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Tan Le, 2018

by John Tsiavis

Tan Le
Tan Le, 2018 John Tsiavis. © John Tsiavis

Tan Le (b. 1977) is an innovator in the field of neurotechnology. In 1981, Le arrived in Australia with her mother, sister, grandmother, aunt and uncle, all of them refugees who had undertaken the perilous boat journey from Vietnam. She excelled academically, beginning her university studies at age sixteen. Awarded honours degrees in law and commerce from Monash University, Le worked as a lawyer before shifting her focus to the field of technology. Inspired by her mother, Mai Ho, who became the inaugural mayor of the city of Maribyrnong in 1997, Tan Le was named Young Australian of the Year in 1998 for her outstanding community service in Melbourne’s Vietnamese community and was named one of Australia’s Most Successful Women Under 30. In 2011, she founded EMOTIV, a neuroinformatics company that develops mobile electroencephalography (EEG) systems used to advance the understanding of the human brain and accelerate the creation of life changing solutions. Among Le’s many awards are the Advance Global Australian Award for Information and Communication Technology (2012) and the G’Day USA Innovation Award (2014). She was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2013, and is both an Ambassador for the Status of Women and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. In 2018 she received the Industrial Research Institute Achievement Award – from the US organisation established in 1938 to enhance the effectiveness of technological innovation by networking the world’s best practitioners and thought leaders – honouring her ‘outstanding accomplishment in individual creativity and innovation that contributes broadly to the development of industry and to the benefit of society.’

Tan Le
Video: 10 minutes 27 seconds

John Tsiavis

‘I wanted to honour Tan Le with this portrait. She is a community leader, entrepreneur, business executive and an innovator in technology. Her pursuits and passion has enabled us to further understand the potentials of the human brain. With the portrait I wanted to also pay tribute to Tan’s past, her family and her refugee story. It would have been perhaps easy to overlook or disregard a small refugee girl, but I wanted to show that our humanity and kindness can give someone an opportunity that unlocks her potential to enhance and change our world forever.’

John Tsiavis (b. 1977), is a commercial photographer, working across portraiture, entertainment and editorial projects. Tsiavis started his photographic career working as a film stills photographer on Australian feature films Head On, Chopper, Ned Kelly and Jindabyne, and went on to work in the entertainment industry creating images for film, musicals, theatre and television series including The Secret Life of Us and Summer Heights High. Formerly Melbourne-based, he now works in Los Angeles, primarily as a portrait and fashion photographer and director of television commercials. Tsiavis’ portrait and fashion photographs have been published in high-end journals including Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, and some of his entertainment clients include HBO, Disney, Sony Music and Warner Music. Tsiavis was a finalist in the Olive Cotton Award in 2011, and he was shortlisted for the National Photographic Portrait Prize in 2013 and 2016. His portraits of Chris Lilley, Bud Tingwell and Christos Tsiolkas are in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. Over twenty of Tsiavis’ portraits were displayed in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2014 exhibition PROMO: Portraits from prime time.

The mirror coating technology used in Tsiavis’ portrait of Tan Le was developed by Industry Associate Professor Colin Hall of the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia.

Commissioned with funds provided by the Sid and Fiona Myer Family Foundation 2018

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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