Updated: Mar 20
GUSTO35 ARTIST SPOTLIGHT
WRITTEN BY: ALEC WELSH
Growing up as a first generation American from a Vietnamese background, Thomas' parents "weren't creative at all". Originally born in California, he moved to West Palm Beach when he was around six.
“Growing up, I claimed myself as a South Florida boy. I rep South Florida, this is my home, my origin story".
He can't recall what originally sparked his creative flow, but around the age of ten he torrented Photoshop on the family desktop. "I was really interested in graphics." Grabbing images online, he then manipulated them in a way that expressed himself. When high school came around he went through a film and television program, but also admits: "I never really cared for it, I kinda lost touch." Although Thomas says he was "a bit of a slacker" when it came to doing whatever it took to get out of school, he certainly felt like he had a work ethic. Coming out of high school, "Everyone thought I was going to go to a big university." But he didn't. Dang stayed home, went to community college, and got a job in the mall. Despite such a strong desire to not go to class, Thomas always seemed to remain a student. "I learned to be a salesperson. I learned how to sell."
From there he knew he wanted to go into marketing. During his Freshmen year in college, Dang got an internship at a Vineyard Vines in Connecticut. "Up there, I saw how the marketing and creative work go hand in hand." Telling his supervisors, "I want to watch the creatives rollout campaigns." After that summer, admittedly not knowing anything about photography, he started to ask the photographers and social media interns more questions. "What would be a good camera?" Coming home that summer, he bought himself one - a Canon 80D. Thomas used his pre-existing knowledge of editing software to steer his eye.
"One thing that's always important to me is color and composition" - "that's really what's guided all of my photos."
Overtimed he learned how to really get the most out of his digital. Quickly honing the craft. Not long after, Thomas was flown to California to shoot the Rolling Loud festival. "That was my big break in a sense." The following year he was hired to shoot the same festival. "By that time I switched completely to film". When asked what motivated this, he states: "With only 24 to 36 shots, you have to be selective." With digital, "There's no excuse for having not getting a good photo when you've shot a thousand RAW's - whereas on a roll of 36 I’ll get 5 good photos". "I would never post work that's subpar, there's times where I'll just hold the camera, look, compose it and be like - 'NO'. And people get it. When you shoot film, your work is more valued and you really do appreciate those thirty six shots." And as we all know, shooting film isn't all rainbows and butterflies. From On balance, Thomas' asserts, "There's been times where I've lost rolls of film and it hurts". During Miami music week, his friend grabbed some shots of him on stage with Diplo, laughing candidly. Unfortunately, we'll never see those. "That week was so hectic - I just lost it"
Thomas learned his lesson though. "Now I make sure all my rolls of film are taken care of. It's just always on me and I have it". Even though it's tedious, it gives you that look that I love and it's just raw. It allows people to act more candid". When asked about what's next for Tdangy, other than collages and stepping into the fine art world, two things really show the fiber of this dude's character. "I don't care if I'm directing a big project or working as a PA, wherever I can help my friends, I'll be there." & "Moving forward is so important. Don't get stuck on a what if". Before hopping our video chat, he had to show me his camera he just got back from an online repair shop, pointing out, "I got the Gusto sticker right here."