To travel through Vietnam, to traverse this fabulous country and to meet both urban and agricultural populations, is tremendously enriching for a street photographer. Not a street corner, not a meter of sidewalk or bare earth fails to catch the eye with a scene of daily life. The street life in Vietnam is intense. Omnipresent. And wonderfully mesmerizing. It doesn’t take long to understand that Vietnam is a country full of photographic opportunities. From its multitude of different landscapes, each one more spectacular than the last, to the lives of people in its bustling cities where even crossing the street is a real challenge, the spirit and the essence of this country permanently mark you. Time spent here is a time filled with the pleasure of being immersed in the traditional life, even the population, and it is felt like a rich human adventure of simple and authentic encounters.
My trusty camera Olympus OMD-5 in hand (and only one lens: a 12-50mm f / 3.5-6.3 that allows me to quickly address all situations), I traveled across the length of the country, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, passing through the central highlands and reaching the inescapable Mekong River whose peace grabs you as much as the incredible energy that flows from each of the river’s arms around the hardworking people here – the contrast is striking.
A thousand photographical approaches to the country were possible. But as a street photographer, my work could be born only through my desire to show the daily life in the cities and rural areas, to discover and experience something beyond the simple observation. I have often thought that my camera was a glance that stopped on what the human eye saw only superficially in everyday life, and this once again proved true. The playful smile of a child seen briefly in passing, becomes, by binding it to the paper, the most beautiful moment of complicity between the photographer and model. Something infinitely large issues forth from the photo. Emotions overflow, we see them, we feel them. This is what always interested me about the practice of street photography. The photo below is an example.
I knew nothing of Vietnam. The little I knew of its culture I gathered from briefly perusing a few books before leaving. So it was difficult to know what to expect. It was a leap into the unknown, from one planet to another, and I wondered how the Vietnamese would welcome my photographic intrusion, how I could express my presence just as much as my discretion. No stressful confrontation with local people should ever develop, no tension, no sense of invasion. And there was my surprise! Some residents were intrigued and stared right into my camera, others seemed proud that we are interested in them and willingly let themselves be photographed. Big smiles marked faces, hearts opened, older people offered a piece of fruit or a coffee, while the younger ones were pulling on my camera to see their image on the LCD screen.
All of them gave me the chance to capture a moment of their lives, and their trust caused strong emotions to well up in me, allowing me to say today that the Vietnamese people are a generous and endearing people.
I returned from this trip with more than 400 photos. We had to choose only a few, and it was difficult as the memories already made their mark in every shot. I will long remember all the moments when I met with an extraordinary simplicity and intensity. There is no doubt that my future work will reflect all of these memories.