Hotel Window

Pipo Nguyen-Duy


This project deals with my recurring themes of trans-cultural identity and site specificity. It is my attempt to address issues of cultural belonging and cultural transiency through the irony of surveying Vietnam- as a Vietnamese American- through a hotel window.
During the last few years, I made photographs from the same hotel window in Ho Chi Minh City, District 1. The second-floor window offered a commanding view of the alley where it widened before the sharp left turn located under my hotel where it became narrow again. The alley served as a short cut between the congested street where it began and ended at a crowded market. What separated my camera from the alleyway was the large glass window to dampen the noise and the thin white curtain for privacy. I spent a little more than four months in this sixty-four square foot hotel room, photographing obsessively from six in the morning until late at night, only taking breaks to eat or to sleep. During my process, I remained as objective as a scientist gathering visual data. The camera tripod allowed me to keep the same perspective of the scenes outside my window throughout the day.

With this work, I aim to document, as if from the perspective of a natural scientist or archeologist. Using the camera to record facts rather than regarding it as a subjective tool, I have become increasingly intrigued with the idea of mapping my “own” culture in hopes of understanding it from an outside point of view using the hotel room as a metaphor for an in-between place. The window curtain was the variable that changed in addition to the light, which also changed throughout the day. The curtain was a literal veil to the world and the culture outside my window.


Pipo Nguyen-duy was born in Hue, Vietnam. Growing up within thirty kilometers of the demilitarized zone of the 18th Parallel, he describes hearing gunfire every day of his early life He immigrated to the United States as a political refugee.

Pipo has taken on many things in life in pursuit of his diverse interests. As a teenager in Vietnam, he competed as a national athlete in table tennis. He also spent some time living as a Buddhist monk in Northern India. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics at Carleton College. He then moved to New York City, where he worked as a bartender and later as a nightclub manager. While living in the East Village and meeting people such as musician Don Cherry and artist Keith Haring, Pipo interests turned to art. He earned a Master of Arts in Photography, followed by a Master of Fine Arts in Photography , both from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.

​Pipo has received many awards and grants including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, a National Endowment for the The Arts, an En Foco Grant; a Professional Development Grant from the College Arts Association; an American Photography Institute’s National Graduate Fellowship, NYC; a fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission in Salem, Oregon; a B. Wade and Jane B. White Fellowship in the Humanities at Oberlin College; and two Individual Artists Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in Columbus, Ohio. He participated as an artist-in-residence at Monet’s Garden through The Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Artists at Giverny Fellowship, at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California , in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence program.

He has lectured widely and his work has been exhibited and are in public collections in the United States, Europe and Asia .

Pipo is a Professor teaching photography at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.