Like My Father

Maika Elan



My father is in treatment for his cancer. For many months, he could not get out of bed because of his poor health. His weight fell over 20kgs in a short time. One day I watched him as he was wearing his own clothes. It surprised me how very small he looked. He looked like a child trying to wear the clothes of adults – like when kids wear the clothes of their parents. I suddenly felt so grown up.

Then I was reminded of the past when my dad used to take me to the park and buy me a lot of stuffed animal toys. He also took many funny photos of me. I think it’s my turn to do something for my father, as he has done for me in the past. We both went back to the same park and played like old days. He had to try very hard to cope even just for a few hours.

I hope these pictures I make will be a big motivation for him. I hope they let him see that he is not as sick as he feels. In my heart, he is always a happy person and full of optimism.

Our little adventure began, like old days.


Dat Vu is a Vietnamese photo artist born in Saigon in 1991. He studied overseas in Singapore and the US for about 10 years before returning to Vietnam in 2016. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with High Honors in Art Studio from Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT, USA) in 2015. In his work, he is strongly concerned with the idea of representation, intervention and performance. Having grown up in many different places, from Saigon to Singapore to Connecticut, he relies on photography to explore, to become familiar with each new environment, and to form his identity beyond cultural and national borders.

He develops his visual language with an inclination towards spatial forms, physical gestures, human behaviors and relationships. Through the medium, he grapples with the contexts and concepts that define himself: gender, race and politics. In turn, his photographic practice evolves, going from straight documentary to decontextualization and deconstruction. He seeks new visual vocabularies while maintaining an understanding of the symbols and their nuanced meanings.

He constantly thinks about reality in photography, how everyone is oftentimes more fascinated by an obvious fact photographs may represent, rather than their possibilities. He wants to push his practice in a direction that engages with the audience about social norms, about fabricating a photographic reality. In doing this, he looks forward to combining photography with other media, such as installation, performance art and video.

Maika Elan (aka Nguyen Thanh Hai) is a freelance photographer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 

After study sociology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, Maika started to use the camera, and then Lomo’s family cameras, to take pictures of her daily and private life since 2008. She turned to professional photography soon starting collaborations for editorial clients and fashion firms in Vietnam. In 2010 Maika moved to documentary photography and her first project called The Pink Choice, focused on personal life of gay couples in Vietnam. 

Maika Elan was double-awarded for the “best photo essay” and the “best single photo” in 2010 at Indochina Media Memorial Foundation and in 2012 The Pink Choice was finalist at Asian Women Photographers.

The Pink Choice won 1st prize stories, Contemporary Issues, at World Press Photo 2013 and 1st prize documentary story at Pride Photo Award 2013.