Field Advice: Vanessa Le - Local Wolves


Introducing Field Advice is a conversation with creatives in their field to share their own advice with our readers. Whether you’re still in high school, college or discovering your next career options— everyone has their own path with challenges and triumphs that they have learned from along their journey. We will continue to encourage the conversation of doing what you love and wanting to create your own dream career path.

Field Advice by New York based photographer, Vanessa Le, she/her.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m 24 years old, and am currently working as a pre-media producer/photography assistant at SPA Digital full-time. On the weekends, I freelance photography whenever I can! And if I have free time, I try to plan my own passion projects for editorials or just for fun! I want to start getting into making prints and experimenting with cyanotypes and screen printing my work so maybe that’ll be my goal to work towards in 2022. The hustle is real out here. 

Describe your current workspace.

My current workspace is my desk in my NYC apartment! I used to edit hours on end while laying on the couch or in the bed, but my back has been killing me so I’ve started to invest in setting up a desktop space to help with that. My desk sits next to my boyfriend’s desk so sometimes it feels like a fun co-working space for us. 

What is your field advice for aspiring photographers?

I think if you were thinking about becoming a photographer, you really don’t need to start out with the most expensive equipment. I first started with a Canon Rebel XSi that was passed down from my brother. You could even start with your phone camera. I think it’s definitely what you do with the photos you take and how you can push past boundaries with them. It also really helped me to assist other photographers and see how they work and what their process is during their own shoots. If you assist enough of them, you’ll be able to learn what you like to do yourself and how you run the show basically. 

What do you like most about being a photographer? 

My favorite thing about being a photographer is getting to meet the people I meet during every shoot. Everyone I’ve met so far has been so unique. Their perspectives may be different from what you see and so seeing how they see things helps me think outside the box and push past my own boundaries. They also not only become a connection in your circle, but can potentially be a friend to lean on in this huge community of creatives. I have come to realize that these connections are also worth it when you’re not competing against each other but you’re lifting each other up and supporting each other’s work. Like yeah these are my photos, but I had a makeup artist who did this and I had a stylist who helped put these looks together so they should also be getting the recognition they deserve. 

Who inspires what you do?

One big thing that inspires me is my culture. I’m Vietnamese, and I was raised Buddhist. The value of family was what was emphasized growing up as a Vietnamese American girl. Growing up in this generation has taught me to not only celebrate my (and everyone else’s) culture, but to also embrace authenticity and inclusivity– all of which are prevalent in my own work in hopes that I can shine on the existing dimensions of Asian fashion, culture, and identity. Besides culture, a lot of things in everyday life inspire me and my work. For instance, it started snowing the other day in New York, and I literally pulled a shoot together with my friend the night before so we can get some cool photos. Other things like music, specific fashion pieces, and other art forms (ceramics, painting, graphic design, screen printing, etc.) also inspire me to create. I’ll see a really cool hair style on Instagram and be like I need to shoot something that surrounds this kind of look and so something like a hairstyle can inspire my whole shoot and the look created around it. I’ve been inspired by Gregory Crewdson in the way his photos are of complex narratives depicted in a cinematic way. Each of his images have a budget similar to a small movie production and requires huge crews and months of planning. With so much planning for one image, Gregory inspires the kind of work ethic and creativity that I want to embody as a photographer. 

Who are your favorite Instagram accounts that should be on everyone’s radar?

Currently, my favorite Instagram account to follow is definitely @le3ay, a fellow female Asian photographer. I had run into her once at the DUMBO flea market and she was the sweetest and most humble person. Her work pushes past boundaries like no other and is definitely someone who inspires me to do more and think outside the box conceptually and artistically. These are other Instagram photographers I’ve been following and have been inspired by: @lissyellelaricchia, @lesliezhang1992, @foxxatron, and @bjpascual. They all create work that I love to create as well– incorporating color, lighting, fashion, and conceptual edits. 

What is your current favorite song at the moment while you work?

My go-to right now is Yes I’m Changing by Tame Impala. It’s been a classic go-to for myself for a few years now and I’m never not going to play it. It gives very main character energy and makes me think I’m doing important work.

What are your thoughts on the creative industry?

I would say that even though I’ve been doing photography for 7 years now, I didn’t really consider myself as an official photographer until maybe the last year or two. I always looked at it as a hobby, and I felt like imposter syndrome always has a way of sneaking in. I think a lot of it has to do with seeing other people’s work on Instagram and comparing myself to them. The hard part of this creative industry is that there is such a huge community of creatives and there’s constant work being put out so I always feel like I need to keep up in content creation. Another thing is that although I’m getting better at it now, it was definitely hard for me to price my work and put value to what I think I’m worth. There were many times last year where I doubted myself and undersold myself as a result. It’s a hard economy out there, and for me it’s hard to believe that people will want to work with me at the rate I’m giving them. With a lot of self-realization and free therapy from my boyfriend and friends, I can now say I’m proud of the rate I’m giving out and will happily stick with it in this new year. It also helps that the creatives I’ve met so far have been really supportive of me and my work and have been helping me realize my value. If you’re curious, my motto for myself this year is – no B.S., all love. 

What is your favorite local spot that our readers should check out? 

I think my favorite spot I always find myself going to– no matter the season or weather– has been Central Park. There’s an area on the upper west side of Central Park called the Pool that is a small beautiful lake. It’s great for people watching and picnicking. I’m also a big foodie so when people ask me for recommendations in NYC, I end up giving them recommendations to food places. Here are my top foodie spots: Xi’an Famous Foods for their Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodle, Cocoron for their dipping soba noodles, Bibble & Sip for their cream puffs, Cha An Bonbon for their Japanese desserts (Sakura parfait), Lovers of Today for a cute bar moment and good cocktails, and lastly Remi Flower & Coffee for their lattes (*rose latte). 

What does LOCAL mean to you? 

LOCAL to me means community– finding my people and my go-to places. It also means being able to feel at home/ at peace wherever I’m going. I was thinking about this the other day too actually, how much I love New York. Granted, I was making the dreadful rush hour commute home to Queens from the city and it felt like it was 18°F outside, but truthfully being here makes me feel like I can apologetically be myself and am able to chase after my dreams. As cheesy as it may sound, but it really does feel like I am an arm’s reach away from doing whatever I want to be doing. Here, it feels like anything’s possible. Since I’ve moved here, I also feel like I’ve made some solid friendships where their goals align with mine so it’s nice to be able to relate and share our experiences with each other.

Connect with Vanessa: Website / Instagram / TikTok

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