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John Moulds – Interview

Go to:  John Moulds – Face of Vietman artist's page.

Let's get an idea of your history and background. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Adelaide but moved to Qld 45 years ago. The weather up here is much better than Adelaide and the electricity is much cheaper. Also, the building industry here has had far more opportunities than in South Australia.

You are a builder. How long did you do that for, and why did you give it away?
I retired 5 years ago and am now enjoying sleeping in every morning instead of getting to work at 6:00AM and working 11 and 12 hours a day. Tough life in the building industry and I don't miss it one bit.

Building and photography are very different. I'm curious what made you take up photography?
I always loved art and I was what I would call a ‘doodler’ at school. I excelled in art and music and loved technical drawing. That probably helped in reading and drawing plans in later life. My sketching was about ‘perspectives’; high rise buildings, streets and the like but faces were my main interest. Many a time I was ‘whacked’ on the head from behind by an angry teacher upon seeing a caricature of himself on the cover of one of my text books, and the sketch usually wound up on the floor instead of being framed and on the lounge room wall of his house.

What skills did being a builder teach you when it comes to photography?
One was work and one was relaxation.

How long ago did you take up photography?
I bought my first camera over 50 years ago, but only after a trip to Africa did I realise I needed something better than a Sony Cybershop pocket size camera if I wanted to have reasonable photos. In 2010 I received a bonus from work with which I bought my first Canon, a 7D with a 70-200 2.8 lens which is still my favourite lens. I have also progressed to 6D and 5D bodies as well.

Your site is called ‘The Face of Vietnam’ - what does this mean?
Having had numerous compliments on my early images I decided I should create my own website. With that came the choice of a suitable name and as my main interest was in the faces of Vietnamese people, it was the logical choice.

Why Vietnam?
I met my wife in Hue, Vietnam in 2005 and travelled to the Central Highlands in 2006 with her and her sister. At that time we saw a lot of ethnic people in the villages which fascinated me. The next time I went to Vietnam we travelled the Mekong. But not until I went to the north did I realise the colourful ethnic minorities were what I needed to fulfil my artistic desires. I have now been to Vietnam over 20 times and a dozen times to the north.

For the technical minded, what gear do you use?
I started with the Canon and have stayed with it. 7D, 6D, 5D, 70-200,24-70,100Macro and Sigma 150-500. I only use Aperture and although I have Lightroom, I find the former much easier to use and to catalogue. For B&W I use Silverefex Pro 2.

How long have you been living in Vietnam?
We come to Vietnam usually twice a year as my wife is from Hue. That gives me the opportunity to travel north whilst my wife stays with her family in Hue. Hue is also an incredible place for photographers and only 60km from Hue. Places such as A Luoi and Quang Tri Province, they offer great opportunities for budding photographers.

Do you live in Vietnam?
When we are here, usually twice a year, we stay in Hue with my wife's family. As Hue is in the centre of Vietnam we can easily travel north or south as Hanoi and Saigon are only an hour's flight.

You appear to capture a lot of elderly people in your images. What do you find appealing about them?
The faces of old people and children can move me to tears and that is what I try to convey to the viewer. Not all photos are moving, but 2 or 3 from a trip is worth it for me. If I photograph a face and then see the same person 5 or 10 years later, the change is amazing whereas a building, monument or a rice field will look the same. I travel to the same villages a number of times and each time I take back photos from previous trips to give to the same people. If they have passed away, then I give them to the family members. They are very important in those circumstances as the images are used on their worship altars to remember their lost relatives.

Vietnam appears to be a country going through massive changes. How is this affecting the country?
The roads here are suffering with ‘grid lock’ now as most western countries do. That is the price of progress, sad but true. Unfortunately modern technology is taking over countries such as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as the young people are not interested in local customs, traditional clothing and even living and working on rice fields or cornfields. The lure of the big city is drawing them away in droves. Every time I come back to the North I find it harder and harder to find the traditional dress, as the elderly ladies pass away. Infrastructure in Vietnam - as in Australia - is lacking in the cities, but in the North there is a lot of road works in progress. But in the cities the roads are not wide enough for the never-ending volume of cars that are now taking over from motor bikes.

What kind of awards have you won?
I won first place in 2014 in ‘World in Focus’ Portrait Section, 2nd in Australian Photographer of the Year Magazine Travel Section 2016, Silver Medal in PX3 Competition and numerous Honorable Mentions.

Anything else?
I am happy to share my knowledge on where to go and what to see in Vietnam depending on what an individual is interested in doing. It depends on whether you are a first time visitor, a regular traveller or a photographer looking to visit villages where very few tourists go, if any. That is always my objective when I design my own itineraries.

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