*** All images taken with Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens ***
Sorry to have fallen off the radar for a week or so, but I've been a bit busy...and not always in a place with good internet connectivity...which is saying something for the land of wifi!
From Hoi An I took yet another bouncy poor quality bus to Hue. This town has rebuilt itself after it was demolished during the TET Offensive (American/Vietnam War), and it's not really a pretty place. Anything is a hard act to follow after Hoi An though, so I don't want to sound too harsh. It has a nice energy about it though...despite it's past. It's a university town and at the moment it's summer holidays, so there were a lot of young people populating the groovy cafes and coffee houses. The main reasons people visit Hue is as a base for a long day trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); to wander through the Citadel (a source of pride for the locals); to cruise along the Perfume River that divides the town in half; to take a tour around the Royal tombs located in the wider area around the city; and to sample the local food which is hailed to be the best in Vietnam due to its royal past. I didn't do any of these things! My reason for going there was to try to capture the amazing fishing net images I'd seen in photographer's galleries along the way. The fishermen throw their large circular cast-nets from their small wooden boats, and when the light is right you can catch it lighting up the nets. I'd been given a local photographer contact (Mr Vung), so I had high hopes of getting the shots I was looking for.
The first snag was that Mr Vung doesn't speak any English, and neither did any of his staff or family, so we had to rely on Google translate to communicate. Google has a bit of work to do before their English/Vietnamese translation is accurate. Based on some of the English that was appearing I can only imagine what I must have been saying in Vietnamese!
The second snag was that those lovely fishing net images don't just happen naturally. They are commercially produced and I would need to hire some fishermen for a couple of hours to create these images. My Pollyanna bubble had been burst! Here I was thinking that the Vietnamese photographers were masters of catching the moment, but many of the images I'd been looking at were staged. They are still beautiful images, but just not as spontaneous as I had thought. Perhaps I was being naive.
After 90 minutes of slow backwards and forwards Google translation we had reached a point where we'd arranged for me to come back in the afternoon and we'd go out to some of the local villages to see what we could find. We ended the conversation with me saying that we'd be able to communicate easier when we were both shooting as we'd then have a common language. Mr Vung's response (or Google's really)...was "Yes. We all taste the same." I couldn't help but laugh. Yes Mr Vung, we probably do all taste the same...but I know what you meant.
It's been such a pleasure to be shooting with local photographers on this trip. We all come from the same place technically, yet have different creative styles influenced by our environments. I've certainly been inspired and influenced by them...and I hope I've also managed to reciprocate.
The villages around Hue are such a contrast to the bustling town only minutes away. I'm constantly amazed at how quickly life transitions from urban to rural in Vietnam. Within moments residential houses give way to rice paddies and grazing buffaloes....and a much poorer, simpler way of life. With Mr Vung's help I was able to get some great images of girls making the conical hats (this is not child labour by the way...it's a traditional craft that's handed down through the generations), and a wonderful lady whiling her time away on the Japanese bridge in the cool breeze. I also got some great portraits of ladies working at a small market that lined a bridge crossing the creek...and I went tramping through the rice paddies to photograph the guy with his buffalo and the lady with her cows. They probably thought I was a little mad coming after them signalling that I wanted to take their photo, but they were nice to oblige and I thank them for humouring the crazy lady!
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