Winner, Second Place
My image is a wet plate collodion (tintype) self-portrait of me wearing áo dài, the national dress of Vietnam. In my art and research, I address how the garment, although beautiful to look at, was tied to the oppression towards many Vietnamese women specifically despite being worn by all ages and genders. Originally, the dress was designed with a loose fit in favor of comfort and functionality for manual work but adapted to couture fashion and featured alterations that contoured to the female figure starting from the French-Indochina colonialism. Since then, the representation of the dress in the arts and media has been heavily gendered and sexualizing towards the image of Vietnamese women. The use of tintypes is based on the historical parallel between colonialism and the medium of photography, which has been used to render people as objects for acquisition and was used as a tool to justify and glorify colonialism in the name of enlightenment. The representation of áo dài in an early method of photography such as tintypes speaks to the lack of historical accurate photographic documentation of people and especially women from colonized countries and from there draws a parallel between the deep-rooted, lasting nature of sexism and imperialism.