Street Photographer Tony Van Le Captures Beauty in Brevity

Against a magenta and yellow background, a woman shields her eyes from the sun.

“The Magic Number.” All images © Tony Van Le, shared with permission

As John Koening writes in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, the term sonder refers to “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—an epic story that continues invisibly around you.” This profound feeling reveals itself in Tony Van Le’s street photography, circling around the meaningful coincidences that he captures instantaneously.

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Le is fueled by serendipity and strangeness. Having originally explored these grounds through music production, the artist has since moved toward manifesting a similar ethos through photography. Impassioned by the transient work of Vivian Maier, Le has spent years cultivating this calling, becoming more confident with focusing his lens on strangers over time. Purely candid and wondrously ephemeral, the artist approaches each street scene with a clear mind.

He explains, “When I’m out on the street, my mindset combines looking for the out-of-the-ordinary with trying to be a blank slate. By being fully attuned to the moment, I’m more open to the photographic potential of what I encounter.” Although fleeting, each snapshot is a reminder of the wonder that comes from being fully present and deeply sensitive toward life’s mundane charm.

Le has a number of ongoing projects, which you can find on his website. He will also be exhibiting at Gallery-O-Rama in July, so follow along on Instagram for updates.


A small girl frolics across a city bridge, a large cloud of fog shrouding the distance in front of her.

“Into the Unknown”

A man embraces an iguana standing on a newspaper box. Behind him is a fire truck that reads, "San Francisco Engine Co."

“Man and Iguana”

A figure walks carrying a mannequin's head.


A woman riding a motorbike on a crowded street carries a mannequin.

“Woman with Mannequin on Motorbike”

Two women dressed in niqab walk along the sidewalk with a stroller and child. A mural behind them depicts figures walking in the opposite direction.

“Diverse Pathways”

A bicyclist rides through a cloud of steam.

“Bicyclist and Steam”

Spiderman boards a city bus.

“Among Us”

A police officer grimaces. He stands in front of an art gallery while a bird on the sidewalk stands on top of a rodent.

“Police Officer, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Rodent”

As a figure walks along the sidewalk, a tree lines up with the photographer's field of vision, making the shrubbery look like hair.

“Nature’s Crown”

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