Diane Lac’s lens illuminates a fresh narrative in the photography industry, intertwining cultural heritage and emotional depth with evocative imagery that empowers women. Her eye for capturing ephemeral moments offers a refreshing divergence in an industry often void of such perspective.
From the youthful curiosity that had her scaling cupboards to seize her father’s Olympus point-and-shoot to the nuanced images she captures today, Lac’s journey has been marked by resilience and unrelenting creative drive. “My mother never understood my art, nor did she encourage me,” she recalls. Undeterred, the 24-year-old’s commitment to her craft has fortified a unique aesthetic that captures moments “so fragile and fleeting” that they need preservation.
Lac aims to uplift her subjects and viewers alike through what she describes as “powerful and vulnerable storytelling for women, of women, and by women.” The art she produces resonates with a sense of rediscovery and purity. “I began to realize that this was my empathetic perspective, and every moment was mine and could never be repeated twice,” she elaborates.
Her photographic style is a vivid tableau of contrasting elements—bold colors blend with soft lighting, dramatic angles meet fluid emotion, and the influence of her cultural heritage permeates each frame. “My current aesthetic often embodies a fusion of various cultures, embracing the duality of my Chinese and Vietnamese ancestry,” she says.
Even amid the digital noise and overload, Lac aims for her work to punctuate the constant stream of images, standing out in the glut of visual stimuli we encounter daily. “The fact that we are living in this overstimulation is awe-inspiring, as my challenge is to make images that can stand out,” she articulates.
We spoke to Diane Lac about her journey from childhood curiosity to professional photography, her philosophy on capturing time and emotion, and the barriers she had to navigate in pursuing her creative path.
Can you tell us more about yourself and what gravitated you towards photography?
My name is Diane Lac, and I’m a Vietnamese-Chinese photographer and director currently living in Los Angeles. I’ve been working on my craft for the past three years. My focus is on fashion photography and fashion videos.
My first memory as a photographer was when I was about five years old. My parents were often away at work and would leave my sister and me home alone during the summer months. We were so bored. I remember climbing up cupboards to reach for my dad’s silver Olympus point-and-shoot. With my small hands, I would load the film to snap photos of my sister and the toys I played with. I remember taking off all my clothes and convincing my sister to do it, too, while I took photos of her.
I remember my dad receiving the photos back from the lab in Little Saigon and getting upset at me, but I didn’t understand why. That was probably the first time I received a reaction to my art.
A statement that really drew me to your work was “powerful and vulnerable storytelling for women, of women, and by women.” Can you talk more about that?
I began documenting my life entirely on film when I was 17. I couldn’t afford to buy a digital camera at the time, so I was still using the same point-and-shoot I took from my dad as a child. I remember feeling so ashamed because I didn’t know camera settings, and I didn’t have a proper camera to learn. I was given Petra Collin’s book Teenage when I turned eighteen, and I felt like she was the only artist who understood exactly what I felt at the time.
As my hobby grew, I began to notice how much I was spending on every roll of film, every plastic sleeve I would use to home each strip of film, the processing, the scanning, and the hours I would put in. I captured moments that would never happen twice: intimate birthdays, teenage pool parties, everyone’s first everything, moments in bed, teenagers wasting time, concerts, random nights at the bottom of skate parks, art shows, the Orange County punk scene.
I remember my mother told me my hobby was a complete waste of money, that there wasn’t any payoff to anything I was doing, and would tell me repeatedly to stop my creative endeavors. My mother never understood my art, nor did she encourage me, which was very hard to hear when I was younger. Thankfully, I stood up for myself and kept going; I reasoned my own philosophy that if I equated time with money, photographing my “time” was a way for me to “save time,” as every moment that is held in my camera was a moment so fragile and fleeting that I needed to preserve it or trace it in some way.
During the pandemic, I came into my own philosophy and realized that my photography was a way for me to connect time and space together to create a perspective that was purely mine and could never be repeated or duplicated by anyone else. I realized that I was very good at making my girl friends feel very safe, heard, and connected, which led me into spaces that photographers would dream of: bedrooms, studios, backstage, etc. I began to realize that this was my empathetic perspective, and every moment was mine and could never be repeated twice.
What’s your overall concept of the female gaze?
My photography and video work aims to allow girls to embrace the female gaze, to feel connected, and comfortable with each other and in themselves. I depict women with emotions, complexities, strengths, and weaknesses. Lately, I’ve been feeling a big need to return to nature, simpler living, and being away from noisy cities.
That being said, what do you want viewers to take away from your photos?
Through my photos, I hope viewers perceive a feeling of surrealism and innocence presented in a sophisticated manner. I hope they see themselves in my pictures and videos. It’s about evoking a sense of rediscovering purity, embracing angst, authenticity, and genuine emotions in a world often complicated by adulthood and societal expectations.
Portraiture is obviously a really big part of your work. What compels you to work with certain subjects, muses, and environments?
The people I photograph are a reflection of me of how I feel in that moment. I often ask my friends that I have a strong connection with modeling for me. I like to think of my lens as a mirror of who I am, and whoever is around that fits the narrative of what’s in my head will be in front of my camera.
And for those unfamiliar, how would you describe the current aesthetic that you aim for in your work?
My current aesthetic often embodies a fusion of bold colors, dramatic lighting, unique settings, and a play of shadows and soft lighting. My inspirations draw from various cultures, embracing my Chinese and Vietnamese ancestry. The combination of these elements results in my visually striking style that captivates a sense of depth and deep emotion.
Given that LA has no shortage of photographers and the fact that you recently graduated, what do you envision for the future?
Is it weird to not know? I feel like I’m only 24, and I simply do not know! I just know that I have to keep shooting and making my ideas come alive as long as I am alive, and I have to do it as fast as I can so I can get my message across.
I feel like the internet has welcomed a sense of terror in images. We’re so used to seeing so many images in a day, whether that be in world news, fashion, beauty, cars, etc. Everyone is so exposed to so many things at the tips of our fingers. The fact that we are living in this overstimulation is awe-inspiring, as my challenge is to make images that can stand out from the day-to-day images that people tend to see every day.