Portraits of Women Vol 7: Angela Pham


Photos by @sarakerens

If one day you happened to stumble upon Angela Pham’s Instagram feed, one of your first thoughts would most likely be, “I want to raid this woman's closet.” However, the career photographer shies away from the idea of being any kind of fashion expert. Despite what her captivating style and glamourous front of camera appearances may suggest, Angela fancies herself a “tomboy” at heart. This is why she makes such a great 'Tomegirl'! Behind those bold prints and daring silhouettes is a simple California girl, who takes pleasure in the sweet domesticity of her new Hudson Valley home.

Hi, Angela! So, full disclosure: I did a deep stalk of your social media and couldn’t help but notice that for someone who makes a living behind the camera, you have an enviable and highly individual sense of style. How would you describe it?

[In] a word: flirty and snowbird glamour. I would say very bold prints—I don’t shy away from color, [it’s] kind of structural, simple. I’m kind of all over the place. I like the word diaphanous… anything that hides my bum!

Well, I think you have a great bum. Anyway, I’m curious to know if you feel as though your career as a photographer has influenced your style in anyway?

It’s definitely made me more conservative in the way I dress. As you get older, you have to work alongside clients. I wear a lot of black to work. When I started shooting and [would] be out in New York, I was so excited to go to these parties and events where everyone was dressing so glamorously that it gave me permission to dress as crazy as them. But then I realized, I’m a photographer not a guest, so I’ve definitely become more conservative. However, my love of fashion definitely pre-dated my love of photography. My love of photography was discovered much later on in college.

Tell me more about that. How did you find photography?

I think I always knew that I wanted to do something creative, and my dad gave me a camera in college. I was a little bit shy, so it kind of allowed me to put myself in situations but not have to talk to people or engage with people. It allowed me to just observe and be somewhat of a documentarian. I was also drawn to journalism and photojournalism—documenting real moments was what I really enjoyed.

What was your big break?

Probably working at my photo agency BFA, when I was first starting out. They were a new company too. It was really a great training ground for me. You shoot a lot there, and you meet a lot of really interesting and like-minded people. It’s really great to have that sense of community when you’re first starting out.

Back to Dad for a minute. You’re from Orange County, but your parents are from Vietnam. My father is also an immigrant, and I’m curious to know if and how your upbringing influenced your sense of style?

Coming from a war torn country and then going from there to Orange County (which as you know is quite materialistic [and very] keeping up with the Joneses) my mom had no interest in that. Even though we could afford it and we lived in a nice area, my mom kind of refused to buy the things that were cool and trendy. And because of that refusal and the absence of mainstream brands in my adolescence, I was forced to hone in on a very specific, individual sense of style. I think it’s from the restraint and the lack of access to those things that you develop something of your own. A big part of my love of fashion stemmed from going to thrift stores and throwing together crazy outfits.

 

Outside of fashion and photography, do you have any other passion pursuits? I think I noticed some gardening on Instagram…

I like to pretend that I garden. [Laughs.] I do have a bit of a nascent greenthumb. I have a house upstate in Rhinebeck, and so I’m sort of starting to do more domestic stuff. I’ve always loved cooking. Cooking is a huge passion of mine; I love food. Being upstate has allowed me to tap into all those domestic fun things: hosting gatherings, gardening, and stuff like that.

 Do you have a career bucket list item that you’re hoping to check off soon?

Well, last year I launched a photo company with a friend of mine, who’s now my business partner. It’s called Deitch + Pham. We are a commercial content studio. It’s a different sort of photography, so that’s the next new challenge. For me, it’s really about learning new technical skills. I’m really interested in learning about all the different kinds of photography. It’s [helped with] a lot of the ways I previously felt stymied in my photography career. Now, I’m getting hired to shoot product photography, which is something I’ve never done before, and I’m really excited about all these new things I’m doing.

Okay, time to play favorites. Who’s the coolest person or event you’ve ever shot?

Well, just in the last three months, I shot Justice Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton.

Casual.

Right! Those are two come to mind. I was floored when I got the opportunity to shoot a Chief Justice, and female one and a cool one [at that]. To be in the same room [with her] was insane.

As a photographer, you spend your time capturing other people. What’s something about yourself you wish people knew about you but they don’t?

That I don’t really love fashion that much. [Gasps then laughs.] That’s not the same thing as style, though. I do love clothes and love dressing up, but I don’t know anything about fashion news or what’s going on in the industry. I think a lot of people think I’m really into fashion or that I work in the fashion industry, but really I’m just a tomboy who wants to lead a very quiet life.

 What’s one piece of career or life advice you would give your younger self?

To harness and recognized the opportunities you’ve been given in life. For me, I always think about how I didn’t really try in college. A lot of people accrue so much student debt, and that’s something I always took for granted. My parents sacrificed a lot to pay for my college [education], and I wish I tried harder. It was just something to get through, and I really didn’t appreciate the opportunity I had.

You’re a native California girl like me, but you live in New York. If you could live in any other city, where would it be?

Orange County.

[My turn to gasp.]

I know! I always had this dream of living in Europe and living in London. I was such a huge anglophile for a such a long time. But now, whenever I’m at home, I’m genuinely happy. I don’t know… maybe the grass is always greener. My boyfriend and I are just so happy [there]. Maybe it’s just a weather thing.

It has to be.

 

Written by @thereispiece