A letter to my younger self • Yen Duong

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Given the chance, what advice would you give your younger self? We asked journalist, photographer and One World Media award winner, Yen Duong to take a trip down memory lane and share the advice she wishes she’d received as a young journalist.


Hello there,

I hope you are well.

I understand it is not easy starting out. And I’m here to tell you that things will turn out for the better, as long as you keep walking.

In photography, walking means exploring. Everybody has their own pace and it influences the works they do. You might feel the urge to race forward, but listen to your body and try to find the pace that suits you well. Embrace your slow walks. At one point, you’ll realise that walking slowly allows you to notice things that are often overlooked, and maybe one step closer to people who are left behind.

You often feel frustrated being a young woman navigating around, doing what you do. Bureaucracy and institutional discrimination will at times make your insecurities validated. You are expected to stay in your place, you are told you are difficult to work with, you are mocked because you are trying to be ethical in your work. They put a label on you, and expect you to stay in that zone only. It’s economical, it’s business. Don’t fall into that trap. Be that difficult woman.

I’m here to tell you that you can do whatever you want, and ideally should have been allowed to go anywhere you would like to, even when your passport colour makes you look unwanted everywhere. Reality might turn desires sour, but please keep walking. New things are awaiting.

I will just give you an advice about money, as I know it’ll be your obsession for eternity – since you won’t have a lot of it. Make sure you claim your own rights and fight for your own good.

It’s okay to make mistakes. They are what make me today.




Yen Duong is a Vietnamese journalist and photographer currently based in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. She has documented stories from the trauma of Palestinian teens being kept under house arrest in East Jerusalem, home demolitions in the Bedouin communities in the oPt, and young Vietnamese girls being trafficked and sold to China, to the impact of rapid urbanization on marginalized communities in southern Vietnam and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her works have been published by Reuters, Bloomberg, the Guardian, Al Jazeera, South China Morning Post and more


Calling all aspiring journalists and filmmakers!

Apply to the One World Media Fellowship! The Fellowship supports new talent from around the world to produce engaging and creative media in developing countries. Selected fellows receive a £1000 production grant, one-to-one mentoring and a year-round programme of industry workshops and webinars.


Deadline for entries: 2 April 2020