“I wish to delve into the innermost depth of love and sexual life, but don’t want to feature only the gays and lesbians’ superficial differences nor exploit sensational, shocking elements in the way they express their mutual love,” confided Maika Elan about her innovative photo collection on the romantic lives of Vietnamese homosexuals and transgenders.
“I simply wish to capture through my camera lens the love and care of homosexuals and transgenders and how they show it.
I also want to accentuate the fact that homosexual love is nothing different from that of heterosexual people,” shared Maika, whose real name is Nguyễn Thanh Hải, regarding her photo collection “The pink of choice, which was exhibited in Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City later last year.
The high-profile exhibition attracted thousands of viewers and countless comments on personal websites owned by Maika, her husband, and many other contemporary photographers.
Though opinions are mixed, most are hopeful about an innovative, challenging direction in Việt Nam:
A dedication to documentary photography projects like those undertaken by Maika and Hải Thanh, her husband.
‘The pink choice,’ initiated in early 2011 and sponsored by the Denmark Cultural Fund, brought Maika the coveted credit when she became the first Vietnamese photographer in 40 years to win a prize at the world’s largest journalist photo contest, held annually by the World Press Photo Foundation.
Maika’s prized collection includes 12 works from her 70-photo project spanning almost two years, in which she skillfully captured the love and daily lives of 70 homosexual couples.
Forty five of the photos have been displayed.
‘Contemporary issue,’ the category in which the 27-year-old pocketed first prize, is precisely the less-traveled road in Việt Nam which she is so intent on taking.
This road includes exploring a common social issue through the lens in a long journey, and depicting the plight and lives of the characters in it.
The journey is intended to be powerful enough to begin multifacted dialogues and opinions when opened to the public.
The road Maika has pursued is not always a ‘pink choice’.
Her companions for now include her husband, her professional friends from the Denmark Cultural Foundation and Goethe Institute, and her homosexual and transgender friends.
“Under no pressure to win prizes, I just keep going and taking photos.
I just feel the need for it,”
Born in Hà Nội, Maika graduated from the Hà Nội University of Social Sciences in 2008 and has worked as a freelance photographer ever since.
She has participated in many photography workshops and festivals in Việt Nam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh
In May 2010, she won the “The best photo essay” and “The best single photo” prizes at the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation workshop in Hà Nội.