Minh-Hoang Nguyen: “Impossibility of Intimacy”

We invited artists from Duke’s MFA EDA community to share work they have made in response to the coronavirus crisis. See the full “Home & Away” collection here.

Minh-Hoang Nguyen: “Impossibility of Intimacy”

Artist’s Reflection

Even before the lockdown, I have always used self-portraiture as a means to process and express myself. The impossibility of intimacy in this time made me once again use myself as my subject, this time with more heightened urgency. The sense of longing and vulnerability in my photographs became even more profoundly felt.

“There is something comforting about trees. This is a tree at a park near my apartment that I love climbing up to. Once I get to sit securely on one of the strong branches, I often thoroughly enjoy watching others on the ground below, seeing the sky from a slightly higher vantage point, or read a book.

Yesterday I needed a hug though so I came out and snuggled myself under its protection.”

“One of my pastimes during the Coronanuisance and Pollenapocalypse is to sunbathe in my own apartment. Sometimes it did feel like the pollen was much worse than the virus but what do I know. All else I need is just a cold, refreshing piña colada and call it a day. Maybe a second home, a yacht, or let’s say enough money to buy all the pens and inks and books I want. Ok maybe that’s too much. I will just settle with a good piña colada please.”

The text above is the original caption to the picture where I first uploaded it. One way for me to cope with the unprecedented change is to write humorous, often self-deprecating captions for my photographs. I hope to entertain others in a similar situation and make the day a tiny bit brighter for them.

“Me too, young man, me too.”

This picture belongs to my Self-portrait with Strangers series I started on my Instagram in January 2019. The work is about playing with the idea of the selfie and street photography. As I have been taking these pictures from a distance, social distancing is not a problem. Nevertheless, the topic of life under lockdown inevitably shows itself in my caption. Here, I am sympathizing with a child crying. He was crying because of an injury. I were because, well, living under lockdown and removed from friends and family is hard.

– Minh-Hoang Nguyen

Minh-Hoang Nguyen is a photographer and interdisciplinary artist from Hanoi, Vietnam. He focuses on longing, intimacy, identity, and memory.