Tuesday, August 18, 2009


When I was doing research for my New Orleans project, I kept hitting roadblocks or nothing was interesting to me. This got me thinking on what I really wanted to concentrate on. I started looking up archives of old new stories. From what I have read, there were barely any stories on the Asian-American population. So with my ethnicity being Vietnamese, I started to Google the Vietnamese in New Orleans.

From my research, I saw a link leading me to a video called “A Village Called Versailles” which was produced and directed by S. Leo Chiang. Just watching the 15-minute preview got me interested in the community. Seeing on how the community was the first ones back to New Orleans East. They did not wait for FEMA or any Government help. They came back and started rebuilding as a community.

After watching the video, I started contacting the people who were involved with the rebuilding of there community. I contacted Mary Tran who is the Executive Director for the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation. MQVNCDC started up right after Hurricane Katrina, and got the community together to rebuild. The other person I tried to contact was Father Vien, who is the head priest at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, as well as a board member of the MQVNCDC.

Once I arrived in New Orleans I contacted Mary to tell her I was in town and will be meeting with her the next day. The second day I arrived at MQVNCDC, where a few youth group members greeted me. I was a little early for the meeting so, I sat around watching and observing what people were doing around me. While I was sitting around and taking photographs, Father Vien walked in. I never got a hold of Father Vien when I was back in Minneapolis, but Mary introduced us when she came in right after him. Mary showed me around Versailles and I was really surprised that all the houses were fixed and no FEMA trailers were in sight. Mary had a comment that got me laughing and that was “the houses with either a Honda or Toyota were Vietnamese”, so I just chuckled, as it’s the same here but not just in the Vietnamese community but the Asian-American community in Minneapolis. We got back to the MQVNCDC and I did a little interview with her, where she said that Versailles got its name from the Versailles Arms apartments. The apartments were where the Vietnamese refugees were placed. Father Vien invited me to have lunch with him. Mary brought me over to the church and I met Kari Lydersen who is a correspondent for the Washington Post in Chicago, who was interviewing Father Vien as well. Just sitting eating lunch and hearing the stories of the past and present from Father Vien was very insightful. One statement from Father Vien wowed me, he said, “Versailles is the most condensed Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam”. I never knew that, as from being in Minneapolis the population here is spread out and not in one specific location.

The next day I came back to the Versailles to photograph the church as well as the entryway to the Mary Queen of Vietnam Field. The field is now being rebuilt with a football field, basketball court and volleyball courts for the youth. The field had tournaments and events to keep the youth off the streets before Katrina, but after Katrina the field was converted to house 199 FEMA trailers. Now that the trailers are gone, they are rebuilding it to keep the youth active, show teamwork and to keep them off the streets and causing trouble.

The next place I visited was VAYLA-NO (Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans). I met up with John Nguyen who is the Youth Organizer and we talked for a bit and took a few photographs of the center. Seeing that the community cares for its youth is a great sight to see.

I came back to VAYLA-NO on Friday night to hangout with the group and as well to photograph them in their activities. Being there, seeing how the volunteers and group leaders steer the youth in the right direction was a learning experience.

Being in New Orleans East for a week was a learning experience. Seeing the community come together and helping one another to rebuild will never be a forgetting memory. This was there 2nd time rebuilding; the first time was when they arrived in the United States.

Friday, July 17, 2009

internship- field trip!

Going in to Paul Nelson Photography after a 3 week absence, was exciting! Well April and I got there @ about 9am and no one was there totally confused. So I call Paul on his cell to see where he is at and what was his E.T.A., apparently he was in the back of the studio with his brother, the front door was just locked.
Well after all that, I made a pot of coffee, ate breakfast, unloaded the washer and cleaned the dishes.
Paul then told us that we were going to do some location scouting for his other promotional stuff. Me and April headed towards Taylors Falls and Cascade Falls in Osceola Wisconsin. Here are some images from my cell phone.

Then we had lunch in Osceola, Wisconsin @ Py's. Never ever go there since the service was terrible!!!

Getting back to the Studio at around 330pm, no one was at the studio. So I called Paul to see what his E.T.A was, and he said "not going to be back in town for awhile" so he sent us on a trip to take pictures of clouds for his clouds library.

Using the Canon 1ds Mark II was interesting and a learning experience.
P.S. It was a long day, but fun at the same time.

We ended up dropping off his equipment at his house.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kari Lydersen- Washington Post correspondent from Chicago

I met Kari when I was down in New Orleans visiting MQVCDC and Father Vien. We had lunch with Father Vien and discussed some issues happening in Versailles as well as the past of Versailles.

here is a link to the her story about the urban farmland


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

There is nothing gay about safety!

Well today was my last day of shooting. Waking up at 830am and wasn't scheduled to shoot until 500pm, well lets just say I had a lot to talk about, but no one to talk to.
500pm rolls around get into the "There is Nothing Gay About Safety" mobile and head out to Chef Menteur Highway where Nick had some abandoned fire station to shoot and Lisa and I had some photos to make in Versailles. This is where I opened my mouth and blurted random things and I think Becky was getting annoyed =P sorry Becky had no one to talk to almost all day..

Below are some images.

Becky driving down 10east in rain and traffic. Thanks for getting us there safe! =)

An image I made outside the Versailles Arms Complex.

Saigon Drive a street name that is dedicated to Saigon, VN. I had to shoot it and getting the vehicles that the Vietnamese population mostly drive, a car from Japan i.e. Honda, Nissan, Toyota.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 5, 6, and 7

Day 5

Consisted of me going to The Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA-NO), documenting there kick back night. When I got there the girls where learning women studies and boys were either on the internet and playing video games. I kind of wish that I had this when I was growing up in the suburbs of Minneapolis

Day 6

waking up really early! got to the Vietnamese market at about 615am and photographed the community as it gathers to buy produce and vegetables from there neighbors small gardens. Even thought not that many elders wanted there photos taken, I have some nice shots from it, as well as enjoying the atmosphere.
Getting back to the hotel at around 830am ate breakfast and waited for people to wake up so we could head out to Bay of St. Louis.
Bay of St. Louis was fun and exciting. Swimming in the Gulf was amazing, but I should've put on sun screen before getting into the water. Lets just say my back and shoulders are burning as I am writing this blog.
After a long day, coming back to the hotel and resting for a bit was nice, then Nick, Micah, Ryan Dyer and I went out to the French Quarter to check out a Jazz band, but that was bunk and not even cool! the JAZZ BAND turned Micah away so no go! so I headed back to the hotel room to chill out for the night.

Day 7

Woke up at about 630am and got ready for Mass at The Mary Queen of Vietnam. Left the hotel at about 730am and on the way to church, Becky accidentally smacked my sun-burnt chest! I was in pain for a minute or 2, never again will this happen!
Mass was interesting and it was great to be sitting in church after a long absence from not going for about 1 year. Took a few images from the next Mass coming in as well as the churches interior. After Mass I walked over to Pho Bang Restaurant and ordered a large bowl of Pho Dac Biet (special) and a water. Then Becky came and got me and brought me back to the hotel where I passed out till about 12pm.

here are some pictures from the past 3 days:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 4


Headed out to Versailles again. Walked from the major business area to the church and captured a wonderful image. Although I maybe crazy, walking a few miles under the hot sun was insane! but i got a wonderful image out of it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Days 1, 2, and 3 all in one Post

Day 1

Getting sick over the weekend and having to wake up at 3am to catch a 6am flight out to New Orleans is not what I would call FUN!
Getting into New Orleans hung out around the hotel till the Tour of the City with Gray Line.

Day 2

4am! what am I doing up so early?! Went out shooting at sunrise over in the Holy Cross Neighborhood. The lenses were fogged up from the humidity, which killed the sunrise for most of us, who were up early and all ready to shoot.

The later part of the day, I got dropped off in New Orleans East (Versailles), where I met up Mary from the MQVCDC (Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation). I did a little interview and met Father Vien Nguyen in the process. Mary then gave me a tour around Versailles and told me an interesting fact, "Houses with a Honda or a Toyota in the driveway, you already know that its a Vietnamese Family".
After the tour, I was then dropped off at the Church to have Lunch with Father Vien. Sitting down with Father Vien and hearing the history of Versailles and what the community is doing to help there community to redevelop the area and the protests against any wrong doings. During Lunch I also met Kari Lydersen, who is a correspondent in Chicago for the Washington Post.
We chatted it up and she is very interesting in this essay as she is doing her own work with the environmental issues in New Orleans East.

Day 3

The day I rented a car, and went out to Versailles to make more photographs, while I was out there the rest of the class was with the Times Picyune; touring and doing ride alongs.

here are some pictures from the last 2 days in Versailles:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Contacts Contacted!

I emailed Mary from the Mary Queen of Vietnam: Community Development Corporation and got a reply back from her a few weeks ago. We are meeting on Tuesday the 23rd the 2nd day we are in New Orleans and she is going to give me a tour around Versailles.

Emailed her 2 days ago about meeting Father Vien, she replied back about me meeting the others at MQVCDC. She also told me to contact Father Vien's secretary to get a hold of him.

I called Father Vien's secretary and unfortunately he was out for the moment, but she did tell me to call them when I do arrive in New Orleans to meet up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Orleans Once Again...

This will be my second trip to New Orleans, The first time that I went was back in Spring of 2008 and I enjoyed the time there as well as documenting post-katrina.

The project that I will be working on is the Vietnamese Community in New Orleans East in a community called Versailles. This project is important to me as I have never seen any news coverage coming from Versailles.

Here is a link of a video that I found when I was doing research a few weeks back

I am currently in the process of contacting some of the people in the video.