photographer chiron duong on his contemporary take on the Ao Dai garment

the ethereal “Portraits of Ao Dai” by Chiron Duong

Vietnamese artist Chiron Duong translates the vibrancy of traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai costume into an ethereal style photo series of female figures. Through ‘Portraits of Ao Dai’, the artist reveals stories of personal memories tied to the Ao Dai tradition, merging historical and modern values. Her interest in Ao Dai goes beyond the cliché of times when women were subordinate in society but still wanted to be noticed. With his series, he also seeks to depict the symbolism of this garment, giving off a contemporary rhythm and recalling ‘the rich history, cultural traditions, aesthetic conceptions, national consciousness and spirit of the Vietnamese people.

Born in 1996, Duong studied landscape architecture in Vietnam and now works as an architect and photographer. In his projects, he applies the design principles of landscape architecture such as colors, lines, shapes, techniques and materials to create unique spatial arrangements while aiming to elicit feelings such as euphoria, romance, optimism and hope. Inspiration for his projects comes from Vietnamese and Asian cultures and beliefs, focusing on the mix of very unique and individual street life in Vietnam. Each photograph in the series tells its own story and is replete with shapes, lines and a vibrant color palette that can evoke conflicting emotions such as sadness or happiness, optimism or disappointment.

Duong’s works often merge two essential facets of the Ao Dai tradition: airy, lively clothing and the drama of nature by incorporating beautiful flowers and plants. In his series, he aims to evoke the mysticism and folklore of Vietnam, made possible by textured shades as well as witty and fashionable photos. The fragile silhouettes portray a ghostly effect, with parts of their bodies blurred or repeated. In this way, it emphasizes the charm of each dress that embraces the sensual feminine presence. Find out more about Chiron Duong’s photo series and her journey in our interview below.

all images © Chiron Duong

interview with Chiron Duong

designboom (DB): What aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your creative principles and philosophies?

Chiron Duong (CD): I trained as a landscape architect in Vietnam, during which time I learned photography on my own. The principles and lessons learned from landscape architecture have greatly influenced me. There are two things that interest me: the first is how to create a personal identity and bring culture into my work. The second is how to express emotions and arouse them in viewers. I applied landscape architecture design principles such as colors, lines, shapes, techniques and materials to create special spaces, etc., and the ability to perceive with the senses to create feelings like euphoria, romance, optimism and hope in my work.

DB: Generally speaking, is there a particular message or meaning that you want your images to convey?

CD: “Hope for peace and love”. My style is always towards benevolence. I always want to inspire people about love and dream moments to find the meaning of this life. There are too many things in real life that make adults feel emotionless, so I hope I can ease the pain and evoke the childlike hope and optimism deep within every person.

interview photographer chiron duong on his contemporary vision of traditional vietnamese clothing
from Part VI of the ‘365 Days with AO DAI’ series

DB: What made you decide to do traditional Ao Dai portraits? What does this particular garment symbolize?

CD: Many international friends have asked me this question about the influence of Vietnamese traditional dress ‘Ao Dai’ on my fashion photography style. After personal research, I was able to answer this question, everything comes from my personal origin and place to form the softness, flight, gentleness, and benevolence in the style of my photography. Then I started with ‘Portraits of Ao Dai’ (365 days with Ao Dai) to show my style cohesion with the image of Ao Dai – a unique identity of Vietnam.

Through this series of photos, I set up different stages to tell different stories from different inspirations, such as my personal memory of the image of Ao Dai from childhood to adulthood; Ao Dai in Vietnamese poetry and painting; Ao Dai with love for the motherland of Vietnam; Ao Dai with unique Vietnamese folk activities; Ao Dai in times of war and yearning for peace. All these themes are illustrated through the image of Vietnamese women wearing the Ao Dai. In fact, Ao Dai is a special traditional costume of Vietnam and reflects unique traditional and modern values, but in the past decades, many designers have turned Ao Dai into a disastrous fashion. At the same time, Ao Dai has also fallen into cultural appropriation.

For me, Ao Dai is both an adjective and a noun. Ao Dai represents the contrast between the rustic, simple, but at the same time strong and seductive Vietnamese woman; it reflects both the positive and the negative of past historical periods in which women were looked down upon by the old society and they silently had to learn to endure. In the modern era, the Vietnamese Ao Dai is not only a kind of national costume, but also contains a long history, cultural traditions, aesthetic conceptions, national consciousness and the spirit of the Vietnamese people. Through many changes in society and times, Ao Dai has always been a beautiful symbol of national culture and pride of Vietnamese people. The soft, gentle and understated beauty of the Vietnamese Ao Dai is reflected in the high collar, the soft and round shoulders and the two graceful skirts.interview photographer chiron duong on his contemporary vision of traditional vietnamese clothing

vivid flowers and plants add vibrancy to the photo

DB: What role does color play in your images?

CD: I use color as a way to introduce myself: color can remind you of my background. My colors are especially evocative of Asia in general and Vietnam in particular. Colors help evoke emotions such as sadness or happiness, optimism or disappointment. However, I always use color with textures: fabrics, flowers, and others, to create more specific emotions. I sometimes use a very cheerful color palette, but overall the image evokes a regret or a sad memory. Color may or may not create a similarity to an emotion. These are interesting contrasts in my photos.

DB: You described your book, “Walk Through Colored Planets,” as a walk through colored planets, through the black holes of the universe and the galaxy. » What is the book about?

CD: This book is my personal photo book, it presents a little journey as I take fashion photos. This represents a past chapter of my journey. In this book, each set of images will have its own palette of colors and emotions, and it’s like a journey through different planets. Sometimes wildly vibrant, boldly colored by Asian beliefs. Sometimes it’s just black and white. For me, the colors of Asia, in general, are not only extremely vibrant, diverse and airy, but they are also deep and full of philosophy (like white-black calligraphy, for example).

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