Behind The Lens: Ben Pham

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Los Angeles-based photographer Ben Pham is amongst one of the many talented creators to sprout within the last several years. Since starting his journey in 2015, the San Jose native has quickly evolved and worked with a handful of the most sought-after names around including Lyric Mariah, Wolftyla, Rome Flynn, and Vi Luong to mention a few.

Combining several aspects of lighting and composition with culture and fashion trends creates an interesting portfolio of images that exhibit Ben’s creative flair and affinity for storytelling through pictures. His diverse roster is a testament to his adaptable photographic skills, and ability to recognize and capture a moment in a snapshot, that lives on infinitely. “I’m currently in the process of changing and finding my style, but I definitely want my audience to be able to find meaning and emotion behind my work,” he shares. Through his work, Ben reminds us of the connections the boundless possibilities that come with bringing concepts to realization.

For Behind The Lens, Ben Pham chops it up with us about equipment, navigating the LA scene, and influences to name a few topics. Check it out below!

Can you look back on when you first gravitated toward the camera? How about fashion and the arts? 

The first time I ever picked up a camera was during summer school when I was 11 or 12. It was for a beginner’s photography class showing students the fundamentals of photography. This was the only class I ever took and the last time I held a camera for a while. Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school, one of my best friends at the time took me along with his older brother to do some street photography. Mind you, this was during the peak of Instagram where people were super into the high rises, street style, steel wool, and finding cool locations. This was when I really got hooked and began my photography career. 

The arts were something that I was always a part of growing up. I was very creative as a kid and I expressed that through all of the different activities I participated in. Always finding new things to do or transforming objects and repurposing them with a new use. Skateboarding, woodworking, and guitar were just some of the things I dedicated my time to. I really just enjoyed building things and to this day I even find excitement in building IKEA furniture.

As for the fashion scene that came into play once I moved to LA. Before moving I never actually worked with a full team of people on a photo shoot. A lot of my early work was strictly just me and the model without any thought behind the clothes or makeup. LA really showed me that working with a team is essential to creating a uniform body of work and that is where I started caring about the fashion aspect. 

Amongst several other creatives in Los Angeles, you’ve learned to stand out through artistic elements such as lighting and composition. Can you talk about your process?

A big part of my process as of late is to really isolate the subject. In the past I solely relied on the f stop to separate my subject from the background but I realized very quickly that it can just look messy. Now I try to simplify my environment as much as possible and make the subject stand out whether that be contrasting colors, using a direct light source, or even just using a simple white backdrop. 

What gear do you shoot with and what is your pre and post-process? 

My daily gear as of right now is the Fuji X-T3 with the 16-55mm. Another camera I absolutely love is the Canon 5dmkiv paired with the 8-15mm. I try to do as much as I can pre photoshoot but a lot of my work tends to happen in post and that is in photoshop. 

Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today? 

My best friend and phenomenal photographer Christiano Hermoso. I owe it to him how much I’ve grown and excelled this past year is because of him taking me under. Being able to work closely and side by side with such an amazing artist really allows me to learn and create at my maximum potential. I DigiTech for a few photographers and everything I know is because of Christiano giving me the opportunity to learn when I  didn’t know anything. 

How is the culture around the Los Angeles area—can you share some stories of your favorite memories in the field? 

I honestly have yet to experience the culture of Los Angeles because of the pandemic. One of my favorite things about working in Los Angeles is seeing all of the same creatives on every set. There have been multiple occasions where I had no idea who was going to be there just to show up and recognize the team.

As big as it is here, it is actually so small once you get to know everyone. It’s the best thing seeing people you know on set, especially when there are many times where everyone on set is from the Bay Area. I’m from San Jose and it feels so good seeing people from the Bay coming out to LA and thriving. 

Can you guide us through what you want your audience to see within your work and the outcomes of being in a creative space such as your own? 

I’m currently in the process of changing and finding my style, but I definitely want my audience to be able to find meaning and emotion behind my work. I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such beautiful and creative individuals. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have those right people around you who support and give you honest feedback about your work. Being able to bounce ideas off people helps so much with the creative process. 

In the digital era, it’s very easy to get inspired and sometimes even lost in how much content and ideas people put out every day. Is there anything new in the world of digital culture, photography, or videography that you are excited about lately? 

It is exciting to see that a lot of creatives are gravitating towards this vintage ’90s-esque style of work. The different methods and techniques people use are inspiring especially in this world of physical methods instead of solely relying on digital to achieve the look. 

Do you have aspirations to ever do a gallery show or photography work past the world of fashion and lifestyle? 

Absolutely. This will actually be the first time I speak about this publicly but I am working on a book and a gallery this year. I won’t disclose the dates for it yet but this is a project I have thought about ever since my freshman year of college and I feel very connected to it. There is just something about physical work that you just don’t get with digital. It is a completely different experience being able to experience your own work on a large scale.

Elsewhere in photography, check out our interview with Los Angeles-based photographer Eli Prasit.