Appreciate you trying to answer because some visual professionals do give vague answers to that question. And you mentioned that you worked with a great editor in this project. How did she push your visual language?
First, Jennifer Samuel was super communicative with many text messages exchanged between us, encouraging me to try different things.
Second, all your images captured need to be in a hard drive and sent back to Washington DC. That itself made you question what you were shooting. Why did I shoot this? You dig into your entire process and it pushes you, and you ask: what else could I have done? This process questions your practice in some way.
Thirdly, when you send all your photographs, you too make a selection of images you think is good. Jennifer would have made another selection and then inform you why some images make the story better.
She doesn’t just assign the picture, she tells you what she thinks about the image, why it works or doesn’t work. But at the same time, she would ask: “What do you think?” And I’ve never been asked that before. I was fortunate to attend the National Geographic seminar last year and sat beside Jennifer as she went through the edits as well as meeting the other women photographers from this project.
Seems like there is a great peer and mentor support from this assignment. What was one lesson you took away from this experience?
Besides the resilience and strength of the Vietnamese women I have photographed, I have learnt to adapt to changing situations. If things don’t go your way, just go ahead, still shoot and communicate. Do whatever you can and try your best. Don’t panic. I learnt how to look at things differently, step out of the box and not just have this particular outline that you should be constantly following.
Amrita Chandradas is a Singaporean documentary photographer. In 2014, she won the top 30 under 30 documentary photographers showcase by Magnum Photos & IdeasTap. Her work is seen at National Geographic, The New York Times, Timeout Singapore, BBC World, British Journal of Photography, NPR and Financial Times.