Kim Dang: Boat Person, Refugee, Survivor and Photographer

War is hell. It is a supremely destructive force of humanity. It kills people, destroys communities, separates loved ones. It also presents people with opportunities to unveil their real character. Acts of courage, heroism, and love abound, pushing back the boundaries of evil inherent in war. Only fortune, acts of God, and the hearts of men and women shape the outcome.

That is part of the fabric woven into Kim Dang’s life story. Her father died in 1968, during the Vietnam War. By 1975, the War was officially over, but for 25-year-old Kim, her life was shattered when the North Vietnamese overtook Saigon, the city where she was born and raised as the youngest of four children. All the joy in her life was gone.

Both Kim and her boyfriend, Chinh Quoc Tran met at work, formerly the tax office of the south Vietnamese government, which was subsequently taken over by the communist regime. He had been a law student at the university and had almost finished his master’s degree. After the communists took over, he still worked at the communist Vietnamese version of the IRS, but he was not replaced because he was young and smart. He also had relatives in the north, so he was protected to a certain degree. Kim’s role in the same organization was at a lower level, was not so safe. She feared she would be conscripted into the communist army and sent to fight in Cambodia, as had already happened to friends and acquaintances.

She and her family attempted to escape, but were caught, and her sister was sent to prison. Rather than succumb to fear, she became more determined than ever to escape this oppressive, evil regime. Chinh was not in favor of escaping at that time, as he was the eldest son in his family, who was expected to say behind and remain with the family.

Loving Kim and not wanting to lose her, he proposed marriage, but she feared that would lead to pregnancy and then she would never escape. She declined his offer.

In a period Kim calls “Black April,” she once again made the choice to risk her life and attempt an escape. She told her boss she was taking a week-long vacation. Instead of staying behind, Chinh’s love for Kim and appreciation for her indefatigable spirit led him to join her in the getaway. Kim and Chinh left behind siblings, parents, and friends and all her earthly possessions.

It cost money to escape. The normal cost of escape was 10 to 15 bars of gold. Kim saved for five years. Because the man planning the escape was a friend and colleague of Chinh’s, he accepted only the two gold bars she had. This friend also owned a 13-meter fishing boat, which he used to help 50 people embark on the arduous and dangerous escape journey out of communist Vietnam.

Everyone was instructed to dress like farmers, dig fox holes at night, and hide in them during the day. Men and women were separated, so Kim and Chinh lost track of each other for awhile, frightening Kim, but not deterring her. They only had a few morsels of rice to eat every day because people who were helping hide them and feed them had to do it on the sly. At 11 o’clock at night, someone with a flashlight signaled them to crawl out of the holes. Dirty and sweaty, they quietly made their way to the boat awaiting them inside Vung Tau City on the Baahria River. They all knew if they got caught, they risked imprisonment, torture, or death. To avoid detection, they lay like sardines on top of each other on the boat bottom. Once they reached international waters of the South China Sea, they tossed everything possible overboard to lighten the load.

The first night sea was stormy. The boat hugged the Thailand coastline for three or four days and nights, crossing choppy, sometimes violent waters. There were no toilets, so conditions were highly unsanitary. Only a handful of rice and little water was apportioned to each person. They finally landed in Malaysia, where they sought safe haven in the first of several UN refugee camps, including Pulau Tanga and Pulau Bidong, where they learned English, underwent psychological exams, and interviewed for sponsorship to her adopted country. Dirty, exhausted, and hungry, Kim also experienced belated relief when the reality of her survival sunk in; they had heard that almost everyone died on two earlier boats that never landed safely.

Kim and Chinh first moved to Seattle, where her brother-in-law had escaped in 1975, and the two subsequently married in Seattle in 1987.

Kim returned to Vietnam in 1992, returned again every year from 2000 to 2008, and not again until 2018. During the latest trip, Kim unveiled more of her family history, discovering secrets and lost relatives.  Using the eyes of her heart, Kim also captured some of her most powerful and timeless images.

Kim’s photographs showcase her native Vietnamese community through a highly sensitive and intimate approach to her subjects, lending each one a gentle, quiet—yet profound—dignity.

In 2000, Kim Dang began taking photographs with a film-based camera, whose images she believes might be worth resurrecting in a digital format. Kim has been an RDPW member for 6 years.

Kim Dang’s images are currently on display at the San Mateo County Art Fair from June 9–17, 2018.

New 6-month Pre-Visualization Workshop

Walkabout Journey – San Mateo County Fair

Walkabout Journey

San Mateo County Fair

With Richard Dischler Photo Workshops (RDPW)

June 9–10, 2018

“If you can see your feet, you can see a photograph.”

Edward Weston

If you really open your eyes and observe your surroundings, you will discover exciting and unique images right where you walk.

We invite you to experience a Walkabout Journey at the San Mateo County Fair during a two-day workshop. Bring one camera—or a cell phone with built-in camera—and a healthy dose of enthusiasm and curiosity.

Richard Dischler will serve as a guide, and other members of the original RDPW will be available for one-on-one coaching.

So come, enjoy the adventure, and see where this journey takes you.

WALKABOUT DATES (Opening Weekend):
Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10, 2018
11:30 a.m.

Pre-Walkabout ORIENTATION:
Saturday, June 9, Fine Arts Gallery in the Expo Hall
11:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m., approximately half an hour

COST: $69.99

A post-event image review and final selection process will be held at the Richard Dischler Photo Workshops located at 220 S. California Avenue, Suite 115 A/B, Palo Alto, CA 94306 June 23 and June 24. Pick a day that works for you and pre register by sending email to Richard as above.

For those selected in the final review, there will be an additional fee for mounting, matting, and framing materials. When you are finished, you will have a beautifully framed, original photograph ready to hang. These details will be clarified on review days.

The Richard Dischler Photo Workshops is beginning its 10th year and continues to break new ground in the field of photographic education. Members from Dischler’s workshops continue to receive public recognition for their work in juried and non-juried local, regional, national and international art and photography exhibits.

Announcing RDPW Tutoring Program

Have you ever signed up for a class only to learn that you didn’t know as much as everyone else, or you knew more than anyone else, or—even worse—you didn’t know as much as you thought you knew?

Welcome to the RDPW Tutoring Program, where we meet you where you are in your photographic journey. You need more knowledge about Adobe Lightroom? Print processing? Camera functions? Cell phone applications? We have a tutor for you.

Not everyone wants or needs a class on any topic or on some topics. We have discovered that many simply want or need a focused session or more on their specific needs and wants.

To make this possible, the workshop has assembled a group of qualified individuals whose skill set has been approved by Richard Dischler.

$130 per hour for RDPW members
$150 per hour for non-members
*All fees paid to Richard Dischler

Location: RDPW (aka “Da Digs”)
220 S. California Avenue, Suite 115A/B
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Scheduling: All schedules arranged between participants

See the list of tutors.

Happy tutoring!

Bill is Back!

His kids and grandkids would like him to find something else to do.

He has read all the books he ever thought he could ever finish reading.

His siblings live in snow country.

There is only so much red wine one can drink.

So, Bill Graham is retiring from retirement and rejoining the workshop community of which he was such an integral part back in the old KSP days.

Bill possesses deep working knowledge of Adobe Lightroom, print processing, and all those seemingly insignificant but vital procedures that combine to create an exceptional, stand-out image—whether color or black-and-white.

We enthusiastically welcome his return and look forward to capitalizing on his knowledge and experience to bring all our final prints to the highest level of excellence possible.

Because isn’t the final print what photography is all about?

Basic Camera-1 – Fundamentals Class (April 8th)

Learn the Fundamentals of camera operation and photography methods in our Basic Camera-1 class

April 8, 2018

10:00am – 1:00pm

220 S. California Ave Suite 115A/B,  

Palo Alto, CA

$130 RDPW members / $150 non-members

The Basic Camera-1 class from the Richard Dischler Photo Workshops will cover the fundamental concepts of using any camera (DSLR, mirrorless, point & shoot, or mobile phone) in its creative modes to capture the images of your vision.  Take your camera off of Auto for more artistic results.  Additionally, an introduction to methods of image editing (post-processing) and composition will help you develop new skills you can immediately put to use.

The style of this class is to interleave topic discussion followed by practice of the newly learned concepts using your own camera.  We will cover the controls and adjustments in your camera and how they relate to the captured image.  You will use your camera to explore the affect of each control as we capture images in the vicinity of the classroom.  We will process some of your images in Lightroom to introduce you to the editing possibilities in this creative tool.

Topics covered in Basic Camera-1 include:

  • How digital cameras work – light, lenses, & electronics
  • Adjusting exposure controls and their impact on the captured image
  • Focus modes and light metering methods
  • The basics of image composition
  • A survey of post processing tools and examples of Lightroom editing
  • An overview of printing – printers, paper & ICC profiles
  • A discussion of other skill building opportunities

Bring your camera with a fully charged battery, and a removable memory card or cable for connecting to a computer USB port.  Your camera manual may also be useful to have with you to provide details of camera adjustment.

Our classes are small (4-6 students) to allow for one-on-one instruction – and we encourage lots of Q&A during the class.  Spend 3-hours with us and improve your photography!

Please contact us at for space availability and to sign up.

Mobile Device Photography Class

Learn how to create better photos using your mobile device.

March 10, 2018

9:30am – 12:30pm

220 S. California Ave Suite 115A/B,  

Palo Alto, CA

$130 RDPW members / $150 non-members

Mobile Device Photography from the Richard Dischler Photo Workshops can show you how to start creating photographs using your mobile device that go beyond basic snapshots and selfies.

The goal of this 3-hour class is to get a better understanding of mobile device photography, start taking better photos, basic editing, and get your images out of your mobile device. The class is structured in a lecture format with an opportunity to practice what you learn.

Topics covered include:

  • Basic mobile device photo functions
  • Apps and gadgets to go beyond the basics
  • In device editing
  • Exporting images to edit on a computer

Bring your mobile device of choice. You are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop with Adobe Lightroom installed to maximize the experience; however, it’s not required.

We offer small classes (6-8 students) to allow for one-on-one instruction opportunities.

Please contact us at for space availability and to sign up. Include what type of mobile device you use when signing up.

Call For Entries – SohoPhotoGallery 2018 National Juried Competition

This contest is highly recommended by Richard.

Deadline for Entries:
May 1, 2018

Winners will be Exhibited:
July 5 – July 21, 2018

About the competition:
Soho Photo Gallery, New York City’s longest running cooperative photography gallery, is pleased to announce its 22nd National Juried Competition. All photo-based works are eligible for this competition with no limitation as to subject matter or technique. Our juror, Paula Tognarelli, will choose approximately 40 photographs for exhibition in our gallery, located in lower Manhattan.

The Juror:
Paula Tognarelli is the Executive Director and Curator of the Griffin Museum of Photography. The Griffin Museum of Photography located in Winchester outside Boston, Massachusetts, is a nonprofit photography museum whose mission is to promote an appreciation of photographic art and a broader understanding of its visual, emotional and social impact. Ms. Tognarelli is responsible for producing over 54 exhibitions a year at the Griffin and its surrounding satellite and online gallery spaces. She holds an M.S. in Arts Administration from Boston University, BA from Regis College, is a graduate of the New England School of Photography and pursued her Masters in Education at Lesley University. Her full bio may be viewed here.

Eligibility: The competition is open to all photographers age 18 years old or older, excluding members of Soho Photo Gallery.

All submissions are made by uploading to

Awards: The awards include cash prizes from SPG for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Up to four Honorable Mentions will also be chosen and receive gifts provided by our sponsors.

To enter the competition click here

For a full prospectus click here

Women’s View Exhibit and San Mateo County Fair

“Women’s View – 2018”  

Redwood City, CA – call for artists

The 14th Annual San Mateo County Women’s View art show is open to women artists who live in OR are employed by, the County of San Mateo. Artists are encouraged to submit 2-dimensional artwork and photography that exemplifies their personal view of the world. Only ONE entry may be submitted ($10 entry fee).

Art will be exhibited in both the Caldwell and Community Galleries at 400 County Center in Redwood City from March 2 to April 30, 2018.

For ENTRY FORMS and rules contact Boris Koodrin, Curator for the San Mateo County Arts Commission, at boriskoodrin at

Note: All 100 entry requests are accepted on a first-come basis and all accepted entries are exhibited. Your date and time of request for an entry form will determine your place in line. If placed on a waiting list, your chance of getting accepted is still reasonable, though not guaranteed. 

There will be three prizes of $100 awarded and three Honorable Mention Awards. Awards will be presented during a Supervisors Meeting on the main floor of 400 County Center.


Also a reminder that the San Mateo County Fair will run from June 9-17 this year. If you wish to submit art to this year’s Fine Arts Galleria, entry forms are due by May 8, 2018. The online contest book and entry form can be found at later this month of February. We will be announcing two new events at the Galleria this year:

1) “Bay Area Masters Exhibition” sponsored by the Peninsula Museum of Art (entry must be in by April 2)

2) Found and Recycled Art — directed by Bay Area artist/sculptor/designer Eileen Borgeson.

ALSO: photographers are invited to sign up for the Dischler Workshops “Photo Walkabout” to take place on opening weekend at the fair.

The county fair website information will be updated for 2018 later in February.