Driven to Create

Fashion photographer Thien La thrives on beauty—and drama


When observing photographer Thien La at work on a fashion shoot, you would think you were in the presence of someone with decades of experience. Yet, it’s only been three years since this quiet, confident young man from Charlotte, N.C., brought his cinematic-style photographs to the national stage.

Born in Vietnam, Thien immigrated to Los Angeles with his family 20 years ago. Like many immigrants pursing the American Dream, he took an entrepreneurial path and ventured into the business world, establishing, then selling, several small businesses. But despite this initial success, Thien was aware he had not yet tapped his inner creativity. A chance encounter with a friend, who asked him to take some portraits of her for her MySpace page, opened his eyes to the fun and possibilities of photographing people. Since then, Thien has enthusiastically pursued his passion for fashion photography.

In his brief career, Thien has done work for well-known designers, including Oscar de la Renta and contributed to local and national magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, OK! Magazine, Charleston Style & Design and Bay Fashion Magazine.

Thien loves to work with models, especially the talented ones. “With only a little direction, a great model automatically knows what to do,” he explains. One of his favorites is supermodel Sessilee Lopez, with whom he did a shoot for Vietnam’s Harper’s Bazaar. “She could pose without being directed and was able to make her gown flow beautifully,” he says. Working with experts like Lopez, explains Thien, has taught him how to direct less experienced models.

Although Thien works in several areas of photography (weddings, product photography, etc.), his ability to creatively integrate lighting, models, clothing and his clients’ overall marketing theme—is best seen in his fashion photography.

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In addition to pursuing his own projects, Thien offers workshops for up-and-coming photographers through his website. Among the topics covered are how to use a digital SLR camera, the intricacies of properly lighting subjects and how to correct and enhance photographs in post-production.

Thien’s relaxed disposition along with his ability to calmly give directions has made him a favorite among fashion designers, models and photography assistants. Still, his friends know there’s a part of Thien that enjoys “life on the edge.” It shows up in his passion for cars, especially the CRX race car that he’s built from scratch. All this—plus his ventures into film and music video production—rounds out a story that truly embodies the American Dream.

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