Volatile States

Duy Phuong Le Nguyen



All around us, our landscape is changing. As globalization casts its spores over Vietnam, its cities face the threat of losing their individuality. Destruction shadows the course of construction; upheavals accompany installations; and buildings blossom overnight. The incessant transformation of our environment results in the formation of new landscapes, extending far beyond the city limits. While this fills some hearts with hope, it fills others with grief and uncertainty. With the creation of new buildings, traditional architecture and tight-knit communal spaces are becoming relics of a time that is now rapidly receding into the past. Empty fields now serve as a breeding ground for new apartment blocks. In this modern vertical living, we become detached in our own private boxes, isolating ourselves from other people and distancing ourselves yet further from nature.

Alongside the alterations in the landscape, sentiments and attitudes are also undergoing dramatic change in Vietnam, as people are gradually beginning to free themselves from the traditions and social norms that have persisted for generations. With the emergence of new status symbols and cultural reference points, people are left in limbo between doubt and confidence.

Volatile States is a reflection on the direction modern society is taking in Vietnam, as it vies to keep up with the rest of the world. It highlights juxtapositions and struggles that exist between old and new, the natural and the man-made. In a world that is becoming increasingly detached, this project questions the consequences this might bring.


Born in 1984 in Long An, Vietnamese photographer Duy Phuong grew up surrounded by photography. His parents, building their photo business from scratch, offered their services for family events and eventually opened their own modest studio.

After entering university to study for a degree in photography in 2006, he was selected in 2008 by Jean-Luc Amand Fournier from the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d’Arles for a three-month residency. His work was displayed the following year at the Musée du Quai Branly as part of the Photoquai photography biennale exhibition.

Since returning to Vietnam he’s devoted his energies to his personal photographic projects. Holding Water is a five-year-long project documenting Tri An Lake and of the lives of its people; dealing with the cyclical nature of life, it often blurs the line between truth and fiction. He balances form and concept in a way that is both provocative and restrained.

Starting in 2012, his work has increasingly gained recognition both at home and abroad, with numerous personal and collective exhibitions at the Centre Culturel Français in Hanoi and Hue, at Casa Italia in Ha Noi, and the Sao La Art Space in Ho Chi Minh City as well as the Angkor Photo Festival in Cambodia, Photo Kathmandu in Nepal, the Singapore International Photography Festival, the Sequences Photography Festival in Romania, and the WITP Annual Emerging Artist Exhibition in England. In 2016, he was invited by photographer PiPo Nguyen-duy who teaches at Oberlin College in the USA for one-month residency and solo exhibition along with a series of lectures and workshops.