The Distorted World of Lily Phan

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Lily Phan stumbled onto photography while doing an independent research trip in the Balkans in 2001 with her first point and shoot digital camera. This inspired her to enroll in a couple of photo classes at Santa Monica College to further develop her skills. In an interview with AEM, she shares that she “didn’t stop after those two classes. Instead, I plunged head first into photography, quitting my full time job, and finishing the certificate program, and started my own freelance business.”

Years later, following her heroes Henri Bresson-Cartier and Andre Kertesz, Lily documents Vietnam in moving shadows and graceful reflections harvesting and transporting salt.

When we talked to Lily about her artful distortions, we learned that she had recently moved to Lebanon! While only one of her pieces is available on Artfinder, we’re sure that her new Lebanese subjects will give her plenty of inspiration.

1. Why or when did you decide to make work?

You can say I stumbled onto the art in my mid-30s with a point and shoot, and it has been a part of me ever since. No turning back after that.

2. What inspires you currently?

History and culture. Whenever I travel or live in a location for over 6 months it gets under my skin and I can’t shake it out of my system until I document it with my camera.

3. What tool or medium would you be lost without?

My Canon L-lenses (16-35mm and 24-70mm)

4. Other than your art practice, what other work do you do?

I work in the humanitarian aid industry where I travel to disaster and conflict areas to help relieve human suffering.

5. If you could be in any museum, what would it be?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art/NYC. If I could be in any museum, it would be the Louvre.

6. If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?

If I could own any piece of art, it would be Millet of the farmer and his wife praying in the field. If I could be any piece of art it would be Mona Lisa. I like to people watch.

7. And finally, what's your least favorite color?

I don’t have a least favorite color. I like them all depending on my mood. What I don’t like is color clashes. That offends me.


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Q&A by Content Curator Mica England