From street kid to famous photographer

Photographer Tran The Phong is well-known for his photos, featuring the daily lives around him and in places where he travels.
Tran The Phong was born in 1969 in a slum area in district 4, Ho Chi Minh City. He lacked his parents’ love because they divorced when he was just three years old. Three years later, he moved into his aunt’s house and began earning a living by himself. Phong sold tickets, popcorn and cleaned footwear on the streets.

In the following years, he worked as a waiter in restaurants and coffee shops. Through these troubling days, Phong worried about his future. He used the money earned from his destitute days to open a small coffee shop. Due to a lack of experience and capital, his shop closed. After that Phong bought a camera.


Photographer Tran The Phong is working on the streets of Saigon. Photo: Thong Hai

Photographer Tran The Phong with his friends at the “Smile” exhibition. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Phong said that when he was selling newspapers, he saw many children took photos with their parents. The full family image touched Phong’s heart. He thought about images being able to impact significantly on society. He then had an idea of becoming a photographer and taking photos of the daily lives of people. 
Photo books by Tran The Phong: Towards the central region” (November 2020), COVID-19 in Sai Gon (October 2020), Sai Gon rhythm (September 2019), Make a living (May 2017), Forty-five Days in Sweden (July/2016), Life Lights (August 2015), Passing the Darkness (April 2014), Childhood Paths (May 2020) and Ganh (Carrying) (February 2011).
Phong has been taking photos for more than 30 years and press and artistic photos for 20 years. In 1998, Phong began his career as a freelance photo reporter. Phong said that he adores the images of street children. He sees himself and his life in the children. Therefore whenever he sees these real life images he is so moved that he takes pictures as soon as possible. The children in Phong’s photos always smile in spite of their difficult life. The smiles reflect their efforts and confidence in a bright future.

Capturing a smile in his lens makes Tran The Phong feel happy with his passion and energy. Locals can see Phong on every corner of Sai Gon. Behind the aura from many domestic and international awards, Phong continues his journey to record images of daily life.

“Innocent” wins a gold medal in Austria. Photo: Tran The Phong 

“Green sumer” wins the FIAP (the International Federation of Photographic Art) silver medal. Photo: Tran The Phong

“Summer days” wins FIAP bronze medal. Photo: Tran The Phong

“Optimistic” wins the FIAP bronze medal. Photo: Tran The Phong 

“Pleasance” wins the FIAP bronze medal. Photo: Tran The Phong

A work displayed at the “Smile” exhibition. Photo: Tran The Phong 

 “Rain”. Photo: Tran The Phong 

Domestic and international exhibitions in which Phong’s photos are on display: “Towards the central region” (November 2020), COVID-19 in Sai Gon (October 2020), Sai Gon rhythm (September 2019), Portrait (June 2018) and Ganh (Carrying) (February 2011).

By Thong Hai - Translated by Nguyen Tuoi

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