Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 22, 2011
An Le, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is working toward a B.F.A. in photography from SCAD Savannah.
As a 22-year-old college senior, An Le already sports the kind of résumé that many professional photographers would covet. He has worked on fashion magazine photo shoots in an internship, directed the artwork for a magazine cover spread, designed the ad campaign for high-end footwear designer Latasha Defendini and had his work featured in Vogue Italia. He has received extensive recognition for his work, including two International Photography awards, PDN magazine's award for best new photographer and two mentions in CMYK magazine.
An has always been accomplished for his age; as a teenager, he decided he wanted to move to the U.S. to start training for a career in art, and he did everything he could to make that happen. He was 15 and unable to speak English when he left his home in Vietnam and took his first plane trip, unaccompanied, to the boarding high school in Maine where he would live. He didn't know anyone in Maine, but says the experience, rather than being frightening or confusing, was exciting. "I adapt pretty well," he says.
In high school, An experimented extensively in painting before ultimately deciding photography was the medium he would focus on. He applied and was accepted to several top-tier art schools before settling on photography
at SCAD. A major motivating factor for An was the hefty scholarship SCAD awarded him. "I know I have talent, so why would I go to a school that does not appreciate my talent?" says An. "I was offered a good scholarship from one other school, but SCAD seemed more appealing because the student work was better."
Since coming to SCAD, An has honed his photography skills and experimented in different styles. "I keep trying new things, because people keep pushing me," says An. "The professors leave me enough creative control to venture into different aspects of photography, so I feel I've grown a lot since coming to SCAD. Before I came here, I didn't even know how to use studio lighting and now I love it."
Most of An's work now consists of graphic fashion shots and conceptual compositions which he describes as intentionally disturbing and symbolic. "I would love if people could write essays on my photographs," says An. "When you study painting, you can write four or five pages at least analyzing just one painting. That's what I want for my work."
Looking ahead, An says he is excited about his prospects after graduation. His work has matured and he feels that classes like Business Practices for Photography have equipped him to succeed in the art world. "I'm definitely more aware of what to do to be successful," says An. "The idea of the starving artist is out there because some artists don't know how to manage the business of their work. Because of SCAD's focus on professional practices, I do know how to handle that side of it, and that will help me do well in my career."
This past summer, An finished his most recent internship for photography agency Art + Commerce and returned to SCAD to begin his senior year. After he graduates, An plans to move to New York City and start a professional photography studio. He hopes to one day expand his talents to music video and film production.
View An's portfolio.