I was recently honored with the opportunity to be featured in my high school’s newsletter. While writing about myself I really got to relive some of the best years of my life.
- Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Aron Schuftan and I graduated from ISK in 1993. I spent some of the most amazing years of my life in Kenya (1986-1993) and to this day still consider those years to be my best youth years. I currently live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I moved here 6 years ago and am working as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. However, I have recently taken a sabbatical from work to pursue my passion as a fine arts photographer.
- What was your most memorable moment about being an ISK student?
I can still smell the sweet dew-covered coffee fields on the way to school, still taste the samosas and bhajias from Mrs. Maini, still hear the echoes of the basketballs bouncing in the MPB and still, to this day, cover my food when walking out in the open to protect myself from the kites swooping down to grab my food. I remember listening, in fascination, to Dr. Hinz’ lectures in biology (whom I greatly credit for me becoming a doctor), Mr. Halverson’s billowing voice in the beautiful classroom bungalows, and the long sad bus rides back into town after RVA (once again) beat us. But most vivid in my memory, are the late nights of rehearsing for plays with Mr. Pearson (Little Shop of Horrors, The Insect Play, The Boyfriend….) for whom I will forever be grateful for teaching me some of the most important life lessons that I still carry with me to this day.
- Congratulations on launching your photography website! What was the inspiration behind coming up with this phenomenal passion project?
My growing up in Kenya actually played a large part on why I started this project. Like so many of you Third Culture Kids, I am sure you always cringe when you hear the question “where are you from?”. This website is now a way to show people the many places that I am “from” and was designed to be almost like a diary of my life. The images I show, accompanied with the stories I write, are a tribute to my life story through 6 continents and 45 countries….
Also, being an only-child I have always felt a weight of responsibility and duty to pass along my history and the history of my ancestors. I can remember avidly listening to the stories of my heritage, during family dinners, trying to commit them to memory and being so frustrated by only finding a handful of tattered old photos of eras gone by. I longed to be able to see what they saw, to help tell the stories; to make them more real; more visceral. The experience created in me an urge to document my own life, to immortalize my life to others, through the lens and the images I create. It is my hope that it can bring future generations closer to me. It was this desire that led me to take my first class in photography at Tulane University in New Orleans in the mid-1990’s where I was getting my degree in pre-medicine and sociology.
I developed my skills and found that I was able to tell stories with my pictures and it was a great way for me, a self-proclaimed introvert, to interact with people. It empowered and lifted me in a way a gambler must feel as he or she watches a ball tumbling on a roulette wheel.
My photography is a heartfelt diary of what I see, the moments I experienced, traveling to other countries and immersing myself in the culture, anywhere. As a “street photographer”, it is important to me to capture a moment, the feeling –without manipulating my subject or the environment. I try to be “a fly on the wall” and capture exactly what I see. But at the same time, I try to capture the unusual or the ordinary, but in a new way.
For me, the art lies in the capture, not the later enhancement of an image. Photoshop has revolutionized photography, but being a purist, I shy away from post-production of my work. What you see is what I saw, unfiltered, raw and grabbing the energy of that exact moment. It is through my images, that my viewers can see and experience cultures, faraway lands and the emotions captured by my lens.
For me, not only is the image important, but also the title. I have always believed that the title of a photograph adds another dimension to the image. At times the title of the shot comes to me before I take the picture.
When possible, I always strive to find a title that makes my viewer think one-step beyond the image.
Currently, I am working as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. Repeated I have been living in Vietnam since 2014, but have been coming to Vietnam since 1995 regularly since my parents moved here (and still live here). My mother is Vietnamese and my father was born and raised in Chile to German Jewish parents. I spent my adolescence in Nairobi, Kenya, but have been fortunate to have lived all over the world including Cameroon, Spain, Puerto Rico, Chile and the US.
- Any parting shot you’d like to share with current ISK students?
Here I am, almost 30 years later, reliving in full Technicolor, the amazing time I had at ISK. Yes, I’m sure ISK has changed a lot (the coffee plantation is gone?!?!), but the spirit of growing up and getting educated in such an environment surely lives on. Many of you will go back to your home countries after graduation and undoubtedly feel “different” from your peers. But do not worry, this difference will only set you apart in a good way, make you more unique, more interesting, and more ready to conquer the world.
I hope going through my photos, especially the section on Africa, brings a bit of a smile to those who, like me, were touched so deeply by Kenya, and to those still there, I hope my photos makes you appreciate what you still get to experience daily.
I hope you enjoy looking at my pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.
Once a Lion, always a Lion….