Aaron Joel Santos Photography




1/ Full Name: Aaron Joel Santos.


2/ Where are you from? I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana.


3/ How long that you have been in Vietnam and what brought you here? I arrived in Vietnam in late 2007. I originally came as a foreign editor for The Viet Nam News newspaper.


4/ When and Why did you start photography?

I went to photography school in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated in 2007, just before moving to Vietnam. I actually thought I wanted to go to school for graphic design, but once I picked up a camera, I became kind of attached to the idea of photography and being a photographer.


5/ What inspires you in your work? I’m hugely inspired by music, art, and literature. Any method of storytelling, really. I try not to limit myself to only looking at photography for influence or inspiration; I think looking outside of your own discipline always produces more creative results. Maybe because you have to filter it through several channels, and by the time it comes out the other end, it’s something that is uniquely yours.


6/ What do you think you see in a frame that others don’t? I’m usually looking for a certain energy or pulse or light or whatever else. Something that is there for everyone to see if you just know how or where to look.


7/ What is your favourite subject? and why? I think a lot of my work revolves in one way or another around portraiture. Even when I’m working on documentary or travel stories, some kind of portraiture always seems to make its way into each project of mine.


8/ Which photograph makes you cry? And why? I think Alessandra Sanguinetti’s “The Adventures of Guille & Belinda” is a moving and creative body of work that encapsulates a fleeting sense of youth, strangeness, and friendship. It was one of the first larger bodies of work that really stood out to me while I was in school.


9/ Who are your favourite photographers? Robert Frank, Sarah Moon, Sylvia Plachy, Sally Mann, Daido Moriyama, and so many more.


10/ What do you love and hate most about your job? It’s hard to hate anything about a job that takes me around the world and constantly introduces me to new people and new cultures.


11/ Do you find Hanoi an inspiring place for your work? And if so, in what aspect? Absolutely. I think Hanoi is one of the more unique and inspiring cities in the world. It’s a strange and tangled mess of history, communism, modernity, and everything else. And it’s growing at such a rapid pace while still trying to maintain the integrity of its past, so what you end up with is a brilliant and sometimes sad yet inspiring mix of the fabrics of life.


12/ What is your favourite journey? I absolutely love traveling to India, and I’ve been lucky enough to go there on a few amazing assignments, into some very far away places in the mountains of Nagaland and beyond. It’s hard to pick an absolute favorite journey, but it must say something that I can remember almost every single day I’ve ever spent in India.


13/ What is your most marked characteristic? I get a lot of questions about my tattoos. So maybe that? But that seems so shallow and without real meaning. Should I say my biting social commentary and in-tellect?


14/ What do you think you will be if you were not a photographer? It would be cool to be a writer. A novelist. Some kind of storyteller. It always comes back to storytelling for me; it’s how we make sense of our place in the world.


15/ What is the quality that you like most in a person? I tend to be drawn to people who go against the grain and find weird and interesting ways to make a living. So creativity, I think.


16/ When and where were you the happiest? I’m pretty happy right now.


17/ If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? I’d want to come back again as a person, maybe 500 years from now. I can’t fathom what the world will be like in that amount of time; it would be amazing to see.


18/ Which talent would you most like to have? I really wish I knew how to play piano or guitar. I should really take some lessons.


19/ What is your motto? Try everything twice.