A few days ago I was able to view Fill The Frame, a documentary on Street Photography directed by Tim Huynh. I was waiting for this one for a long time. I think that it took longer than expected because of the pandemic. Finally it’s here and I urge you to go to check that on Vimeo if you do like Street Photography and if you are reading this Blogpost on my website, you are likely to love Street Photography. It’s been a while that I wanted to interview Tim as he’s one of the few people I kept in touch with despite the fact that I left Social Media and beacause I really like a lot his street work. He also has a YouTube Channel where you can find some very good content. Come and meet Tim Huynh !
Even though I got to know you through Street Photography, video is how you earn a living. I’ve rarely come across people with a sense of self-derision like you. Personally, I find your vlogs to be hilarious. The subjects covered are very good and all of this is not taken seriously as is often the case on YouTube. A name comes to mind. You are the antithesis of a guy like Sean Tucker. Is this a niche that you have voluntarily sought to occupy or is it just how you see things?
Hey Jeff, I wish I could produce more Youtube content on a more consistent basis and thanks for finding my vlogs hilarious (at least someone does)… I’m juts trying to be myself in my videos. Trying to be someone else has never worked in my favor. Not everyone will like my style of content or humor but it’s what I’m comfortable with and is what makes me happy.
I also tried to do some vlogging on my side, showing only POV videos to show how I would operate in the street, but in the end I realized that it was very complicated because there were too many things to manage. The video, the photo … In the end nothing was good. How do you manage to handle both video and photography at the same time?
I usually spread out my work. One day I’ll film my introductions or improv session, the next day I’ll bring my DJI Osmo Pocket, clip it onto my backpack and film my POV as I shoot street, and the next 2-3 days I just focus on doing street photography. The hardest part for me is the street photography, I need to gather enough images that I’m satisfied with in order to produce a video. If not, it can drag out. I tried to stay busy during COVID and document the changes and emptiness in my community. I got some photos that I’m really happy with. It’s been almost 2 full years since I’ve shot street photography somewhat consistently. 2018 – 2019 I focused on my documentary Fill The Frame, so I did not do much street photography on my own. In 2020, I lost work so I wanted to pursue Youtube more and noticed consistency is what wins. I hope to get back to creating more short videos soon.
You put your work on the streets of Honolulu on standby for over a year to devote yourself solely to a project that was particularly close to your heart. This is a documentary on Street Photography precisely. Can you tell me how you got the idea?
I’ve always loved documentaries. In college when I was in film school, all the students were in cinematic productions and narratives, but I was the odd ball who was into documentary production. I even ended up winning Best Short Documentary for my senior class. I’ve done some short documentaries here and there post-graduation but always wanted to tackle a feature length project. That’s where my passion in street and documentary came together. Originally, the idea was to document one person in each major city around the world, but given that this project would be funded out of pocket, the cost of travel and time rate made it unrealistic. I narrowed down to the US and particularly New York where street photography still breathes heavily there. New York has a good mix of modern shooters and old school street shooters that I was able to find diversity in the genre in one city.
To date, there have been very few documentaries on Street Photography while there is enormous enthusiasm for the practice. Camera manufacturers understand this because they are surfing the growing number of people coming to street photography. Little or no visibility for street photography. Is it precisely the practice that is too affordable?
When you are new to photography, the genres that immediately come to mind are portraits and landscape photography. Also there is somewhat a divide on what is considered street photography and what is documentary photography, and photojournalism and the list goes on. Street photography can be easy to do but hard to do well. Anyone can use their camera or iPhone and take a photo out on the street. We see it everyvday on our Instagram feeds. The beauty of true street photography is capturing that fraction of a second that really captivates and resonates with the average person. Easy to do, difficult to do well.
We had a golden period with all these great Masters. But since then, there are very few names that represent Street Photography like HCB or Winogrand did. I don’t think it’s a quality issue because there are some really awesome photos shared on social media. I have the impression that people today take pictures to satisfy their egos and to be famous. When you see the work that someone like Viviane Maier has done, you think you are far from it today …
I think only time will tell who the next great Masters of this genre are. And many images age like wine. To crown someone today as the new Michael Jordan or Lebron James of street photography is too difficult. There are no leagues, commission, or Olympic competition for street photography (Yes, I know there are photography competitions like Miami Street Photography Festival and Streetfoto San Francisco). So it’s just tough, too many street shooters all around the world and now there’s also some of the older street shooters getting discovered because they post their archives on social media.
It was a bit nutty making a documentary about Street Photography. Weren’t you afraid of not finding your audience for this kind of film?
No, I wasn’t afraid of finding my audience. Street Photography is such a niche genre and cult thing that I knew who my audience were from the get-go even if it was just ten people. Knowing that this film would interest the street shooters crowd gave me the confidence to move forward in producing the film.
What was the hardest part about this project? Find funds? Find an angle of attack? Find a common thread?
The hardest part…juggling everything. This was all done while I had my day job, family, etc. I was not paid to produce this film, it was a labor of love. Passion projects take lots of sacrifice and sleepless nights. Having to dissect all the backstories and weaving them together in a way that made sense was challenging. Also, not living in New York was the hardest part, if I could spend more time in New York perhaps I would get to know the cast a bit more and who knows what would have come out of that.
Besides, you were not helped by the pandemic. It seems to me that you had to present this documentary in different street photography festivals. Can you tell us how the documentary was received? What were the other means of promotion?
While the film was shot all pre-pandemic, the pandemic did not help as it affected the film festivals and pushed their programming further back. The film got into six festivals and was well received by those who watched it. As far as promotion, ideally, I’d have a publicist but I’m currently just promoting through social media, a few street photography websites, and hopefully when people see it word of mouth will play a big role. I’d like to have this viewed by as many street photography fanatics as possible!
Where can we find your documentary ?
Please check it out on-demand at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/filltheframe and connect with me on Instagram or Facebook at @filltheframefilm.