About me



Maika Elan (aka Nguyen Thanh Hai) is a professional photographer based in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. 


After studying sociology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, Maika discovered her passion for photography. Since 2006, she has been capturing moments of her daily life using various cameras, including Lomo's family cameras. In 2008, she embarked on a professional photography journey, collaborating with editorial clients and fashion firms in Vietnam.


In 2010, Maika shifted her focus to documentary photography, and her first project, titled "The Pink Choice," delved into the personal lives of gay couples in Vietnam. The project garnered widespread recognition, with publications in esteemed magazines across the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain, China, India, and Brazil...


Maika's talent and dedication earned her prestigious accolades, including the "best photo essay" and "best single photo" awards in 2010 at the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation. Additionally, "The Pink Choice" was named a finalist at the Asian Women Photographers competition in 2012.


In 2013, Maika's remarkable work continued to receive acclaim. "The Pink Choice" won first prize in the Contemporary Issues category at World Press Photo 2013, as well as the top prize for documentary storytelling at Pride Photo Award 2013.


Maika's passion for photography led her to participate in the renowned 2013 Joop Swart Masterclass in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and she was selected for the VII Mentor program from 2014 to 2016. In recognition of her accomplishments, Maika was honored in the Forbes Vietnam 30under30 list in 2014.


Continuing her impressive trajectory, Maika was chosen as one of the six talented individuals for the inaugural 6x6 Global Talent Program in Southeast Asia & Oceania in 2017, an initiative organized by The World Press Photo. The following year, she received nominations for the Elliott Erwitt Havana Club 7 Fellowship and the Visionary Award.


In a testament to her expertise and influence, Maika has been invited to serve as a global jury member for the esteemed 2023 World Press Photo Contest.

Currently, Maika remains actively engaged in the field of photography, undertaking various roles such as photographer, photo editor, judge, and mentor.  





·      NEW QUEER PHOTOGRAPHY, Berlin, Germany.

·      WOMEN EXHIBITION (by World Press Photo), Geneva, Switzeland.


·      THE MEKONG SERIES, Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, France.


·      POST – REPOST-SHARE, Bangkok, Thailand.

·      GIRLS TOWN at Festival Pil’Ours, France.


·      WOMEN IN PHOTOGRAPHY at Objectifs, Singapore.

·      #DYSTURB - #WOMENMATTER, Preus Museum, Horten, Norway.


·      LIVEABLE CITIES, Quito, Ecuador.

·      NO TO SORROW, Goethe Institut, Hanoi, Vietnam.


·      GUATE PHOTO, Guatemala, Central America.

·      DISLOCATION/NEGOTIATING IDENTITY, Massachusetts, United States.

·      JAKATAR BIENNALE 2015, Indonesia.

·      PHOTOQUAI - musée du quai Branly, Paris, France. 

·      THE PINK CHOICE, Copenhagen, Denmark.

·      LIKE MY FATHER, Hanoi, Vietnam.


·      FAMILY SNAP, Chiang Mai, Thailand

·      DOCfield, Barcelona, Spain

·      PRAGUE PRIDE, Czech

·      Republic GETXOPHOTO, Bilbao, Spain  

·      CAN YOU SEE ME?, Singapore  

·      MADE IN ASIA, Toulouse, France  


·      QUEER FESTIVAL, Florencia, Italy. CHOBI MELA, Dhaka, Bangladesh.


·      THE PINK CHOICE, Goethe Institut, Hanoi, Vietnam.  

·      WORLD EVENT YOUNG ARTISTS, Nottingham, UK.  


·      EMERGENCY ROOM, Hanoi, Vietnam.

·          CREATIVE ECONOMIES, Kulalumpur, Malaysia.




Experiences and Award:



·      Global jury members for the 2023 World Press Photo Contest. 


·      Jury members for the POY Asia.

·      Jury members for the EU4Youth Photo Mentorship.

·      Jury members for the Creation Grand. 

·      Nominated for the Higashikawa Award.


·      Jury members for the 6x6 Global Talent Program in Southeast Asia & Oceania- an initiative organized by The World Press Photo Foundation.


·      Nominated for the Elliott Erwitt Havana Club 7 Fellowship 2018.

·      Nominated for the Visionary Award.


·      Selected talents of the first 6x6 Global Talent Program in Southeast Asia & Oceania - an initiative organized by The World Press Photo Foundation.


·      Forbes Vietnam 30under30 list in 2014.


·      Participant in the 2013 Joop Swart Masterclass.

·      The Pink Choice won 1st prize stories, Contemporary Issues, at World Press Photo 2013.


·      World Events Young Artist Festival in Nottingham, UK.

·      Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand  


·      Angkor Photo Workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia

·      Indochina Media Memorial Foundation (IMMF) workshop in Hanoi,Vietnam


·      Emergency Room exhibition format in Hanoi, Vietnam.

·      Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival.

·      Asia-Europe Forum for Young Photographers in Kular Lumpur, Malaysia.