Andy Nguyen: Memories of Home

Memories of Home is an ongoing project consisting of a photo series and video of the memories I captured while living in my hometown in Vietnam, where I grew up most of my life before moving to Canada, during high school.

As a Southeast Asian queer and trans person, I’ve struggled with finding a sense of belonging in any space I’m in—especially when I know my home is on the other side of the planet. Recreating these memories through photography has helped me remember the beauty of Vietnam, a place that was so deeply affected by American bombs and imperialism, yet I want to show that the Vietnamese people are still standing strong, full of life, community, and hope. This series is a personal one for me, and is filled with love, nostalgia, and loss for the new memories I’m not creating at home.

Q&a

Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like its final outcome to be.

 I took most of these photos years ago—some when I lived there or visited, some months apart, some that have been re-edited over and over again. I keep coming back to them whenever I know I’ve been away from home for too long. I think this is the first project where I’m fully unsure of its completion date. For now it has just been some vulnerable and nostalgic pictures I can share, but I do want to create some form of a gallery and installation and return to the photos again someday to do more mixed media work (scans, sound design, voicemails) and project my video footage.

How did you reach the conceptualization of your current project?

I think I’ve always known that I wanted to create more art with themes that specifically relate to my feelings regarding my cultural and gender identity as a means of healing. I went back to these photos and re-edited them for maybe the third time. It was during Lunar New Year, which is the biggest cultural celebration in Vietnam where families and communities come together. Not being home for another year in a row since moving to Canada had me feeling more homesick than ever, especially during that time of year.

Are there any artists that have inspired this work? If so, why?

Some artists that have majorly influenced not just my work, but also my understandings are: Trinh Thi Minh Ha, a Vietnamese filmmaker and writer; Ocean Vuong, a Vietnamese poet and writer; Tsai Ming-Liang, a Malaysian-Taiwanese filmmaker; Toshio Matsumoto, a Japanese filmmaker; Trinh Cong Son, a Vietnamese musician; and Andrew Thomas Huang, a Chinese visual artist and filmmaker.

Describe any challenges you have faced and any solutions that you have found to be helpful in the creative process.

I feel like I can get burnt out, uninspired, and unmotivated with my creativity pretty quickly. Being in school for something that I think should be done naturally definitely makes art-making more stressful, and even forced—and makes me wonder more about who I really am creating any body of work for. I know I make it for myself and whoever else can relate to the feelings and themes I try to convey. I’ve let myself create more naturally whenever the creativity comes this past year, and know to take breaks when I have to.

Have you had any success in getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?

My short film heroes, shot on 16mm and documenting the trans experience, was my first ever project in film school and was selected to be a part of the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival in 2021. That was a major moment for me. Later that year heroes and a self-portrait short I made that same semester, it’s a girl!, were screened at Inside Out Film Festival, both featuring themes of my trans identity and vulnerability. Even though art is subjective, my suggestions to other artists are to be as authentic as you can and try to never force creativity. Live and experience your life, and don’t revolve everything around creating as that can lead to burnout. Experiment with different mediums and have fun. Also, if you are white especially, or you have any form of privilege over others, be aware of the space you may be taking from others who are less privileged.

Andy (or Tram Anh) Nguyen is a visual artist specializing in filmmaking and photography. As a Vietnamese trans person, Andy wishes to continue creating projects that reflect on gender and cultural identity, while also portraying themes of intimacy and vulnerability.

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