Maika Elan’s photographs are infused with a sensitivity beyond her years. After taking a BA in sociology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in 2006, Maika started to use the camera to document her daily and private life. Her work, The Pink Choice – a look at the LGBT community in conservative Vietnam won her the first prize for contemporary issues in the prestigious World Press Photo contest in 2013. I thought this touching work on relationships would be great to share on Valentine’s Day.
She started the series in 2011 after seeing how gay people were often cast in negative light by the media in her country. She wanted to portray the love between two human beings instead of sensationalizing the relationships. Tenderly, she approached the subjects on the streets and through contacts. The images had little to do with the photographer’s view but revolved strongly on the subjects and their personalities. Vietnam voted to decriminalize gay wedding ceremonies in November 2013 but not gay marriages. This however is a bold step, compared to neighboring countries in South East Asia (especially compared to Singapore). The images highlighted a social issue, the success of the images relied heavily on the unposed and openness of the subjects, it also came at a time where societal issues are brought up to the surface. Watch an interview with her at Vimeo.
“I want to show that their loving and caring for each other is nothing deviant…Love is beautiful, and we can only claim ourselves supportive of homosexuality when we accept their love.” – Maika Elan
After her father’s cancer treatment, Maika then embarked on a deeply personal project. With her father, now weakened from the chemotherapy, they returned to parks and playgrounds that had importance in their father-daughter relationship. Reminiscent of a time past – the images have a dream-like quality with undertones of sadness. The work questions the impermanence of our memories, and how photography informs the viewer of the creator’s memories, pulling the former closer in an intimate embrace. Perhaps we too could share in that special memory they have.
“Then I was reminded of the past when my dad used to take me to the park and bought me a lot of stuffed animals.” – Maika Elan
Returning to her earlier roots in dabbling in lomography, the double exposures and bright vivid colors invoke a sense of disconnect with reality. Cleverly, she injects a little humor into the images – the father standing next to the Monkey God, a symbol of rebellion and then piety (perhaps telling us about her relationship with her father?), the father reclining on patches of grass, enjoying how the sun feels on his skin. Photography becomes a reconciliatory tool, it becomes a window and this work forms a memento mori, urging viewers to take a closer look at their own relationships.
Visit her portfolio site to see more images.