Nature is within us – Photo Paintings by Michael Nguyen

About the series

What is outside is no longer outside. Trees, forests, mountains, rivers, lakes. Michael Nguyen has transformed these elements in his artworks into feelings, fantasies and dreams. They become part of our inner nature, part of the human soul.

Through the subjective lens, Michael Nguyen gives all a new perspectives, a new soul. “Michael Nguyen's photography is the art of showing more than you can see. Making visible - worshipping the invisible, he walks with the third eye of a wanderer through the visual adventure of life.”

His works does not reflect reality but are the interpretation of a moment. In his art photography, the work is often created by making changes to the original photograph in image editing programs, where the creativity of the artist knows no bounds.

In my Photographic Paintings from my series "Nature is within us"  I work out a distinctive aesthetic effect of my pictures. Most of the motifs are outside, in daylight. Among my most popular motifs here are landscapes, riversides, forests. In the seasons autumn and spring I find the most popular moods for me. Characteristic for my pictures of this portfolio are blurred, blurred contours, sometimes scattered light and often the renunciation of the reproduction of details, similar in style to a painting.

This pictures taken in and around Gauting and in the Starnberg district - Gauting is a city in the Upper Bavarian administrative district of Starnberg and lies southwest of Munich on the river Würm.

The texts to the pictures were written by Bernd Wiedemann


The artworks

The Mill Wheel

The river Würm and its hydropower have always been important location factors for Gauting. Reismühle, Grubmühle, another former mill on today's Münchner Strasse, the power station on the main square, the wood grinders upstream bear witness to this. The mill wheel on the Lederersteg (here in the picture), on the other hand, turns by its own will, or as a representative of the Gautinger mill wheels of local history. These are no longer in use as a means of propulsion/production. But to do justice to the municipal coat of arms, there should already be a mill-wheel turning in the Würm in Gauting, and here it is.


Where the Emperor is born

... in the Gauting rice mill, according to the legend. There is no proof of this. However, some place and field names in the immediate vicinity may be connected with the origin of Charlemagne, such as the Karlsburg a few kilometers upstream of the Würm or the deserted historic Königswiesen, of which only St. Ulrich Chapel remains today. The Gauting coat of arms, whose mill wheel, emperor's coat, and crown on the tower of the rice mill shine far across the field, cannot be taken to imply the truth of the legend of Charlemagne: It was designed in the 1930s with reference to the Karlssage, the tower was built even later. Whether the name "Reismühle" originates from a phonetic variation of "Reichsmühle" or simply means "the mill in the middle of the brushwood" also remains disputed. On old representations of the mill, there is no shortage of bushes and shrubs in the surrounding area. Even without Charlemagne, the Reismühle remains a charismatic place whose beginnings are lost in the darkness of history. Located between prehistoric and Roman cemeteries, directly on the old Roman road, the Reismühlel today houses artists' studios, a boat workshop, and a fitness studio. Enough reasons for a visit...

Lights will guide you home

Some of the photo-paintings in this exhibition were taken during the first lockdown in spring 2020, in a special atmosphere on partly empty streets. “What will become?” was and is the question.

Under special circumstances, sometimes the view opens, and with it the understanding of what is seen. Everyday things, which otherwise receive no attention, emerge symbolically, and seemingly meaningful. It has always been before our eyes, and we did not see it, our head full of thoughts. The picture shows the road from Buchendorf to Gauting.

“My friend the tree is dead”

For a long time, the old oak tree was a prominent landmark south of SC Gauting, branching out like lightning. Even further south, at the edge of the field on the "Hiesenwiese", there were mounds of graves. Over time, the constant farming has razed them to the ground. Shortly after the picture was taken, the tree was felled for safety reasons.

Family walk

Who does not feel reminded of a painting by the impressionists Monet or Caillebotte in this photo by Michael Nguyen? The comparison is not so far-fetched: after the construction of the Munich-Starnberg railroad line in 1854, more and more city dwellers came to the romantic and charming Würm Valley for a cure or summer retreat, to relax and enjoy the enchanting landscape. Industry and companies also took advantage of the benefits of the location. Artists came with their daughters and wives, and they painted, drew portraits, taught, and indulged in all kinds of cultural activities. The villa colony of the Wilhelminian era thus brought the upper-middle-class cultural life to the craftsmen and farmers' village. Freethinkers such as the eccentric Theodor von Hallberg-Broich (the "Hermit of Gauting") or filmmaker Herbert Achternbusch found and still find a home in Gauting, at least temporarily. This explains the partly special "Gauting feeling" from the mixture of old-established, established cultural business and a touch of Bavarian anarchism...

13th June 1886: Ludwig's mysterious death

"I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others..." (Ludwig II Otto Friedrich Wilhelm von Wittelsbach)

Under mysterious circumstances, King Ludwig II of Bavaria died on June 13, 1886, in shallow water near Berg on Lake Starnberg. The official version of "death by drowning" is doubted by many, especially since His Majesty was a skilled swimmer. To this day, royalty, also known as Guglmänner, are struggling to reconstruct the facts. They are certain: it was murder, and the "Kini" (The diminutive version of König - King) is by no means insane. Whatever the case may be. The fairy-tale king is widely revered, soon one hundred and fifty years after his passing away. His commitment to building castles, which was severely criticized at the time, now brings the Free State annual revenues in the tens of millions. In terms of history and landscape morphology, Gauting cannot be separated from the Würmsee and the surrounding area. A large number of sights can be explored on foot or by bicycle. Many only at second, third, or even fourth glance.


The Reismühler field, ancient Gautinger cultural soil. The evening clouds gather over the historical Königswiesen: "Village desolation of the high and late Middle Ages as well as the abandoned Hofmarkschloss of the early modern times with its associated farm (Schloss Königswiesen").

To our right, just outside the picture: "Tumulus of prehistoric times as well as a cremation cemetery, inhumations and road of the Roman Empire (part of the Kempten-Gauting route). Straight ahead, about three hundred meters behind in the tree population: "Settlement of the Latène period as well as burial sites for burnt offerings of the Latène period and the Roman Imperial period.

Of all this, only the old Roman road can be imagined as a flat dam running across the field. People have lived in and around Gauting since prehistoric times. What did they find, what did they leave behind? Quotes: State Office for the Preservation of Monuments

The Absence

In 1347, Fußberg Castle was first mentioned in a document. The Knights of Fuß initially administered it as ministerial officials of the House of Wittelsbach. The castle and the surrounding park were rebuilt several times by different owners and now enjoy a mixed-use: the gastronomy in the faithfully reconstructed Salettl offers food and drink to the Gautingers, the small Schweizerhäusl on the upper edge of the park is a workshop for artists and goldsmiths. During the summer months, the Remise (pictured here) offers a varied program of concerts and art exhibitions. Marriages and child baptisms were celebrated under the large weeping willow tree in the lowlands, and at a summer festival, a child was demonstrably conceived. The castle itself is rented out to a communications agency, so it is hardly accessible to the citizens of Gauting. The castle pond also fell into private hands, which put an abrupt end to the popular ice skating and curling in winter. The castle does not reveal a secret: a tower is said to have stood in the park, the foundations of which have not been found to this day.

The expulsion of ghosts

Epiphany shooting on Keltenschanze sky 

On 6 January, the Raunächte (the rough nights), the "time between the years", ends. According to oral tradition, the wild hunt and other night ghosts are supposed to do their mischief in this time. They are sent back to the Epiphany with prayers and barking back into their borders. 

The Late Iron Age Keltenschanze near Buchendorf is one of the best-preserved Celtic square jumps in Bavaria. The original purpose of the complex has not been fully clarified. Investigations indicate a possible dual use as a profane and sacred area. Between the Celtic entrenchment and the Buchendorf pond, the route of the Roman road runs eastwards towards Salzburg. Neolithic finds and Bronze Age settlement traces on the Buchendorf field prove a long use of the area. Historians suspect that not all Roman roads were new constructions, but that existing older long-distance trade routes were also expanded.

In the darkest hours

Spruce protection in the forest of the Upper Taxet between Gauting and Buchendorf. Please do not enter such wild quiet areas and keep one’s dog on a leash in the forest. Who moves silently on forest paths leading through such forest areas may observe deer, hares, and birds at dawn or dusk that dare to leave their cover.

We should not put too much strain on the recreational area forest, which we urgently need. The Würm valley is formed by unique glacial terrain formations, communities worthy of protection, and many ground monuments, which are often difficult to recognize as such. Consideration in the forest also protects people: Wild boars hide their young in the undergrowth. Normally they avoid humans. However, if it comes between Frischling and mother-sow...

The work of art was awarded several times in 2020. Among others at the Sienna Creative Photo Awards, awarded in the category "Nature & Landscape". At the MIFA - Moscow International Photo Awards, it took third place and received the bronze medal in the category "Nature / Trees".


The exhibition

The ten works of art presented here will be on permanent exhibition at Gauting town hall (Munich area), Bahnhofstrasse 7, D-82131 Gauting after the Corona Lockdown

The first mayor, Dr. Brigitte Kössinger, writes in her welcoming address to the exhibition: "Are these paintings? Are they photos? No, the pictures you see here are both. This is wonderful photo art, which above all offers completely new perspectives on your old or new home Gauting. From simple brick walls, some of them grow individual insights into our community and the district. I am pleased that the artist and photographer Michael Nguyen has given us some of his works here as a permanent exhibition, bringing life and colorful joy to our hallways. Thank you for that. To visitors to City Hall, I wish you a stimulating view from the waiting area. Take advantage of the time and be inspired.”

After the Corona Lockdown
the Town Hall Gauting becomes a gallery

In the event of further visitor restrictions to the Gauting Town Hall after the lockdown, the exhibition can initially only be viewed by visitors to the Town Hall who have to come because of an urgent matter with an appointment. After withdrawal of the visiting restrictions for all visitors of the town hall at the regular opening hours.

Dr. Brigitte Kössinger, First Mayor

Exhibition sponsor

The artist expresses his sincere thanks to the Gauting company Ratzefummel, through whose financial support the exhibition could be realized.


Michael Nguyen takes photographs since 1988. He has been living in Munich since 2007 and moved to Gauting near Munich in 2015. After a long break in the cultural sector and after a sickness in 2018 he has dedicated himself entirely to art again. He is an artist, not a photographer but more a photographic poet or something he himself could not define. He moves away from the mainstream, at the same time blurs genres. Most of the time, he focuses on small, ordinary things but through the subjective lens, give them new perspectives, a new soul.

“Our head is round so that thinking can change direction – „a sentence by the writer and artist Francis Picabia, who inspired me as a young man interested in art and the art scene. Art broadened my perspectives and saved my soul.

Before I could consider myself lucky to work as an artist, medical nursing was my vocation. While working in the intensive care unit and the emergency room, I was confronted with great suffering and death. This certainly had an impact on my photographic work. Many of my photos, as one can see, are melancholic and sometimes a little bit dark.

I found my way to photography when I was a journalist for art and culture. One of my main subjects was “Greece”, and there was a lot to do with photography. Then, in close cooperation with Dr. Matthias Harder (now Director of the Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin), we laid the foundation for understanding the photographs of Herbert List and Walter Hege. Afterward, I was responsible for the direction, editing, and publication of the following articles by Dr. Harder. Since then, photography has opened up a whole new world to me.

For some personal reasons, I withdrew from art for many years. But since 2018 I have dedicated myself completely to artistic creation again, starting with restoring the past. In 1996, due to water leakage in the basement of my house, many negatives from the years 1988 to 1996 were damaged. I spent months of 2018 on restoring them. The results were my first series for years: “Historical Umbria” (1988), “Historical Prague” (1992), “Historical Berlin – Love Parade and CSD” (1992), “Historical Paris” (1994) and “Indonesia” (2005). With those, my way back to Photography had begun.

There is no particular person who has a major influence on my life or my photography. But I am inspired by a wide range of things. There are many interpersonal relationships of varying complexity that I consciously perceive in my environment, that I immerse myself in and that shape my way of perceiving and thus influence my choice of motif and also the final elaboration of the picture.

Having said that, as afore-mentioned, death and illness always have had a great influence on my life and my artistic work and have shaped me until today. I get inspired by little things that we often don’t notice in everyday life. I like to observe people and photograph them in everyday situations. I value and appreciate this life so much.

I always loved the photographs by Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Dorothea Lange, André Kertész. In the year 1988 when I was often in Italy, I started making photographs. After some experiments, I decided to go with black and white photography. Life is full of colors. – Yet, many of my photos often are not in colors, just black and white, light and dark, and everything in between. I want to concentrate on the form, the lines, and the mood. Amazingly, you can convey everything with all its nuances, the streets, the cityscapes, or even people’s emotions without colors. And the grayscales gives viewers the freedom to apply their own colors on my pictures. Colors from their memory. Colors from their imagination.

I need a lot of time to work on my pictures. The most important tools of my work are of course the eyes and ability to perceive things. I shoot sometimes with very simple devices, like a point and shoot camera or a smartphone. Some projects are created during my travels, spontaneously and without planning, – others require a lot of preparation. I visit a certain very often, studying the surroundings and the light until I decide at which hour I take photographs at that place. I decide in which format the pictures should be published later. Then various graphic software and apps are used to create the desired. My real artistic work, especially in the color department, begins afterward. The pictures are digitally processed and go through different stages until I have reached the mood, the sound, the effect, the emotion, and the meaning I want to express. Then the photo becomes a “painting” in which I show the real world of myself with all its beauty and horror. This makes my photographic art poetic, expressive, and distinctive.

Covid-19 changed the world and humanity immensely. I see the future of mankind rather gloomy because we destroy the environment and focus primarily on economic profit, many people concentrate exclusively on themselves and it shows that a peaceful coexistence even times like Covid-19 is difficult to make. Certainly, this lockdown time has created a unique and strange situation and also great opportunities for artists and creators to capture the essence of the world. I have been intensively observing the behavior of people in these days, the interaction between human beings and their activities in leisure time while driving down the “lockdown”. There we can see some light in the dark.

I had the great fortune to have the freedom to realize most of my wishes and plans. Nowadays, due to health restrictions and a small financial budget, I cannot travel far and long and implement big projects. My biggest wish is to make a reportage about the cities, life, human conditions in the metropolises like Saigon and Hanoi. Hopefully, it will be possible someday.

Visit Michael Nguyen



Other works from the series




11.12.2020: BIFA Budapest International Foto Awards 2020 – “Antimatter” was awarded  with Gold in Fine Art, Category Special Effects. “In the darkest hours” was awarded  with Honorable Mention in Fine Art, Category Landscape.”Stay at home” was awarded  with Honorable Mention in Fine Art, Other.

26.10.2020: IPA – International Photography Awards 2020 USA / Los Angeles: The series “The world and everyone we haven’t known”) awarded with Honorable Mention.

08.09.2020: PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2020: “Silver” in Fine Art/Digitally Enhanced for “Lockdown”

08.09.2020: PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2020: “Honorable Mention” for the photojournalistic documentary series “On the Streets of Solitude” in the category “Press/Feature Story”
08.09.2020: PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2020: “Bronze” in Special / Others Special for “Antimatter”
15.6.2020: Siena Creatve Photo Awards 2020: „In the darkest hours“ has been awarded: Commended in Category Nature & Landscape.
2.6.2020: MIFA Moscow International Foto Awards: „In the darkest hours“ has been awarded MIFA Bronze 2020 in Category: Nature/Trees
2.6.2020: MIFA Moscow International Foto Awards: The series “In unknown worlds of the subconscious” has been awarded MIFA Bronze 2020 in Category: Fine Art – Special Effects
2019: The photograph “From Darkness to Light….” was awarded at BUDAPEST INTERNATIONAL PHOTO AWARDS 2019 Winner: Bronze: Category: Fine Art Special Effects Professional BIFA 2019
2019: Award Fresh19 Bronze Reportage / London. The winning entries are from the album “The World and Everyone We Haven´t Known”. This is a recognition for Michael’s work of portraying human conditions in a very human and touching way.
2019: Award Fresh19 / London Carbon. Category Portraiture. “There are still shadows in and around me after the war in Afghanistan, but the warming lights of loved ones on my skin give hope….”

Exhibitions (Single)

Gauting / Germany: from mid-January 2021 Permanent Exhibition Photo-Paintings from the series “Nature is within us”: Rathaus Gauting, Einwohnermeldeamt, Bahnhofstraße.7, D-82131 Gauting

Gauting / Germany: 8.6.2021 – 25.7.2021 Exhibition “Heimat Gauting: Am Straßenrand” (print). A great number of the Gauting pictures of the series “By the roadside” will be shown in an exhibition (print) in the bosco Bürger- und Kulturhaus, Oberer Kirchenweg 1, 82131 Gauting

Krailling / Germany: 1.12.2019 – 29.2.20 Single Exhibition (print) “Frames” – 36 artworks, Atelierhaus Krailling
Krailling / Germany: 3.11.19 – 29.11.19 Single Exhibition (print) “Mit dem dritten Auge eines Wanderers durch das visuelle Abenteuer des Lebens” – 72 artworks, Atelierhaus Krailling
Tartu / Estonia: 23.9.19 – 21.10.19 Single Exhibition (print) “THE WORLD AND EVERYONE WE HAVEN’T KNOWN (IN THIS LIFE)” – 26 photographs, Cafe Ruunipizza

Exhibitions (Group)

Munich / Germany: 17.9.2020 – 30.1.2021 Group Exhibition (Print). My artworks „The lost heart“, „The red table“ and “The cultural historian in the museum“ have been selected for the Exhibition „Was Menschen berührt / What touches people“ organized by Paul-Klinger-Künstlersozialwerk e.V. Ort/Place: Bavarian State Ministry for Family, Labour and Social Affairs, Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Familie, Arbeit und Soziales, Winzererstr. 9, 80797 München

Others in: Budapest / Hungary, Berlin / Germany, Hanoi /Vietnam, Barcelona / Spain, Athen / Greece, Stockholm / Sweden, Gauting / Germany, Montreal / Canada, Los Angeles / USA, Bucharest / Romania, Washington DC / USA, Paris / France, Sofia / Bulgaria, Milan / Italy, Vienna / Austria, Budapest / Hungary, London / UK, Vancouver / Canada, Melbourne / Australia, Bobingen / Germany, Berg / Germany.

Publications / Press
7/8.11.2020: Starnberger Merkur / D-Munich (Print) The Münchner Merkur (Starnberg Edition )reports in today’s print edition about my new series “By the roadside”. The main focus of this article are the photographs I took in my hometown Gauting.
26.10.2020: Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) / D-Munich (Print & Online) The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports in today’s print edition (also in the online edition) about my new series “By the roadside”. The main focus of this article are the photographs I took in my hometown Gauting.
19.10.2020: My photograph “By the roadside # 67 – Wasserburg / Inn” published by PhotoVogue Italy
13.10.2020: C41 Magazine (Milano/Italy) editorially presents my series “Frames”: Michael Nguyen shows us that our life is made of frames
05.10.2020: “Lockdown” Photo of the Day in Digital Photo Magazine / USA – Braintree, Massachusetts
24.09.2020: The Münchner Merkur, Edition Starnberg reports in the print edition about the Prize for the photo “Lockdown” by Michael Nguyen, which the picture won at this year’s “PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2020” (2nd prize/silver Category Fine Art/Digitally Enhanced
15.09.2020: Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) / D-Munich (Print & Online) The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports in today’s print edition (also in the online edition) about the prize for the photo “Lockdown” by Michael Nguyen, which the picture won at this year’s “PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2020”.
20.08.2020: Dodho Magazine (Barcelona/Spain) editorially presents the series “On the streets of solitude” by Michael Nguyen
17.08.2020: Works from the series „Urban elements“, “On the streets of solitude”, “Frames”, “By the lake, in the forest and in the meadow” and “The ghosts of autumn” are presented with an interview in a Special Edition of Jaamzin Creative Magazine (Singapore)
17.08.2020: Michael Nguyen’s series „On the Streets of Solitude“ is presented at A Film Photography Magazine (Vancouver / Canada)
29.07.2020: Presented with my artistic architectural works (illustrated article) by the editorial staff of the sophisticated Architecture Magazine ArchEyes (Los Angeles I Madrid I Buenos Aires)
25.07.2020: Interview in: The Crazy Mind Magazine – Interviews with interesting people
19.07.2020: Interview published in Monovisions Black & White Photography Magazine illustrated with photographs from the series “On the streets of Solitude“.
15.7.2020: The JaamZIN Creative Magazine / Singapore editorially presents three works from my series „Nature is within us”
06.07.2020: The “Edge of Humanity Magazine” / USA – Pompano Beach, Florida editorially presents my series „On the streets of solitude“
25.6.2020: Picture of the series “Urban Elements” has been selected: Photo of the Day: Digital Photo Magazine / USA – Braintree, Massachusetts

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