Here at RVA Mag, we’ve always been captivated by the possibilities inherent in the photographic art form. And luckily for us, there are many amazing photographers all around us. They capture their own unique look at culture, music, art, and history, both here in Richmond and far beyond the city’s borders. Through their eye on the world, the photographers of RVA share emotions, tell stories, and capture moments in time. They amaze and inspire us.
This is the latest in a series of posts that we’re calling RVA Photogs. In each post, we’ll highlight one of our favorite photographers from the region. We’ll learn what drives them, what they love, and what inspires them to create their art.
Lucienne Nghiem (she/they pronouns) is a portrait and tour photographer, creative director, and stylist based in Richmond, Virginia. Her art is full of color, euphoric lighting, and youthful energy with a hint of edge. Her work has been seen across the East Coast as official selections in festivals such as VHSL, the Virginia Film Festival, and the Poe Film Festival.
How did photography become your choice of visual storytelling?
I’ve always loved music, colorful things, and anything movie or art related. A friend asked me to take photos of their birthday party once and I think I talked about that for so long because of how fun it was. After that, another person saw those photos online and asked me to do the same for them at a birthday party or something like that, and after a few times I got the hang of it and really loved it. Just taking silly photos of my friends. I took film, graphic, and video classes in high school, which taught me a lot of the basics. Am super thankful for that.
A few years ago I started going to open mic nights at a coffee shop by my house and just shooting as much as I could, going home, practicing editing them super fast, and sending them to whoever was singing that night. I think I was drawn to concert photography after, because of the experience and also how it included everything that I love. I’m so happy that I stuck with it and started shooting local shows. Then it grew from there. I really love taking photos of live music and hope to keep doing it for a long time.
How would you describe your photography and style to someone?
Colorful, sparkly, and saturated.
What is your process in creating an image that represents your style?
It usually always starts with picking a color palette that I want to base the vibe around. Something that is inspired by an artist, what songs I’m listening to at the moment, or even something super random like the color of a sweater I saw someone wearing that day that I loved. Whatever color it is for the day is usually my lock screen, so I can glance at it every once in a while and be reminded of what I want to make. I love how different tones set the mood, or how they can completely change the photo’s energy, so I always put that first. Just starting with figuring out how I want people to feel when they look at the photos I’m shooting that day. When editing, I love to play around in Photoshop until the photo feels like it fits my style.
What is your favorite photography you have taken and why?
I think my favorite photo I’ve ever taken is this one of Marisa from Mannequin Pussy [above]. It was my first show that I got the chance to shoot after two years off due to COVID, and I remember being so scared that the photos were going to be blurry, noisy, not turn out how I wanted, etc, because I hadn’t shot a show in so long. As soon as she came out in her sparkly suit I remember being so thrilled, taking those photos and rushing home to edit them. Will always adore this set because of how much fun it was to make.
Why is photography important to you?
Photography is important to me because it’s so vital to document the things we love around us. Time goes by so quickly and it’s important to me to remember as much as possible.
What do you hope to achieve?
I hope the photos I take make people feel hot, beautiful, empowered, and confident. Want people to leave a photoshoot with me feeling on top of the world.
What is your best memory as a photographer?
My favorite memory as a photographer has always been making new friends on a photoshoot, whether that’s in a photo pit, running into someone in the crowd, walking down the street while shooting, things like that. Love meeting new people.
What photographers influenced you, and who recently do you follow for inspiration?
Am such a fan of these photographers and their work: Deanie Chen, Sarah Ohta, Mark Williams, Mallory Barry, Anna Koblish, Bella Peterson, Quinn Briar, Eddy Solis, and so so many more.
Now for a loaded question: what makes for a successful photograph?
A successful photo can mean anything! The most eye-catching or successful photos to me are ones that either really stop and make you think, or ones that you can tell the photographer had a great time taking. Art is so subjective, so as long as your photos are important to you, that’s all that matters. If you can make yourself or someone else feel a certain way while they look at your art, then that is so successful within itself.
All photos by Lucienne Nghiem