TPL: Tim please tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in photography and filmmaking?
TH: I’m a first generation Vietnamese, born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and currently still residing here. I didn’t grow up surfing waves like most of my friends, or play youth sports. I spent most of my time taking extra math lessons, playing out on the streets in my neighborhood of Kapahulu, and watching professional wrestling. Pro-wrestling such as the WWE (then WWF), was a big part of my childhood, I always loved storytelling, drama, capturing the attention of the audience. This and street photography are probably the two topics I know really well or at least am very passionate about. Interesting enough both are very niche in their industries.
In grade school I was the class clown, I enjoyed making others laugh even if it meant making an ass out of myself. I still do it to this day. I was never the smartest kid or the hardest working kid. And I was nowhere near being naturally talented. However, if I discover something of interest and I set a goal, I go full attack mode. I’m not afraid of failure and I’m not afraid of shame. I embrace those two things as it pushes me to never experience those feelings ever.
I got into filmography as a senior in high school when I took a video making class for my elective. I had plans to go to college at the University of Hawaii but at the time had no idea what to major in. Luckily, UH had just launched their film school and their program got approved by the time I started.
While studying in the Academy of Creative Media at UH, I took a documentary class that really positioned me on this journey. I’ve always loved documentaries. I like being presented with facts and finding out the truth about a subject. But also I hate to follow the herd, so while the majority of my peers gravitated towards fiction cinema, I decided to go rogue. It turned out to be the right direction as I had produced a short documentary on my handicap uncle and it won Best Short Documentary at the school’s year end awards program. After graduation I did a few other short docs but it soon became a burning dream to produce a feature documentary.
In 2010, I was in Chicago interning at a small production studio and one of the fellow interns was telling me about Vivian Maier. He showed me her website and told me the whole back story on how his friend John Maloof bought these negatives from an auction and started scanning them and uploading the images on the internet.
Her images had inspired me, it was so raw and full of life. I thought to myself, if I’m in Chicago where many of these images were produced, I can do that too. I started walking around Rogers Park and Michigan Avenue just snapping away. What resulted was a bunch of out of focus images, mainly of the homeless. Already I had a greater appreciation for Vivian Maier and what she was able to capture. From that week of shooting I had a greater appreciation for her photographs and what she was able to capture. She made it look so simple and easy, but of course it wasn’t.