Image: Toby Nguyen

 Local photography talent is seemingly endless: see Natasha Djuhandi, Jon Duenas and Nicholas Wilson. From every conceivable corner of the Rose City, especially among creative and liberal arts institutions here in town, young photogs are constantly surprising the art scene with their high level of innovation and design. 

Enter Toby Nguyen-- a senior graphic design major, marketing minor at George Fox University who turned his DSLR camera and business/graphic design acumen into a professional freelance service. Nguyen serves the Portland metro area doing senior portraits, weddings, and commercial photography, but that's only a cornerstone of his talents. Inspired by highly specialized conceptual narratives, Nguyen uses volunteer peers as his shoot subjects, transforming cardigan threads and Chucks into underworld shiny people, ethereal butterfly maidens and Edith Wharton gentry.

Alex Gamez: How did you get started in photography?

Toby Nguyen: I was always interested in photography in high school, but I never took it seriously until my dad bought me my first DSLR camera. From there, I had some friends who wanted me to take pictures of them for fun. I started doing more work, and the next thing I know, I started to make a business for myself. 

A.G: How did you create a business for yourself?

T.N: At school, I'm a graphic design major and I have a marketing minor, so it's a really good combination. 

A.G: When did you start using people from George Fox for your shoots?

T.N: Sophomore year. I live on campus and there's a lot of people here who are willing to model. 

A.G: I noticed there's a narrative to your shoots.

T.N: When I first started out, a lot of my friends asked me to do normal senior portraits. I suggested, 'Let's do a crazy portrait that represents who you are', rather than someone just standing behind a tree. I want to translate a story throughout my work. I don't want my work to be cliché.

A.G: Who are your aesthetic inspirations?

Image: Toby Nguyen

T.N: Annie Leibovitz. She's someone I really look up to; she's very conceptual. And then there's Richard Avadon who shot pictures of Marilyn Monroe. 

A.G: What has been a highlight of your career so far?

T.N: I've worked with a model named Isaac Ekblad. He's becoming really big. He just got back from Paris and London; modeled for Givenchy, Jil Sander. I actually got to do a portrait shot of him for his professional portfolio. If you look up his name, some of my pictures are on Google.

A.G: Going forward, what is your next move after graduation?

T.N: I'm hoping to get exposed in New York. I'm actually applying for a graduate program called NYCAM. If I get in, I'll spend a year in New York. The program will allow me to have my own gallery show. Even if I don't get in, I'm still pursuing New York. I just want people to come to me and be inspired by the work that I do.

Nguyen's website can be seen here

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Image: Toby Nguyen