Last night at Milk Gallery, fashion editors and photography buffs gathered to fête An Le, the winner of Vogue’s New Exposure photography contest that sought to highlight the industry’s next heavyhitter. Guests included Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier, Vogue photography director Ivan Shaw and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb.
The contest, sponsored by RED and Bottega Veneta, drew more than 500 entries from across the country that were narrowed down to 10 finalists. But Le, who attended the event in head-to-toe red, came out on top: His prize included $10,000, a year-long mentorship with Management Artists, a project with Bottega Veneta and a RED Epic-X camera valued at around $40,000.
“The goal of New Exposure was to pinpoint key emerging talent in the fashion photography field and do what we can to help them succeed,” said Shaw, who served on the contest panel. At just 22-years-old, he said Le “defines promise.”
Le moved to the United States from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City at age 15 and graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design last month. Although his photographs hinge on meta concepts of fashion photography – he said he’s always conscious of exhibiting the designers’ work and telling a provocative story – they also display a meticulous attention to detail.
“I enjoy juxtaposition and contradiction,” Le said. “Whether it’s industry and nature, man and woman, the pieces are supposed to be a little disturbing, a little unsettling.”
But he isn’t one of those photographers that walks the streets taking pictures of everything he comes by, he said. For him, photography is a private art, and it shows. Each of his six selected works juggled intimacy and solitude, glamour and squalor, delight and defeat.
Down the road, Le said film may be in his future. He has often dreamed of directing movies and wielding control over the moving image. But for now, he’s focusing on life after college.
“I’m excited, very honored, and a little nervous,” he said. “The pressure’s on now.”
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