Phung Noi Fong – Celebration of Simplicity

Phung Noi Fong is an international award-winning photographer. Her Celebration of Simplicity exhibition at the Elissa Cristall Gallery was one of the exhibits for the Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver.

The gallery is small, but very light and airy and the setting seemed to enhance Fong’s work. The first three images were of murky green ponds filled with Lotus leaves contrasted with bright pink flowers or algae interspersed between the round lily pads. The pink algae breaks the pattern of the lily pads creating rest stops for the eye to dwell on. The overall effect of the compositions are tremendously soothing. The images can be seen here.

My absolute favourite image of Fong’s oevre on display is Boat path through seaweed nets. It is an inkjet print which was printed on transparency and mounted on a plexiglass sheet. It is an image of tall poles of bamboo arranged in S-shapes in the sea where a few boats are passing through the largest passageway. The photographer’s sharp focus is on the boats, while the tall poles are slightly blurred. This is obviously as a result of the wake of the boats causing the movement in the water. The composition of this image is stunning, in my mind. Both the water and the bamboo poles create sensual S-curves through the frame. The absence of colour takes it to another level, rendering it an abstract feel.

Fong’s photograph of the three fishermen wading through the water with their strange, coloured nets is another stupendous image. At the top of the frame are the tall bamboo poles and their reflections into the almost white sheened water and in the bottom right of the frame are three fishermen wading through the water with their brightly coloured nets. One’s eye is immediately drawn to the fishermen and one has to wonder how these strange shaped nets work. There is a contrast of high-low in this image as well with the bamboo poles standing tall and the fishermen bent over their rectangular nets. At the same time the poles attached to the corners of the nets almost form a semi-circle which the position of the fishermen’s bodies seem to echo. It’s one of those images that one will never tire of looking at, so minimalistic in its simplicity.

Unlike Gursky’s work which ‘often places us so far away from his subjects that we are not part of the action at all but detached, critical viewers [because] from this position, we are not being asked to interpret the individual experience of a place or event’ (Cotton p 84),  Fong’s work draws us in from afar. One cannot be detached in viewing Fong’s work. She draws on one’s emotions to interpret the images. Even though the photographs are taken from a mountain top, there is still an immediate presence that is felt that seems to draw one into the frame. One gets the impression that the fishermen in the various photographs are performing a dance and the viewer is straining to hear the music.

This was an excellent exhibition to view – a real celebration of simplicity.


Cotton, C. (2009) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (2nd revised edition). London: Thames & Hudson

Fong, Phung Noi. Celebration of Simplicity [online]. Vancouver: Elissa Cristall Gallery. Available from: [Accessed 20 April, 2015]

Fong, Phung Noi. [online] Pure Photo. Available from: [Accessed 20 April, 2015]


Context and Narrative


Context: noun (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

  •  words that come before or after a word, phrase or statement, etc, helping to show what its meaning is
  • circumstances in which something happens or in which something is to be considered.

Narrative: noun (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

  • spoken or written account of events; story
  • story-telling
  • narrated parts of a book

Man with pink socks reading newspaper