Photography student shoots for success after being international competition finalist


Tony Pham, 39, photography and nursing major, shows off his Canon 5d mark iii camera. Pham enjoys shooting landscapes and he desires to volunteer nursing overseas to help African refugees while taking pictures of the sceneries. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

Even though photography wasn’t originally part of Tony Pham’s plan, he now sees more flashes of victory than he does the flash of his camera.

Pham is excelling in his photography work now, but his life began in a different field.

“I was in the Philippines for 16 years as a refugee,” the 39-year-old photography and nursing major, said.

Pham is from Vietnam, but in 1989 when he was 13, he left Vietnam and become a refugee in the Philippines when the Communist government established in Vietnam because his dad had worked for the old government.

As a refugee, Pham had limitations in food, electricity and education, he said.

“I came here in December 2005,” Pham said. “I studied in Le Cordon Bleu — a cooking school in Pasadena.”

After graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, Pham started to work in Hotel Bel-Air as a chef and it was there he started to learn English.

“I learned English when I first started working with the hotel,” Pham said. “The chef, my boss, he was really generous. He tell me: I don’t care if you know English or not, but I teach you every day, whatever you don’t understand you ask me and I will answer.”

Pham comes from a family that has a restaurant business in Vietnam and the need of food decided him to be a chef.

“When you are in hungry and you are short of food, you always think in food,” Pham said.

Pham wasn’t a fan of photography before, but he likes to take pictures of his food and he had traveled to other countries and he wasn’t fully aware of how to use the camera, so he decided to take a photography class at El Camino.

“Tony is remarkable and an outstanding student. He is a mature, compassionate and brilliantly talented student,” Darilyn Rowan, photography professor, said.

Rowan said that what makes Pham unique is that his work is very elegant, distinctive, and memorable.

With his short experience in photography, Pham decided to enter to Photographer’s Forum, an international competition and he ended up being a finalist.

His picture will be showed in a book with his picture will be the best of college photography of 2015, Rowan said.

Last year, Pham submitted a photo to Myriad, EC’s literary journal, and his photo was selected to be part of the journal.

“I think his work is so amazing, there is so much emotion into his photographs, you look at them and you just feel like in this very peaceful place like he captures all that emotions that I guess he is feeling them and he just put that in his photographs,” Maria Andrade Reyes, 35, photography major, said.

Now Pham is full-time student taking 15 units and also he works full-time at the Hotel Bel-Air, he said.

“I am very thankful with all the support from my teachers and classmates,” Pham said.