Interview: Street Photographer Hai Nguyen @xxxyxyz

You’re travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight… but of some really mind-bending photography. Our guest this week is the very talented Hai Nguyen, otherwise known by his handle @xxxyxyz.  WARNING: Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after viewing these photos!

First, how did you come up with “xxxyxyz” as your online handle? Does it have any special meaning?

Life is hella she + he + it :)!

Ah, like “xx” is “male” and “xy” is female, making “xyz” the “it”… very clever! So, when you’re not doing photography, you are…

Listening to music, watching movies, hanging out with friends, sketching, sewing, making stuff, and always researching and seeking inspiration from all around me.

How did you originally get into photography? What was your first camera?

My first camera that I bought for myself was a Polaroid Spectra. I’m a big fan of instant photography. I’ve been taking photographs since I was young but I really didn’t get serious until I joined IG. The iphone is the only camera I use right now. The fact that I can take a photo, edit it, and post it, all in one device has helped me tremendously with my creative output?

How would you describe your style in three words?

Experimental, Surreal, Street.

If your portfolio had a soundtrack, it would be…

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees“. An album I listen to all the time while editing photos.

How many photos do you shoot on an average day?

When I was living in NYC I was constantly shooting on a daily basis. So my average was around 150-300 per day, and only 3% of that was actually okay. Most of those shots were just different angles of the same thing.  Nowadays, I shoot when I can which is about once a week, and I totally beast out and shoot like a hella lot!

What is a photo technique or rule that your regularly follow (or constantly break)

Honestly, I’m not really versed with photo rules or technique so I just shoot what truly speaks to me.

What’s the one iPhone photo app you can’t live without?

That’s so hard to just pick one, so I’ll say Camera+ and Filterstorm are my absolute tops!

What else is in your camera bag?

I’m a photo appaholic! I have tons of apps but here are the ones I use regularly: pictureshow, photofx, juxtaposer, blender, decim8, interlacer, cameramatic, lo-mob, scratchcam, ttv, touchretouch.

What aspects of photography are challenging for you?

Well, street photography is a challenge now, since I live in an area where pedestrian traffic is pretty much non-existent. My style has changed because of this so I’m continuously adapting.

Pick one of your favorites from your portfolio and tell us the backstory.

The photo from my NYC Love Stories series: Two of Hearts, a couple asleep on the subway, where the girl is seated with her legs over her boyfriend’s legs. I love this one because it was a simple shot. I didn’t have to do anything. It was all about the couple.  It was really late at night, and I was asleep when they came on the train.  I woke up and saw them seated across from me just like that.  I hesitated at first and didn’t want to intrude upon them, but the moment was just too damn sweet that I just went for the shot.  The expressions on their faces and their body positions were just sublime. It was just one of those lucky, magical, movie moments, of being in the right place at the right time and not hesitating to capture it all. And after I got my shot I went right back to sleep!

You shoot most of your photography in the SF Bay Area. If you could shoot any other locale in the world, where would it be, and why?

I shot extensively in NYC as well, which was crazy awesome for shooting people and architecture. But I really would like to try my hand at nature/landscape photography. It would be a new challenge for myself. I’m a city boy at heart but love the outdoors as well. The one place that I’m obsessed with and have never been is Mono Lake in California which looks like another planet in photographs I’ve seen.  Aside from that I’m dying to go to Singapore so that I can go photowalking with the great ABC @aikbengchia =)!!!

If someone told you, “I want to take photos like @xxxyxyz,” how would you respond? What tips would you give them if they wanted to emulate  your style?

I usually just shoot whatever makes my eyes pop and my heart leap. Currently though, I’m not able to do much street photography so a lot of my most recents photos are photo collages. With photo collages, I’m constantly keeping my eyes open and taking photos of things that I could use later during the editing process. I’m building a library of different images or “seeds” as I call it, which will become something else in a future photo. They can range from wall/ground textures, to graffiti, to wires, etc.  On days I can do street photography, I keep my eyes alert and iphone ready at all times so I don’t miss any memorable moments that I connect with.  And always experiment and try new things.

Any other secret talents we should know about?It took me a couple minutes to think about this one and I asked my friend and she point blank said if you can’t think of one then you don’t have any! Ouch!!!

Pick a favorite IG’er that you think deserves more notoriety from the IG community?

Definitely, people should check out @intao!!! Dreamy, moody, thought provoking masterpieces! He creates unique, and imaginative worlds that literally make me want to jump into them and never leave.

Thanks Hai! Be sure to check out Hai’s awesome album, soon to appear in the Keepsy Gallery.

8 Comments on “Interview: Street Photographer Hai Nguyen @xxxyxyz”

  1. Hey Hai! Wonderful interview!!! Hugs Marianne:)

  2. Robyn Dudley @gemini606 says:

    I’m a HUGE fan of Hai’s work. (as well as the person he is, even though we’ve only met face to face twice) I find myself literally watching Hai evolve at this craft and gain momentum with every photo posted on Instagram. I suspected he would miss the amazingly creative backdrop of NYC, but he’s adapted mightily to the environment that he’s in now and I think his creativity has grown exponentially since returning to the bay area.. The bay area has much to offer, it’s just different that NYC.. But isn’t everything?

    I would love to see Hai’s work offered as a Keepsy album.. Definitely worth its weight in gold!

  3. Blake says:

    @gemini606 You are in luck, Robyn — Hai’s Keepsy album is available here:

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