A Conversation With Wendy Huynh

Wendy Huynh is a French photographer working in the various fields of documentary portraiture, sports, and fashion.

Hannah Teoh Outreach Manager

Meet Wendy Huynh, a freelance photographer currently based in both London and Paris. Born to Vietnamese Chinese immigrant parents in the suburbs of France, Huynh’s unique and diverse background can be reflected in her work. Her works mainly cover portraits, fashion, and sports, but she applies a documentary-like approach throughout all her work.

“I’m always inspired by people around me”

Left to right: Maya (make-up artist), Vic (sport massage), Josie (singer) and Alexandra Man (personal trainer), St Mary Cray; Sarah, Sami and Roxy, Founders at Baesianz, Loughborough Junction; Nicole and Natalie Chui, Football players from the Vixens Women Team Homerton

Huynh has always been interested in photography, but it wasn’t until her university days in Central Saint Martins did her interest cement. “I’m always inspired by people around me, and I realized that photography was a pretext for me to approach people. And I think that is my main interest in photography— it’s more of a social medium than a visual one. It’s a way for me to approach people, get to know them, and take their portraits. That’s why I love photography, and that’s why I decided to pursue a career in photography,” Huynh said. 

Huynh’s background serves as both her inspiration and her motivation. Growing up in the suburbs of France, Wendy hated her town as a teenager. “I just didn’t want to be associated with the suburbs in general. Especially in France, the suburbs have always had a negative image. But growing up, I realized that my town is actually very interesting and there’s very interesting people!” Huynh chuckled.

Left to right: Songsoo Kim, Cook, Shoreditch; Maria Yeung, Founder at Marieyat, Dalston; Mrs. Helen Fung (left), Honorary Chair of Community Cohesion Advocates CIC, Governor of London Hackney Chinese Community School and Dr. Bonnie Kwok (right), Headteacher of London Hackney Chinese Community School, East Croydon.

“That’s when I started thinking about wanting to focus on this neighborhood that really shaped my life”

“…and shaped the life of my parents as well. Also, I just wanted to represent the suburbs in an honest light because the media in France always portrays the suburbs as something really dangerous, and I just wanted to portray the suburbs as what they really were.” Thus, Huynh launched Arcades Magazine, which is an independent print publication where she captures life in the suburbs. Currently, there are three editions released. 

Huynh also added that her immigrant parents had had a large impact on her work ethic. She talked about her parents’ backgrounds as Vietnamese Chinese immigrants moving to France in their early 20s who struggled financially early on and how they eventually built a life in France.

“I think they really taught me that if you want to reach a target, you can do it.”

You just have to work really hard and not be afraid to speak up. I’m really lucky to have parents that actually encouraged me to speak up, especially my mother. I’m grateful that they’re really supportive of my career. They pushed me to go to art school, and they got me my first camera.” Huynh gushed.

Left to right: Rahel Stephanie, Founder and Chef at Spoons, Brockley; Yeon You, Fashion Stylist, Hackney Central; Candice Lo, Filmmaker, Dalston.

With the increasing coverage of anti-Asian hate and violence, especially toward women of Asian descent, there is no moment as crucial as now to center the stories of Asian women. Huynh’s picture essay of ESEA women in the Guardian aims to do just that—to celebrate ESEA women in the creative field in the UK, but also to recognize and understand experiences with racism these women have undergone as Asian women. The idea behind this project has long been conceptualized by Huynh as someone who has faced racism as an ethnically Chinese woman in Europe. She shared that

“It’s important to give a face to the community and show who we are.”

I think that’s what’s lacking. In general, people don’t know who the community is. That’s why I wanted to start this series of portraits.” In planning this project, Huynh was deliberate in her choice of shooting portraits of Asian women as she recognizes the deeper and more nuanced stigmatization of Asian women in the West. Starting this project also helped Huynh find solace in connecting with other Asian women. “Every time I step into the room to talk to them before taking their portraits, there’s an instant connection where we just know each other. We understand each other’s experiences, and we just feel comfortable sharing. And that felt really therapeutic,” she explained.

Left to right: Jyni Ong, Writer at It’s Nice That, Cricklewood; Jenny Cheng aka Stem, DJ, High Barnet; Tianna Chan, Head of Operations at Rekki, Deptford.

“It’s a project I feel so close to; I felt like I could relate to all these women whom I photographed, and it truly motivated me to continue this exploration of the Asian community.

“I hope I can create conversations based on honesty and reality,”

Huynh continued, “For me, the image is not the final image. It’s an ongoing discussion. It’s important for me to create projects that inform people and make people reflect. My ultimate goal is to inspire other people to do the same—especially people of the Asian community to get into art.” 

Wendy has many upcoming projects in store. She plans to continue her portraits capturing the Asian community, especially in Paris now that she is back home and releasing another edition of Arcades Magazine, which you can find at their Instagram. You can find her work on her Instagram and her website.

Favorite place to visit: Ho Chi Minh City.

Current on-repeat song: Radiohead’s “In Limbo.” 

Favorite Asian dish: That is very difficult…but I have to say that it is this noodle dish called Hu Tieu Nam Vang.

Wendy Huynh (b. 1992) is a French photographer working in the various fields of documentary portraiture, sports, and fashion while keeping a reportage process and visual language throughout all the work she creates. After graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2016, she launched Arcades – an independent print publication on the culture and lifestyle of the suburbs – for which she works as an editor and a commissioner. The magazine explores the evolving relationship between the suburbs and its community through photo series and interviews, with three issues on the outskirts of Paris (Issue 1), London (Issue 2), and Berlin (Issue 3). She is currently living in London and works across both London and Paris.

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Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

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