My overall impression is that your work is strong, well-formed and cohesive. It's engaging, absorbing, and informative; you exhibit a clear technical ability alongside adeptness at story-telling. It's the type of work that has an immediate visual draw, but then offers elements that slowly reveal themselves and linger, and that's a powerful combination. It's the type of work that I return to with anticipation...
Let's start in detail with your artist statement...I think your statement is too long. While there is a lot you wish to convey, and I can understand why, there is an art in concision, and two or three paragraphs tends to be about right. Your viewer is likely to have a short attention span, and will be eager to explore your images, and so it is important to convey what you wish...in a succinct way. Plant the seeds correctly here and they will start to grow as the viewer then moves through your images. You should consider it an introduction to your work, not an in depth analysis of it.
Moving on to subject matter and viewpoint, or in other words the overall thematic impression of your work, your work is strong in both regards--an interesting perspective on a fascinating subject. I feel like I'm diving into the world of Vietnamese people with you, and I can feel your personality as a photographer shining through. It is clear that you have engaged with the subject deeply. This is no mean feat--it can be harder to find something new in areas that many photographers have already trodden--and so I admire it hugely...
Technique is of course fundamental, and a cover-all term for a range of elements--composition, framing and focal point, use of lines, perspective, layers and negative space...You exhibit a very good technique which is a joy to review. Your style of composition is simple and immediate. I'm particularly drawn to [Badminton Players] for example where the elements combine effortlessly. You display a real command for your camera, but there's a level of uniqueness and personal style that shine through too. I feel like a particular photographer took these, rather than any photographer. You employ a fantastic use of light and shadow--capturing such a range of tones effectively is easier said than done [Coal Worker for example]. I also admire the way you capture subjects in motion and create amazing snapshots. Post-processing can be divisive, but your use of it is elegant and strengthens each image, rather than overpowering them. Well done!
And finally on to image sequencing and editing, which although I'm discussing last, is something often overlooked but fundamental to the ways in which your work will be interpreted by the viewer. By carefully considering the order in which your images are viewed you guide the viewer on a journey--perhaps a chronological one, or one that ebbs and flows, or one that's jarring. It's a subtle, but powerful tool for influencing how a viewer interacts with your work.
I think further consideration is needed. While you may or may not have started about sequencing and editing, it strikes me as something you should reflect on more deeply. There's no clear narrative or flow from image to image. How do you wish to guide the viewer, and what rhythm do you want to create? I don't get a sense that this has been considered. You avoid too much visual repetition but there seems to be no narrative to your series. You may wish to start the viewer in one place and leave them somewhere totally different...You may also want to think about initial and final impact. Or in other words, starting and ending with your best images in order to make your viewer want to see more from the start, and leaving them with a strong impression at the end. I feel that images [Man with Monkey and Sugarcane Mongers] are the strongest--if you agree, think carefully about where you position them.
I thought this was a very thoughtful review and take to heart the two biggest criticisms. First, I have created a shorter Artist Statement (see below) which is more appropriate for an exhibition (rather than the longer introduction to my book which I have been using). Second, I really do struggle with sequencing. It took many, many, many iterations over many months for me to finally sequence my book in a way that worked cohesively and made sense to me. Facing the need to select only 15-20 images and re-sequence them for an exhibition is something that still needs work.
Mark F. Erickson (Đỗ Văn Hùng) is the author of the photobook Other Streets: Scenes from a Life in Vietnam not Lived.
Mark's photobook has been exhibited at the L.A. Center of Photography, the Davis Orton Gallery, and the Griffin Museum of Photography. He has been profiled in The Photobook Journal, diaCRITICS: the arts & culture of the Vietnamese and SE Asian diaspora website, and the Worksleeve podcast.
Mark was born in Saigon in 1972, evacuated as part of Operation Babylift in April 1975, and adopted by an American family in western New York. At Harvard College, he studied documentary photography with Chris Killip (United Kingdom) and David Goldblatt (South Africa). He currently works in New York City.