The half-Vietnamese photographer takes inspiration from her father's journey to Britain through dreamy shots of mermaids
Sarah Vo, known as Vo to her friends, is a photographer from London who uses 35mm film and Polaroid cameras to make dreamy fashion images out of stories and memories from the past. Her experimentation with the techniques of analogue photography allow her to create grainy and colourful photos such as her recent work-DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES FROM HEAVEN AND HELL- in which she recreates her father’s journey to Britain from Vietnam in the 70s using mermaids. Her next project is inspired by a trip to Vietnam after the death of her grandfather and will be a recreation of some of the everyday snaps she took of him during his life. Dazed tracked her down to chat inspiration, photography idols and memories of her first disposable camera.
Dazed Digital: Where are you from and where are you based?
Sarah Vo: I am half English, half Vietnamese and based in London.
DD: What was the first photo you ever took?/ Earliest memory of one?
Sarah Vo: When I was really really young I remember my dad giving me a disposable camera that he got for free which I used to take pictures of cars. I have no idea why! Maybe it's because my dad works closely with cars. I dont even like cars!
DD: What cameras do you use?
Sarah Vo: I use my 35mm Cannon A1 , sx-70 & 600 Polaroid cameras.
DD:Do you prefer digital or analogue? Why?
Sarah Vo: I prefer using analogue only because I have no idea how to use a digital camera unless its point and snap - It's a bit silly really. When it comes to using an analogue camera I totally understand it, inside and out. But with digital, things just don't seem to be in the right place! With analogue, I get to experiment with different types of films, developing them and seeing the results uncover.
DD: What inspires your work?
Sarah Vo: I know it sounds cheesy but everything inspires me. Waking up in the morning. Going to bed at night. Hanging out with friends. Spending time with family. Going to work. Travelling the world. Living inspires me. Even if the day is boring, it's all a part of this massive film thats playing called life. It all inspires me. I was lucky enough to study & live with so many amazing creative people. They all inspire me. Even the silly ones.
DD: Do you feel there are any recurring themes in your work?
Sarah Vo: My work is always about the past and the future. I've noticed a lot of my projects are on memories in life. Things that I've documented and then changed into stories and then made into projects on particular memories
DD:Who are your favourite photographers?
Sarah Vo: I love Floria Sigismondi who is known as a video/film director but also has beautiful photography books. I also love Ellen Rogers work - I love her process and the mystery surrounding her images. I would love to work with either of them. They are both amazing!
DD: Do you prefer shooting still life or portraitures? What do you find appeals you most about either?
Sarah Vo: Portraiture hands down. I enjoy photographing people and taking them into a specific memory I am trying to convey. I recently photographed a fellow photographer friend called Alis Pellaschi for my new project called ông. I feel like photographing people is a collaboration. The model themself is a form of art. I dont work with a stylist or anything like that. It's just me and the model. I set up everything so its perfect,I photograph the subject and they move for me in their own natural way. My aim is to capture the moment and convey the memory.
DD: What's next in your projects?
Sarah Vo: My new project is called "ông" which translated from Vietnamese means "he". I recently went to Vietnam for 6 weeks because My grandfather died. So for my new project I will be re-photographing everyday snapshots I took of him as beautiful fashioned versions of his death. ông nội means grandfather.