Meet Doan Ly

Doan Ly

I was drawn to Doan’s work because of the way she treats the flower subjects of her photography. Looking at the images, you feel the spirit and soul of the flowers- each feels like a character in a tableau with a full story and emotional depth. Sometimes you see something in another artist's work that clicks and gives you clarity to your own- when I saw a photo Doan composed of a flower looking cheekily into a mirror, I suddenly felt like I had connection and words to talk about what I was trying to do with my design: show the soul of an object. 

When looking for a photographer to collaborate with, I wanted to find someone who recognizes the animism in objects. I designed these vases to feel anthropomorphic and I knew that Doan would really understand that and move the souls of these vases and the flowers to the forefront. At one point in discussing the photoshoot, she referred to a group shot as a “band photo” like you would find on an album, and I knew we were on the same page. I am so honored to see what she did, the images look like paintings and breathe with a life beyond what I could have ever hoped for. 

Where are you from/ where do you live?

I was born in Vietnam. I currently live in Jackson Heights, which is in Queens, New York. 

How did you come to photography? 

I taught myself photography when I started my floral studio in order to document my work to get future clients. never in my wildest dreams could i imagine that it would play such a big and rewarding part of the business and practice!

What is your history with flowers? 

I first fell in love with flowers in undergrad. I went to Stanford—escaped the cold Minnesotan winters to northern Californian paradise. There were wild flowers everywhere. I bought a plant for my dorm and then was hooked. I noticed what having a little flower or plant can do to transform your space. it became a way of life. Even if I couldn't afford furniture, I would have flowers, my place would be full of plants. 

Doan has quite a few credits on IMDB, including Zodiac, Law & Order, Firefly, CSI, Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words, and many others.  Can you tell us about your experience on the other side of the lens as an actor?

It was wild! Lots of funny stories and better told over wine! 

What was it like working with Haand Vases? 

So fun! I love the shapes. Vase shapes really inform the shape of the arrangement. It's the whole foundation of a sculpture. I always think about the base, height, neck size of the vessel and what flowers I would need to best create the shape of the final arrangement. it’s more complicated than just putting your favorite flowers into a vase!

Any tips for people using them at home? Selecting flowers for them?

It really depends on what kind of vibe or shape you like. I think flowers that have bendy stems work best with the vases! they can give a sense of movement that plays with the organic, sculptural lines of the vase. 

You have a very composed way you balance your photos- is there any specific method you apply or is this intuitive?

I can’t articulate my method so let’s say it’s intuitive! I'm pretty meticulous about composition. I wish I could be a little more fast and loose, but flowers require a lot of styling. to make a good still life, i could take all day. and on other days, it’s just a quick five minute snap! 

I was really drawn to the dream-like quality I saw in your photography, so it bears the question: Do you dream? Does your work find it’s way into your dreams or vice versa? (dream-like is a bad term, there is something about the surrealism and the way the image has clear rules and logic, just maybe not ones we know?)

Oooh i’m glad you find the images dream like! I don't try to bring my dreams into the images, no  i just play with forms. I don't try to make sense of the image. I think it’s just about deconstructing the classic compositions and finding a new resonance. ideally there’s a strange ache. Those are my favorites.

To view more of Doan Ly's work you can find her on Instagram @Doan_Ly