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March 15, 2021


Film by Tim Huynh
Words by Bill Lacey

Fill the Frame follows eight contemporary New York City street photographers. The film takes an in-depth look at their work as photographers and as individuals, documenting their journey up to this point. In the the summer of 2018, there was a window of opportunity for Director Tim Huynh to embark on his passion project. Traveling from Hawaii to New York for this production was no easy task for Tim, with the bulk of the funds coming from personal savings and time away from his family. In the summer of 2019, Tim's Kickstarter campaign raised the $17,385 needed to bring his film and these stories to life.

The popularity of street photography is greater than ever. Witness the absolute daily deluge of posts on Instagram from all corners of the world. Almost everyone has a camera - whether a classic film Leica, the latest Fuji or Sony mirrorless, the institutional Canon or Nikon, or the venerable iPhone smartphone. The act of taking a picture seems as common today as breathing, albeit done safely behind a mask these days when on the street. It is not uncommon to hear statements that a billion pictures a day are being uploaded to Instagram - a number impossible to verify from the source, but after a few swipes through your feed wouldn’t be all that difficult to accept. Which leads me to the question that Michael Ernest Sweet asks in the new documentary film Fill the Frame, “has everything been photographed?” You probably know the answer to that already. And given that, why does one bother? Fill the Frame will help you understand why you should, by exploring the experience of an assortment of very talented New York street photographers framed (no pun intended) against an exploration into the history of the genre and the masters who defined it.

"To me the photos were not enough, the person also needed an interesting story to share." - Director Tim Huynh

By choosing New York City as the backdrop for the film, director Tim Huynh creates the perfect canvas from which to paint the portrait of the artist engaged in a journey of discovery to find meaning in the chaos of a city rich with complexity and beauty. The main cast consists of Dimitri Mellos, Jonathan Higbee, Julia Gillard, Lauren Welles, Mathias Wasik, Melissa Breyer, Melissa O’Shaughnessy, and Paul Kessel. All the photographers presented come from distinctly different backgrounds but share an uncontrollable passion and purpose to click the shutter. Huynh follows these photographers around on the street, documenting their approach, letting them tell the story in their own words. And these stories are engaging. There will likely be one or two that you’ll particularly relate to, whether it be one aspiring to be a photographer from an early age to one picking it up late in life, discovering the passion almost by accident. There’s also something wonderfully refreshing in the way Huynh wraps these stories with expert commentary on the history of photography by Sandra Phillips, Colin Westerbeck, Jeff Mermelstein, Richard Sandler, Matt Weber, Meryl Meisler, and Michael Ernest Sweet.

After having to abandon my daily trip to NYC one year ago as the pandemic hit, this film was a much needed ‘pick me up’. It reminded me of why I love the city, why it is one of the best places on the planet to practice the art of street photography. Each photographer offered an honest and inspiring perspective. I think the best compliment I can offer to each of them is “I wish I took that shot”.

Fill the Frame will get you thinking about your photography, will give you some fresh ideas, will inspire you to get out and shoot. And while the controversies will rage on about what approach to street photography is legitimate or not, is film better than digital, is it all worth it in this oversaturated social media existence, Fill the Frame is a love letter to something we hold near and dear to our hearts. Oh, and if you really didn’t know the answer to Michael Sweet’s question, it’s “probably”. I take that to mean there’s still room for at least one more shot.

Director, Producer, Editor: Tim Huynh
Director of Photography: Jessica Gallegos
Assistant Camera: Ayden Byrnes
BTS Photographer: Eugene Lee
Sound Design: Pacific Music Productions

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Media materials provided by the filmmaker


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