Overcoming the Odds with a Camera in Hand: Vietnamese Photographer Finds Success in Canada

Lucas Trong was supposed to get a degree in marketing but his passion for photography pulled him onto a new path.
March 02, 2022 | 09:16

For Lucas Trong, a 27 year old Vietnamese expat in Vancouver, his exposure to photography as a student was an eye-opening experience. The medium of photography captivated him and the photographer's lifestyle seemed more attractive, albeit not as stable as other careers.

Lucas chose to a daring next step after getting his Economics bachelor's degree by going abroad to study photography, entering the art world.

Overcoming obstacles and prospering in a foreign land, Lucas's profound story exemplifies the importance of always betting on oneself and one's passions.

Photo: Lucas Trong
Photographer Lucas Trong

"My parents were not very happy with my decision to go into photography at first. For them, it is not a very stable career. Which is why I have a lot to prove to them. I even signed as a marketing major at my university because that was what they wanted, but when reached Canada, I changed it to photography because that was what I actually wanted to study," said Lucas.

Like many international students, Lucas had to spend semesters studying remotely because campus were closed. This came as a huge disappointment for him because he had made tremendous mental, physical, and financial strides to get his education.

“There is a lot of practical parts of the programs that I would very much love to come to class and learn, but sadly we could not because of the pandemic. I am so thrilled to be back to in-person class since late 2021. My graduation date is April this year so I have a lot to look forward to.”

Lucas considered himself blessed because during the pandemic in Vietnam, he had gotten to spend only a few months in lockdowns, including his stays in Hanoi and HCMC.

"When I returned to Vietnam, I stayed a few months in Hanoi with my family then moved to Saigon for work and to continue my online study. The initial plan was to stay in Saigon for 2-3 months but I spent almost 8 months there exploring the city I was really lucky to be able to work on a few projects before leaving Vietnam to go back to Canada in August 2021.”

The young artist knew the big advantage of working in a different environment than Hanoi city would get him out of the comfort zone and be able to see his own improvement in a new light.

Out of all his commercial works, Lucas is particularly proud of his collaboration with UNIQLO Vietnam – one of his favorite clothing brand.

Vietnamese Student in Canada Steers from the Norms, with Photography
Photo: Kenh14

Furthermore, by working as an independent artist, Lucas is on the search for opportunities on an international scale. Looking back at the year 2021, the artists feel happy, almost amazed by his own creations.

The 27-year-old student confessed that he has the some anxieties about his career path but that does not stop him. The young creative hasn't lost any momentum. Going forward, he plans to work on the best version of himself as an artist in the year 2022.

Betting on himself in the new land

First, Lucas started taking photos because of the hobby he shared with friends. He spent a lot of his free time while he was a university student working as a photographer's assistant.

“I needed that experience to grow, to find out more about the industry before really getting into it. I worked for online newspaper and magazines for awhile, met a lot of people and learned a lot. After that I decided that I wanted to work as a photographer full-time.”

The benefit of studying and working in Canada allowed him to be immersed in new cultures and backgrounds, adding to his artistic flair.

Photo: Lucas Trong
Photo: Lucas Trong

“Canada is giving a multi-cultural environment, which helps me with my creativity because my subjects, Vietnamese or foreigner, are very diverse. They all carry different stories, different aesthetics, etc that I want to bring out in our shoot," he said.

Photo: Lucas Trong
The language and culture barrier seems to disappear as he discovered his own way to communicate with his foreign clients using photography. Photo: Lucas Trong

While expecting no automatic opportunities, he practices constantly to improve. There was one time he decided to complete 12 shooting projects in one-year span to gain experience. Now that he knew better, the planning is much smoother and no longer based on quantity.

Instead, Lucas's focus shifted to communicate with his client in order to bring out the best of them, whether it is portrait, street, or fashion photography.

Photo: Lucas Trong
Photo: Lucas Trong

The artist shared he is well aware that not every one of his client is a professional model. In fact, some had never posed before. Nevertheless, he did not let one's lack of experience stop them from expressing their own, personal beauty.

For his project, entitled “Mother!”, he portrayed his own mother. Only until recently, he has the confidence to propose the idea to her. As family members who know each other well, their relationship helped the process. Still, his mother portrait is a difficult case for Lucas.

Photo: Lucas Trong
Photo: Lucas Trong
Lucas in
Photo: Lucas Trong

“As a photographer, I believe my best photoshoot is always the next one. When I first started and had very little idea about how to take pictures of people, I would go for taking sad expressions because it was easy. Now that I am more experienced, I find ways to capture different human emotions (like happiness), who they are and what they are capable of achieving,”

Work opportunities and ambiguity motivated Lucas to grow his portfolio on social media while studying. Most importantly, he thought about turning the potential into action.

"Like I said, I have a lot to prove, to show that I can go far as a professional photographer. Living in Canada had been such an integral part of my upbringing, I am graduating this year and will continue to take my career to new height,” shared Lucas.

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