I ditched Kansas City for the New Years and decided to head south. I had no plans, no destination, the only thing I wanted to do was get the hell out. I tried to hit up anything that seemed remotely appealing, abandoned gas stations, strange sites, hiking trails, you name it, just exploring anything I could with my puppy, Chewy. While traveling I was contacted by a friend that I had known since the 1st grade. He asked if I wanted to come up for the New Years. With nowhere to be and nowhere to go and already halfway to Tulsa, Oklahoma, I decided it would be a good idea to shack up and quit sleeping in my car with my puppy for the trip.
Post New Years Feels.
After a super relaxed New Years celebration free from the thought midnight kisses and random floozy hookups, we all decided we should eat pho for lunch for our first 2016 meal.
We showed up to a place named by its description, sat down, and put in our orders. I noticed that our waiter, who happened to also be the owner and chef, was insanely charismatic and hilarious. He brought us our waters and said, “Sorry, we’re out of water, but here is our special clear tea.” I couldn’t help but laugh but I guess he wasn’t actually all that hilarious.
More like a clever dude with mad dad jokes.
Before we got our food I was talking to my friends about how I wanted to know this dude’s story and how I just wanted to photograph the guy. I kept going back and forth with it in my mind. I did a quick scan of the room, realized we were the last table to be served, and no one else was coming through the door.
Screw it. I’mma let you finish waiting on me but I’m going to take your photo.
I asked if I could take his picture and he politely agreed. I took a photo of him behind the register and then returned to my table and exchanged some quick conversation as he ran back and forth giving us our food.
As the meal went on we became more comfortable with each other and the conversation and the requests to take his picture became more involved. I found out that his name is Andrew. Just a friendly Vietnamese dude who was running his restaurant for the past five years with his wife, Betty. Prior to that he was working as a nail technician where he clocked in for 17 years.
Andrew and his wife, Betty, lived in Vietnam and came over to the United States in 1976. Eventually they came to Tulsa, Oklahoma where Andrew decided to study Evangelism at Oral Roberts University. They’re approaching the ~30 year mark for being US citizens. You’re looking at really well aged late 50 year old Asians. That’s right.
I asked Andrew why he decided to quit being a nail technician after 17 years and why he decided to open up a Vietnamese restaurant.
“Because there was nowhere good to eat Viet food before I came along.”
Andrew, You sir, know what’s up. Work it, guuurrrl!
We continued to talk about my life growing up as the first person in my family born in America and how I was raised. We exchanged ideas of what it meant to be Vietnamese Americans and how strange it first felt to take “your Vietnamese culture” and mix it in with western ideologies, hopes, and dreams. 15 minutes worth of good conversation, probably less than 5 minutes of image making with my point and shoot camera. I probably only took 30 photos max because I didn’t want to be too in your face about it or overstep my invitation into his world.
I wish I could’ve mustered up to ask for more time and flow deeper into the conversation but I’m glad of what I got out of it.
Andrew and Betty eventually gave me some soup that I hadn’t eaten since I was a kid in my household. It was a soup not advertised on the menu and I felt honored to receive an authentic, real, and loving meal from two Vietnamese folks that wanted me to not leave hungry. I quickly finished up, thanked them for their time and awesome food, slapped a generous tip on the table and bounced.
By this time we had gotten back to my friends house. The light floating through the house was so mesmerizing and I quitely drooled to myself about the quality of the light. Still pretty high from the shoot from the image making with Andrew ad Betty, I decided I needed to make a portrait before the light had left the home.
I need to photograph everyone in this house, right now.
I was standing across this dude, Cole. We were having a conversation catching up on life both drinking the coffee that he just made which was why we were in the kitchen in the first place. I looked around and asked if I could take his photo. I snapped two or three with my point and shoot and knew I needed to do it with everyone under the roof.
So I approached Cole’s wife, Shiraya. She was headed out to give her brother a ride to work. They were trying to get out of the door as quickly as possible because they were already running behind. So I propped her up against the front door where she was already waiting and fired my rounds.
Jericho is Shiraya’s brother. He had just gotten out of the shower and literally needed to step out and catch a ride to work before he was late. I stopped him in the chaos of him trying to get ready for work and before he could run out the door a snagged a few quick ones right before he bolted.
Last one was of Jarett, the other friend that came up to visit. He brought his dog, Alfred, and I’m so glad that he wanted an image with his little dude. So naturally after that the dogs needed photographed as well.
We went outside where the sun was falling so perfectly on the world. I had a lot of fun just following these ding-dongs around trying to get what I could get.
CHEWY! My dog, if none of you knew that already.
I’m so glad I stopped everyone to snag their portraits. I can’t remember when the last time I enjoyed making images like this and I can’t really remember when the urge was so strong that I had to quickly interrupt what was already going on to get it out of my system.
It was really nice to feel this way again about making images.
After some time had passed we all decided to go out and enjoy the night. We went to some fancy hotel/bar and since I was still in photo mode, anytime I saw a composition I decided to stop everyone and snag a quick photo. I noticed that since I had my point and shoot and not my DSLR, everything felt a lot more casual. Each time I asked to take someone’s photo it took no longer than 10 seconds and I would probably pull the shutter three or four times.
React. Ask. Shoot. Go.
At the very end of the night we ate Sushi. When the meal was over I cracked up my fortune cookie and it gave me two of the same fortune. It got me thinking about how I wanted to approach my photography and my life in general. I always talked about how I wanted to make more images, ask more people to just make portraits on the spot, and the fact that I carry and use my point and shoot 90% more than my actual DSLR camera, I’ve had more opportunity to do as such. This whole trip proved to me that I was fully capable of just asking and doing and it also proved to me that I literally just had to start making images if I wanted to make more images. I somehow overthought that idea and ended up not making images for awhile.
So what am I waiting for?
Make moves now or not at all.
I know this post jumped all over the place. I know this post was full of me just talking to myself.
But this whole trip as been good to me. Create. Go. Do.
I’m tired of just talking about shit. It’s time to just do.
Here’s to dope and friendly Vietnamese dudes.
Here’s to awesome friends who let me take photos of them.
Here’s to letting go of my DSRL and being okay with a point and shoot or my iPhone.
Here’s to the new year.