‘Click’ – I pressed the shutter of the matte black camera with its lens facing toward an ancient wooden toy air craft.
An image instantly appeared on the rectangular screen, showing the ebony brown color of the toy. I handed the camera to my father, awaited for his comments. My father is not a professional photographer, photography to him was an old hobby – a flaming passion followed him throughout his difficult youth. Squinting his eyes, he said with a deep loving tone: “You’ve improved a lot. But take note the lighting was still…” (Son). He is the one who has brought me to the concept of photography, the one who has always been by my side, the one, with his old exquisite photographs, becomes my greatest creative inspiration.
The love for photography has started in my father’s heart longer than he could remember, but only until the age of 13 – when he got his first camera, the passion was truly exposed. He used to carry his camera everyday by his side, and cherished it as if it was his most precious treasure. He wanted to be a ‘Moments Catcher’, who could keep all historic moments into his rolls of film. My father was born in the destitute tenebrous wartime. His youth was the period of poverty, privation and fears, yet, he was always an optimist, because he had his camera, and through the lens of that old metal box, he saw the humanity existed between the poor neighborhoods, between the soldiers, which taught him to understand, to empathy with the pain of the society at the time. Many of his work have lost through the times of moving house. But in all of the left ones being kept carefully in the drawer, I can see something in common: they are moments, that nothing was set up, that they are all mightily spontaneous and real. He captured a smile as bright as the Sun of a lady when seeing again her husband coming back from the battle, the enthusiasm in the face of soldiers in the day of enlistment, the image of a soldier carrying his friend on the back, all wounded, out from the battle, etc. The creativity is particularly expressed in the photographs by the angle of shooting: despite the disastrous plight, his photographs are all about a very different view of the status quo. Whenever I look through his work, I always get a feeling of a flame being lit up inside me, a feeling of a desire to create what he did – beauty. The passion and the joy in his face whenever he tells me about photography, about how he found out a unique shooting angle, about how he concentrated to capture the best moments, truly inspire me. It makes me think, that perhaps, it is what creativity really means: the ability to think differently, to invent, to innovate, and to turn the thoughts into reality.
I took back the camera from my father then pressed the “Play” button, which leads me to the photo gallery. A series of images constantly appeared on the screen, showing portraits of various people – they are teachers at my school, who have agreed to take part in a photography project of mine and my two good friends – project ‘Humane’. We have been running this small-scaled project for over two weeks, taking portraits of teachers around the school every day at any possible time in our school’s Meeting Room, attempting our best to convey the message through our work. The magic happens at the postproduction, after the stage of taking pictures, when we extract the skin colors of the teachers to fill in the background. Our purpose is to emphasize the equality between humans, to show a different view, a moral perspective that reveals beyond our definition of skin color: no one is actually ‘black’, ’yellow’ or ‘white’ (Carroll). We want people to look at our photographs and comprehend this, for them to see clearly that our skin color is actually very similar, between a European and an Asian, or between one from Mexico and one from America. A few shades darker of lighter do not say anything about a human. Deciding to join this project, I wanted to create photographs that can tell what bare eyes cannot, which are worth thousands words, like what my father used to do. Something I have learnt from him and his work is that creativity is not necessary a great discovery which is influential to mankind, creativity could be only a photograph which could change the way someone think, and the more creativity, the more passion I put into my work, the more unique it will be. My father was the first one I shared the idea of ‘Humane’ with, and he kept reminding me that we have to be more creative and passionate with this project, because it is not originally our idea. So we make a video, showing the process of taking pictures, and the stories of the participants, and hoping that it will deliver a crystal message to whomever look at our work. The creativity that I have learnt from my father and his photographs is all about the distinction. Everyone has different way of thinking, thus the creativity in each one is never meant to be similar to another.
For me, creativity is like oxygen. It to me is as precious as water to a fish, more valuable than any treasures, it is what keeps me alive. Sometimes, I lie down on my soft bed and imagine a world without the existence of creativity. I see the Sun is brightly shinning, the wind is gently blowing, the clouds are leisurely flying, but I could not see any humans or animals, because they could not live. Without the existence of creativity, lives would not last so long, simply because, we would not be able to think of a way to sustain our lives. We would not be able to think of a way to make clothing, to build shelters, to cook food, or to do anything even through raw materials are all around. The Earth, without the existence of creativity, would be nothing more than a hopeless dead planet. Fortunate enough, we are born with creativity, with a brain inside our heads between our ears, giving us the ability to think and to create. When I was a little kid, I could put my grandmothers’ blanket on my back as a rope and become superman, and as a superman, I felt like there was nothing in this world I was not able to do. But the more I grow up, the more I realize that I am only a grain of sand in the vast dessert, that I have let go numerous opportunities because I thought I could not do it, because I was scared of failure. But I’m lucky to have my father to always be there by my side, to listen and to give me advice as the one who has lived over half of his life, who has experienced storms of life, and who has been through frightening time of war. He said the crucial quality of every person who called himself creative, or of photographer particularly, is courageous, to create the most honest shots and to express the truth. I once asked him if he was scared while taking pictures at hazardous venues like battles, when I saw his work. He smiled: “Of course, but my fear could not defeat my passion and my creativity.” (Son). My father, with his work, makes me think that, even in front of battles, he – as a photographer as well as a soldier, did not falter, why must I falter in front of opportunities, and lower my own creativity just because I am scared? After all, if there was no failure, there would be no presence of light bulb, air planes or the Internet. Every time I feel insecure, I think of my father and the courage he put into his work of art, they give me the confidence to use my creativity and be different.
“Creativity is all around us, and some of the funniest, most beautiful, and touching moments happen when you least expect it.” (Howard). Holding up my camera again, I adjusted the lighting as my father said, then pressed the shutter. ‘Click’ – the image immediately appeared on the screen showing the same scene as the last one, but somehow much more exquisite and soulful. After all, creativity is all about learning and having yourself an inspiration, and in my case, it comes from my father. If creativity is a gift from God, then my father is an angel who leads me the way. To whoever is reading this, creativity is everywhere right beside you, find yourself an inspiration, and do not fear to be unique, because “only super stars break the mold (Mouth)”.
Carroll, Aine Muire. Interview. Le Nhi Lam, Nguyen Quang Anh Dao Khanh Linh. 10/3/2016.
Howard, Bryce Dallas. “Bryce Dallas Howard Quotes.” n.d. BrainyQuote. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/brycedalla705245.html>.
Mouth, Smash. “All Star.” By Greg Camp. 1999.
Son, Dao Truong. Interview. Dao Khanh Linh. 1/5/2016.