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contemporary art fine art Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba modern art museum painting USA

MAYBE MY FRIENDS ARE CALLING

JUN NGUYEN-HATSUSHIBA

// Jun is a Houston-based accomplished filmmaker, installation artist and a photographer who in the past has used photography as a way to make “notes”, a tool for his painting ideas. After getting into documentary photography he also began using photography as an end in itself. He has artfully documented an exhibition at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Jun´s photography took off when in his high school days he was handed his father’s 35mm SLR, an Asahiflex from the late 1950s. “The only thing I could be sure of was the focus that I could see in the waist-level viewfinder. Everything else was up to the camera setting, which I gave a lot of freedom to guesstimate. I learned about the exposure triangle half-heartedly and, in most cases, let my creative mood play things out. More than anything else, my photos were about composition, which I could see before making the shot.” In college Jun took some photography courses but never became serious about studying photography. Photography became a note-making tool for his painting ideas. The camera took the back seat to painting.

Upon graduation with a Master of Fine Arts (mixed media) in 1994, however, Jun became interested in documentary photography. He won a travelling grant to Vietnam and spent part of the generous grant to purchase two Nikon cameras and lenses to convert himself into an aspiring photojournalist. “I packed 80 plus rolls of film, and off I went. I came back with some decent shots and created a show in downtown Dallas. But my interest in art-making surged back into my veins.” He returned to Vietnam to live, and for more than 20 years he worked on his art practice and exhibited in art venues around the world until an art film project in 2014.

In that art film, the main character gets shot in the eyes and dies. “Incidentally, the plot played a role in my real life. Since then, for various reasons, my art-making stopped. Several years had passed, and now back in the States, a journey with camera returns.”

Back in the United States Jun began photographing his then high school daughter and her theatre activities, becoming a local theatre photographer. That led to shooting sports with his son’s high school marching band. Eventually, he became the photographer for a local semi-professional soccer team. Then COVID hit.

Now Jun has spent time reflecting on photography as his art for the first time. “Is there any particular goal in my photography? I hope that I can take this medium to contribute back to the world of art and society in general.”


“Ideas are already there. Just need to be concerned to see them.”

Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba


What draws you to the arts?

“Just a sense of necessity, I think. I enjoy roaming, getting lost, and absorbing and being absorbed by the moment.”

What impresses you most about the exhibition you photographed?

“Walking inside the museum with a camera gives me the unique perspective and experience of interacting with the art, space, people, and history. The combination gives me a wealth of ways to see and interpret what I end up shooting. Often, I am not aiming to get something specific. Rather, I let the camera absorb the space without any prejudgement to what I could focus on and photograph. I set my camera free like a hound dog sniffing its way.”

Jun´s series is tentatively called “Maybe my friends are calling”, documenting museum moments and spaces. The “friends” refer to the artists, artworks, or exhibition spaces. They haunt him from the past practices that he had as an exhibiting artist in museums and galleries. The series is a part of a broader theme of four stages of life (birth, aging, decline, and death) that Jun is working on. His current stage is “death”.

“To simplify, these images are my encounters in the museum. I am roaming the space allowing the soul to sustain its effort to evolve to the next stage of life,” says Jun. In this case, he shared with us a set of photographs from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Jun is going to have an exhibition of his own artworks at Mizuma Art Gallery in Tokyo in October 20 and end on November 20th, 2021. So if you are in the area, we recommend stopping by!


Click on the photos to see the full image with title, some images are cropped for layout.

ALL PHOTOS © JUN NGUYEN-HATSUSHIBA

To see more of his photography visit Jun´s Instagram page and his website. You can also see his art projects on the website.

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