New York-based travel photographer Aaron Joel Santos came to Vietnam five years ago, right out of photography school. He planned to stay just six months—but six months passed, and then another, and then another. Aaron says “eventually it became clear that I wasn’t going back to the US. Somewhere along the way, I figured out how to make a living taking photographs, but when or how that happened is still unclear to me.”
One thing is clear: Aaron has found success in Asia. His latest assignment came from the South East Asia creative agency Phibious who hired him to shoot print for the Italian scooter brand, Vespa. Aaron explains the project,
The project was presented as two layouts for Vespa’s new “Timeless Moments” campaign in Vietnam. They wanted something that felt a bit less staged, something that wasn’t going to happen in the studio. The emphasis was more on storytelling and capturing—go figure—a timeless moment. Phibious got in touch with me with their initial sketches, a pier shot and a garden scene, and asked if I’d be interested. I definitely was.
Once onboard, Aaron and his SE Asia agent/production house NOI Pictures got to work producing the shoot. One of their biggest challenges—other than the unpredictable weather—was that they couldn’t find a pier that worked. So, they built one,
We ran into a bit of trouble finding a pier on a lake overlooking beautiful mountains and a sunset; which is what the initial layout called for. It didn’t exist. I found the landscape easily enough, a perfect lake overlooking a perfect mountain range in the distance. Literally exactly what the agency wanted. As if they had sketched it from that very spot. But no pier. So we decided, with less than 24 hours to the shoot, to build our own right into the lake.
And I love Vietnam for that. Within an hour we had the permits we needed and a crew of five guys who were going to work through the night getting our pier into passable shape. We used old wood, to give it a bit of an aged look, and had them build it directly into the landscape that we wanted. It was brilliant. The models didn’t get any splinters and the motorbike didn’t fall into the lake. And I didn’t fall into the lake. I have low expectations for myself, so whenever I don’t fall into a lake, I consider the day a success.
Phibious also considered it a success. They were very happy with Aaron’s images and when Vespa saw the files, they decided to increase some of the billboard sizes that the images would be featured on across Vietnam. The photos will also be used in print ads in Vietnamese magazines and publications. “All very exciting.”