longer able to hold a camera, I will be forced to choose and be able to provide an answer. For now, the answer is the work I am most proud of is that one photo I have yet to take.
What professional ambitions or desires do you have for your near and distant future?
To be an artist is to only desire self-satisfaction and self-approved. Ambition is not a word in my photography dictionary. I only hope that someday, I will take a photo that pleases me in its wholeness. That one perfect photo. A perfect photo comes in layers: peak personal emotion, a sense of belonging to the setting, the right lighting, the right moment in time, and connectivity to the subject. I chase that right moment proactively because you won’t just catch something if you don’t chase it. Chasing it is actively noticing it with all your senses. Chasing it is mindfully experiencing it to the fullest.
Nature is perfect because nature is created so that all related elements are in sync. One day, I hope that as an ordinary human, I can recreate that state of balance, if you can call that an “ambition.”
What is your definition of beauty and how do you aim to achieve it in your photography?
I come from a war-torn country where we see a lot of chaos, deaths, and ugliness so my works are very focused on restoring beauty and promoting a sense of peace. Unlike other professional photographers who might want to focus on creativity, shock factor, or social commentaries, I simply want to achieve a form of beauty. Beauty doesn’t mean that perfect Fibonacci number sequence, nor a perfect balance of line, shape, form, texture, color, size, and depth. Beauty is life, to me, and life has no one common definition but rather depends on personal experiences. I want to achieve beauty as a form of mindfulness, and I hope the viewers will be able to perceive this beauty that is forever transforming in my photos.