Quavondo was born in Vietnam and fled from the Vietcong army with his family in the dead of night on a fishing boat at the age of five. In a true rags to riches story, Quavondo has been on a path to self discovery ever since. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon, but likes to travel to L.A. for work because, frankly, Asians look better with a tan! We sit down and talk about his upbringing, his hustle, Asian films, and more! Read below for the full interview…
Most photographers specialize in one area, but you seem to capture people, landscape, fashion, and commercial subjects perfectly. How did you become so versatile?
Quavondo: Thank you. When I first started all the advise that I heard or read online was to focus on one thing and do it well, the problem was that I just love taking pictures. I was a late bloomer, so in a sense I felt like I had to experience everything that photography had to offer me.
How was it capturing Kanye West? Was he easy to work with?
Quavondo: Kanye was a pretty cool dude. As with a lot of celebrities, I didn’t get too much time with Kanye. Stars don’t faze me much, as soon as I get behind my camera I view them just like any other subject. After all they are humans just like the rest of us.
You also participate in workshops. If could instill just ONE lesson in your students, what do you hope they walk away with from one of your workshops knowing?
Quavondo: That photography is a skill that can be developed by doing. Meaning you have to constantly shoot, experiment, and try new things. Don’t be afraid of failure, because that in itself is failure.
I am aware you shoot in various locations but how is Oregon as a whole? Is it a good place to draw creativity from?
Quavondo: Portland is more like a home. I mean I would love to work in Oregon as much as possible, but work tends to take me to other places besides Oregon. I think eventually in the next five years I will move closer to LA.
I’m sure you get asked this in every Q&A, but I have to ask…What type of camera and equipment do you use?
Quavondo: I shoot with Canon’s flagship, the 1Ds Mark III, and I have a Canon 5D Mark II as backup and video work. All my lenses are L series.
When you first started out in your career, how did you market yourself?
Quavondo: I didn’t do anything to market myself, it was all word of mouth. I just concentrated on my craft and I knew that if I put out good work,more would come.
Did your early photographic goals include earning a living from photography, or did it start as a way to express yourself creatively?
Quavondo: When I decided to quit my design career and dive into photography full time, I had every intension of making it in the business. I wasn’t doing it to express myself creatively, although it does feel good to be able to express myself and create art. I took a gamble that I would be good at photography and so far it’s looking like I made the right decision. I feel very blessed to be able to take pictures for a living.
What makes working with studio lights so tricky?
Strobe lights are a scary thing to master and control. Unlike hot lights, you can’t visually see how it’s effecting your scene and your subject in real time. Most people who first start out shy away from lights and prefer to shoot with natural light. When I first started photography, I bought a bunch of strobes and basically locked myself in my studio and shot for 30 days straight. It was nerve racking, I was experimenting as I went along.
Just recently you photographed your first underwater subject. What else would you like to tackle for the first time that you have never done before?
Quavondo: In the near future I would like to tackle food and product photography. I like learning. After that, I’d love to get into the macro World. It’s amazing what’s out there!
Lastly, could you give us any sneak peeks at upcoming projects or collaborations you have in the works?
Quavondo: That’s a tricky situation. The fun and cool commercial stuff I signed NDA’s for so I can’t disclose anything. As far as personal project goes, I have a few in the pipeline that I’ve been wanting to do for over a year. Recently I was able to check one off the list. It took me a year and 1 month to get all the props together, find the right models, and most importantly the right location. [Below] is an image from the shoot.
Want to keep up-to-date on Quavondo’s latest projects? Follow his cookie crumb trail below: