We had the good fortune of connecting with Van Bui and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Van, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
More often than not, it feels easy to want to give up. And that’s an understandable and valid feeling. But remember that there aren’t just the two options of giving up and to keep going. There’s also another option to pause, take a moment to reevaluate your progress, and breathe for a moment. I think that’s something that a lot of people, including myself, don’t realize. Taking a pause is not quitting or giving up, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if you’re working towards something you really want to see come to fruitition, pausing is more than OK. Who knows, maybe when you look back on all those times you wanted to quit, you will be grateful that you paused instead of quitting, and will be grateful for those decisions.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve been photographing since I first picked up a camera through my high school yearbook team. Even before I had a camera of my own, I knew that I had an eye for photography and to capture moments differently than others. I like to describe my photography as unconventional, socially-conscious art. I notice that photography is seen as a gendered, male hobby or career, and a majority of the photographers I see are men, which makes me sad, because where are my lovely ladies at? Where are the non-binary, queer, gender non-conforming photographers? I want to see more of them behind the camera capturing beautiful moments too, but I have a hard time finding them in a male-dominated area. But I like to think that I am that for someone else who aspires to be a non cis-male photographer like I am. Just me existing in this field is amazing. There were countless times where I felt inadequate as a photographer. Not unique enough, not famous enough, not professional enough, not charismatic enough, not talented enough. It weighed down on me, and I can clearly remember many nights where I felt like giving up photography forever. But like I mentioned previously, I paused, took a moment to breathe and think, and kept going, slowly but surely. And with the support of my loved ones and community, I was able to get where I am today. Sure, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. But I’ve impacted many people, mostly my clients, with my art. Many content clients that I’ve worked with and people who have supported my art along the way have told me how much they love seeing me and my art thrive, affirmations which I am so grateful for and keep me going. What I’m most proud of is launching my first prints back in fall 2020! I sold over 80 prints of photos I’ve taken both here in the U.S. and when I studied abroad in Southeast Asia back in fall 2018. On the back of each and every photo, I wrote a little description or quote or mantra relevant to the photo, which made it more personal too. I got overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone, regardless if they purchased prints or not. It was honestly such a rewarding experience and I’m already preparing for my next launch, which I’m hoping to release this spring 2021! This journey to where I am now with my photography and art was nowhere near easy. But it was most definitely worthwhile.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Orange County, so I would most definitely take them all over Orange County. I would definitely center the entire trip around food too, because who doesn’t want to experience good food when they’re visiting a city! I would dedicate an entire day or even two to different Vietnamese restaurants in Westminster and Garden Grove, which has the largest Vietnamese community outside of Việt Nam: phở, spring rolls, bún bò huế, ca phê sữa đá, you name it. I’d also take them to hang out at my favorite parks, like Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, or Huntington Beach Central Park in Huntington Beach. I’d definitely take them to my favorite beach at the end of the week for some downtime: Laguna Beach. You can see a beautiful sunset when you’re there! Some of my other favorite places to eat are Bunz in Huntington Beach (best burger I’ve EVER had, sorry In-N-Out), Kopan Ramen in Garden Grove, Vox Kitchen in Fountain Valley, Aburi Sushi in Buena Park, Thai Kitchen in Irvine, Poke Tiki in Costa Mesa, and Mokkoji Shabu in Garden Grove (they have other locations in OC too). And of COURSE, I would take them to a different boba spot every day. I love going out for boba (maybe a little too much…) with friends for a quick pick-me-up drink. One of my favorite drinks to get is taro milk tea if I’m feeling something simple, or if I’m feeling more quirky, I’ll get a black sesame milk tea. I haven’t found a place in OC that has that flavor yet, but I look forward to that day I do find one!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My support system, my community, are the ones who always have my back. My partner, my best friends, my close friends, my family, my Southeast Asian community of activists and organizers I’ve met over the years. Even when I want to give up on myself, they do not give up on me. And for all those times, I am so deeply, eternally grateful for them. They’ve always believed in me even when I didn’t see my own worth or when I was in my darkest times. They wanted to pick me right back up and take that journey with me, hand in hand. I have so much love for this support system that shares so much with me.
Other: My Twitch where I stream games every Tuesday and Thursday night: https://twitch.tv/vanliketheshoes