Vivian Fu is a photographer and artist based in the Bay Area. She is about to move to Los Angeles. Focusing on the everyday, Fu’s work drips with honesty that can sometimes make people flinch. Fu has been documenting her relationship with her long time partner, Tim. Recently they went to Taiwan together, to visit Fu’s family — and eat lots of food.
How did you get into photography?
I watched my dad taking family photographs during trips we would take to places like the Grand Canyon or fields of blooming poppies. The pictures we would come back with felt very different from my experience of these trips, and I think that prompted me to want to make my own photographs.
How did you you encounter photography as a medium for art? How has this affected your relationship with the it?
Through photography, I’m exploring notions of the romantics of The Everyday of photography. I think this sort of goes back to how I became interested in the medium, which was to essentially make my own telling of the story, to create family photos from my own perspective. My interest in creating photographs is very deeply and specifically rooted in this, in the desire to document and to self narrate. However, I am also interested in photography as a space which allows me to perform a version of myself (specifically, how I am perceived by the viewer) and toying with their expectations.
Tell us a little about your trip?
My partner Tim and I went to my cousin’s wedding in Taiwan, using the wedding as an excuse to take a trip. This was my first trip back without my parents, giving me full agency to plan the trip however I wanted. This was also the first time Tim and I have traveled internationally together, and because of my familiarity with Taiwan and mandarin, I really took the reins and lead us around. We vaguely planned out or days, with one or two specific activities, looking at art, visiting skate parks, seeing relatives, eating favorite foods, and the rest of the time allowing our intuitions to guide us.
You have photographed yourself, and your relationship with your longtime partner Tim for quite some time. How has this work evolved over the years, and how does it inform your other photographs?
As I get older and as my relationship grows and evolves, I think the work grows and evolves with it. I’ve found that the my definition of intimacy and how I imagined it in in 2012 is different from in the way that I see it in 2017. I view the work I make with Tim as an extension of my larger body of work, although it has changed and grown with me, ultimately still circles around themes of American identity (including the performance of American identity), bodily experiences (such as sex, eating, and child bearing), and relationships (to my partner, to my parents, to my partner’s parents, to my friends.)
Tell me about your relationship with food. Do you have thoughts or feelings about photography and food, especially in the context of contemporary image culture?
In general, my relationship to food is that food is pleasure, indulgence, and sustenance, which also relates to my photography in general. With regards to food photography within the context of contemporary image culture, I think about how platforms like Instagram are spaces where the food ante is constantly being visually upped and experimented with to create new food trends as well as to grab and entice viewers. This can either be something like a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with spicy pork ramen or colorful smoothie bowls in pastel colors topped with fruits cut into star shapes. It makes me think about people deriving pleasure from looking at images of food, like some sort of synesthesia-like reaction or experience. Again, this is an unfinished thought.
What is your favorite thing to eat in a hot summer day (both savory and sweet.)
Sweet: Taiwanese shaved ice
Savory: Cheeseburger at a BBQ
Sweet and Savory?: Watermelon with salt sprinkled on top
Can you talk about the relationship of food and bodies in your photography?
I think this ties back to what I was talking about in the previous question. But to expand upon that, to eat is a bodily experience, providing your body with energy as well as being (for me) a pleasurable act. Hopefully without sounding too problematic, and maybe this is a stretch, but the correlation between images of food and bodies in my photography is maybe that I want to consume both in some way? Additionally, we already culturally sexualize food (eggplants, peaches, cherries), I think some of my photographs just flirt with and reference that idea.
How is life? What are you excited about these days (doesn’t have to be about art or photography.)
Life is good, but life is also bad. But to talk about what I’m excited about, I’m excited to be making a new home. I’m excited to be somewhere warmer. I’m excited about trying new things with photography. I’m excited about being near old friends and making new ones!
You can also find Vivian on Instagram.
This Feature is part of COLLECTION #01: “IN THE CITY”