Who the Fuck is Travis Hoang?

 

 
 

I was born with the name Travis Hoang and was known as such through elementary school. Somewhere along the line my mom got remarried to my stepdad and he later decided to adopt me to change my last name over from Travis Hoang to Travis Young.

So that explains the name. 'Sup with the site?

 
 

In highschool I always wanted my own website. I had no real intentions or even a reason to have a website. I was just really hyped about basic HTML. I was building really crummy MySpace pages for various bands, which I thought was so dope at the time and I figured having my own site was going to be my next challege. TravisYoung.com was already taken by some other dude with the same name and the site always had the message of "coming soon" and "currently under construction." Even to this day, almost nine years later it says the same exact thing just in a different layout. I'm not bitter though, but damn other Travis Young, follow through, homie.

*Beside the point.*

High school me I decided "Meh, I guess I'm okay with a camera, maybe it'll just be a photography site" so I registered the domain TravisYoungPhotography.com and have been running under that address ever since. As the years went on and as my interest in photography kept growing I noticed that my name started becoming part of my professional identity as a photographer.

Skipping forward to me in college. I knocked out two years majoring in pre med. I was getting good grades and maintaining an academic scholarship and I realized  I was not interested and not stimulated at the very slightest. I immediately jumped ship and majored in Photomedia. The way KU's Photomedia program was laid out, every class required very specific prerequisites and those classes even had their specific prerequisites. Since all my math, science, and humanities were already done from pre med I only had the option to take random classes that had nothing to do with photography within the school of Art and Design.

Sculpture. Illustration. Typography. Visual communication. Creative Writing. Textiles. Letterpress.

It was by far the dopest thing that ever happened to me. Am I a good illustrator? Can I lay down a proper typographical composition in a grid? Can I sculpt a human figure with correct proportions?

 
Fuck no.
 

I was creating and exploring and I wasn't allowing my lack of qualifications to void me from the experience of creating in new ways. Creating this new blog I'm just trying to get back to this very mindset of creating. Just a simple time of feeling less pressure to create and trying having more curiosity to just explore skills I am unfamiliar with especially when it comes to different aspects within photography.

Travis Young Photography started falling out of that experimental "here's some questionable antics that aren't the best quality but fun to try" mindset and started shifting to a highlight/portfolio of the best of the best of Travis Young specifically as a photographer.

I essentially went from "Bored Asian male doing dumb shit" to "Professional photography portfolio by Asian male that showcases that he knows his shit" so to speak. When I was just the bored Asian male doing dumb shit my creativity was all over the place and I learned so much catering to my boredom with random photo ideas. I figured out so much more in that early phase because I didn't care about doing things perfect. I was just trying to do things just to do them. I wanted to learn but more importantly I just wanted to try to figure out something I didn't know how to do because I knew for a fact I couldn't do it.

 
 

At a certain point everyone expected me to know my shit. At that very point I started becoming really afraid to branch out to play with other techniques and genres that I am unfamiliar with in photography because I was so afraid to suck at something again. The worst part is I masked that insecurity by convincing myself that I was above the things I never did or am bad at. "Oh I'm above doing weddings, oh I'm above making photos of flowers, oh I'm above making photos of my dog, oh I'm above making photos of my food.

 
Fuck that mentality.
 

That very mindset kept me from sketching photographically. It kept me from practicing the thing I claimed to be a professional at. It kept me from exploring other ways to create and see. It's that kind of mindset that landed me alone in my apartment wondering why I don't create more than I do or why I was feeling creatively empty and out of practice.

Take an oil painter for example. Oil painters don't always paint. Sometimes they do charcoal pieces, or watercolor. Sometimes still life, sometimes nudes. They keep sketchbooks and doodle. They exercise many different techniques and styles even within the realms of their craft.

I feel like as photographers we lose sight of that sort of practice and openness to explore. We find titles and techniques and we lock ourselves in them. That's what I felt like I did to myself and I slowly stopped traveling down different avenues of photography. The better I thought I was getting on one specific thing the more afraid I was to just sketch out a photograph and be loose because I didn't think I was allowed to do that anymore. Eventually I started feeling out of practice. The sad truth was that I was out of practice. I wasn't exercising my skills as much as diversely or frequently as I could've been because I was only concerned with making good work in the few strengths I already had.

Starting a blog with a name that holds no weight to anybody I'm reseting my mindset and just creating before I thought I was somebody. Before the pressure of having hype to my name got in the way of just making what I want to make regardless of how stupid or meaningless. To make to explore myself instead of making only to sell myself. To practice. To grow.

To admit and acknowledge that I'm not good at a lot of things. To let myself be new or even admittedly horrible at a skill set. To try something that I may have no strengths in at all. To allow myself to be new at something again. To be okay with sucking at something. Because it's totally fine to be really bad at stuff.

Dope photo? Sure. Horribly written poem? If I must. Dumb doodle?

 
 
 
Why the fuck not?
 

I want this blog to allow me to not be so pressured on selling myself or proving to the world that I'm dope as fuck. I just want to make work and allow myself to figure out how to make work again. Good and bad. New and old. I want to use this blog as a visual sketchbook as a photographer. To be able to doodle and experiment and makes scribbles and play with the unknown. I don't want my lack of experience or my lack of ability, or even the lack of "being portfolio worthy" stop me from doing anything anymore. I'm so tired of hesitating and psyching myself out from making work to grow.

Allowing myself to just make for the sake of making. Creating because I want to create, not because I have to. The reason I'm half as good as a photographer as I am is because I allowed myself to go through a phase where I just made tons of awful photos. I had to explore the depths of overly contrasty black and whites, horribly chosen selective colors, overly done HDR imagery, in orde to find a balance and a medium of all these complied things I learned to end up where I am now.

Maybe I've overthought this whole situation, but I need to stop letting the pressure of "being someone" get in the way of me actually making something awful. Exploring things you're terrible at is the best process of learning and progressing.

A photographer I really admire that I had the opportunity to grow in college with is Alec Smith. I heard him say once in class, "I am not a one trick pony" in regards to being a photographer and creating other things outside of what we were comfortable photographing and even outside of being a photographer. It really impacted me for some reason and I never stopped thinking about that. I don't have to just only photograph people. I don't always have to make images of just cars. I don't always have to be fine art. I don't always have to be commercial. Hell, I don't even have to always be a photographer. We are creative humans and we have nothing keeping us from creating whatever we want with whatever medium and in whatever genre.

I am not a one trick pony. How did I get so concerned with trying to define myself as such? How did I get so wrapped up in thinking that by being one thing I can't do anything else?


This is not a portfolio site. This place has no concerns about hyping what I do or trying to come off cooler than I think I am. I don't have to sell myself here. This is an open note that I don't know what the fuck I'm doing sometimes, but refusing to explore something because I'm afraid of my lack of experience to try it is stupid and will never be a reason to not explore and experiment. This site is about creating. Nothing more.

 
Nothing. Fucking. Less.
 

It's time to get off my high horse and just be okay with being bad at things sometimes. And maybe cuss less. But one thing at a time, dudes. Let's be real.

Do more. Be more. Experiment more. Make dope shit. Different mediums, different expressions, but more importantly to me, in different genres, disciplines, and avenues within photography. Even if it ends up terrible. I can't let that stop me from trying. Only way to get better is to not be so afraid of my creations and just allow myself to make that god awful shit sometimes.

The only way not to be bad at something is to just be bad at something for awhile. How else am I going to figure it out?

—T.H.

 
Travis Hoang