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Spiva Center for the Arts Joplin MO


January 11 – March 14, 2020

Flexible Itineraries: Far From the Madding Tourist Bus

Sponsored by Lance and Sharon Beshore


Ron and Thao met in Saigon in 2008 and quickly discovered their mutual interest in photography. Since then, they have traveled about the world together, cameras in tow. They are married and live in Joplin, Missouri.

Ronald G. Erwin is a lifelong resident of Joplin, Mo. He majored in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia and later founded and managed 2 legendary stores that dealt in books, music, movies, and all things collectible. The second store included a full-service photo center that kept alive the traditions of film photography into the digital age. He also wrote a series of advertising campaigns for those stores that received regional and state awards.

Thao Le Huong Nguyen is a native of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She majored in English and business and began pursuing photography immediately after graduation. She also paints and creates hand-formed clay and paper flowers. Her photographs have been chosen for publication in the Gia Dinh international photography contest and she has been awarded 2nd place in PhotoSpiva for 3 consecutive years, 2017-19.

Ron and Thao had exhibitions at the Black Moon Gallery in Saigon in 2012 and 2013 and they maintain a gallery in Joplin, Missouri.


“I’ve loved watching people since I was a young boy, and I’ve always been fascinated by photographs that reveal people’s strength and beauty. Early on, I discovered the portraiture of the 1930s, from George Hurrell’s movie stars to Dorothea Lange’s migrant families to Charles Conlon’s baseball players (and years later, the rescued photographs of Michael Disfarmer’s Arkansas hill people).

In the 12 years I’ve been traveling internationally, I’ve photographed more than 15,000 different people, almost always one or two at a time. It’s an honor to be invited into their lives, if only for a moment, to allow them to see themselves through my eyes.” -Ron Erwin

“I want my photography to be a connection between people, countries, and cultures. Photography allows me to express inner feelings about what I see and what I want to see. Photography is a close friend that encourages me to stop and observe and keep all the precious moments of life.” – Thao Nguyen




“Celebrate the creative experience – be a community catalyst.”