Street Photographer Takes Impromptu Portrait of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Actor

kien quan avatar aang gordon cormier last airbender netflix street photographer
Kien Quan’s epic portrait (left) of Gordon Cormier who plays Avatar Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender (right)

A street photographer has gone viral with his epic impromptu portrait of actor Gordon Cormier who plays Avatar Aang in Netflix’s hit series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Photographer and videographer Kien Quan has amassed over 4.9 million followers on TikTok with his dynamic and spur-of-the-moment portraits of ordinary people that he meets on the streets in his daily life.

However, earlier this month, Quan spotted actor Gordon Cormier on the streets of New York City — just a few days after the photographer had watched his television series Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix.

In a TikTok video, that amassed over 29.6 million views, Quan revealed how he approached Cormier who plays the lead character of Avatar Aang on the show and captured him in a portrait.

Quan’s photograph shows Cormier mid-air on his skateboard. The image was praised by social media users for making the Avatar: The Last Airbender star “look like a real-life Airbender.”

“Usually I’m a TikTok creator who films strangers on the streets. I love telling stories about people through photographs,” Quan tells PetaPixel.

“That morning, I was doing some shots for my friend as a favor and I thought I would head out to see if I could spot anyone for a video too.

“I had literally just watched Avatar: The Last Airbender a few days ago. Then my friend spotted Gordon Cormier and said ‘Dude, I think that’s Avatar Aang!'”

A Photo Shoot with an Avatar

After speaking with Cormier and his Netflix representatives, Quan shot the Avatar: The Last Airbender actor on his Nikon Z8 as he landed a trick on his skateboard in between interviews.

Content creator Quan, who was a leading professional dance photographer, called the shoot with the actor an “organic process.”

As well as doing the photos of Cormier, Quan collaborated with animator Manthila Bandara, who is also a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, to help create the video portraits of him.

Quan had the idea of animating elements coming out of Cormer in mid-air as a way of paying homage to the character that he plays — as well as visually describing the idea of being in his “element” while skateboarding.

“I don’t bump into celebrities every day with my TikTok videos. There is a fanbase with a gigantic, emotional connection with Avatar: The Last Airbender and I think that’s why that photo resonated with people,” Quan says.

“I think Gordon Cormier also has a huge talent for skateboarding which made the portrait go viral. That was unexpected for people.

“I try to convey the story of the person through my portraits and what their energy is on that day. I think that’s what made that photo special.

“It was also meaningful for me to take his portrait. Growing up, it was incredibly rare to see famous Asian Americans that were portrayed in a positive light like they are celebrated in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

“It meant a lot to me to create this photo and contribute in my own way to the current buzz that is happening around the show.”

More of Quan’s work can be seen on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

Image credits: All photos by Kien Quan.