While taking more than 20,000 photos for this book all around Hanoi, I have found that the women are often quite shy about having their photo taken, especially if they are not looking their best. Men, on the other hand, love to get their photos taken anywhere and at any time.
Some women and uniformed personnel will yell ‘Khong, Khong’ (No, No !!), so I would just say ‘Xin Loi’ (Sorry) and walk off. Sometimes it’s just to show their territory, and once a woman said no when I was in the flower market taking a photo of a flower. Don’t let that put you off, as there are plenty of people who will ignore you, or pose for a photo and love it. It is photographer heaven !!
If you’re out taking photos and you say you will make a copy, please do so. It is also expected that you get them laminated to protect them from the high humidity and get a CD with all their photos on it. It is cheap as chips, and I’ve found it to be an awesome experience taking photos back to the people; they really love it and appreciate you taking the time to do it. They quite often appear amazed as if they have never seen a photo of themselves, jumping, squealing or staying quiet with their eyes glued to the image. Make sure they are good ones, as it is very important to them to look good, just like us. Most of the people who I have taken photos back to didn’t made it into this book.
Of course some people will ask for money by rubbing their fingers together. I’ve only paid a couple of people who have asked, but mostly I say sorry and just walk off.
90% of the photos here were taken by me, out on the streets, riding a motorbike or walking around is how you capture these shots. For a few years I have always carried my camera and been ready a split seconds notice. My Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 as been my best friend and even survived bouncing down a footpath a couple of times.
People sometimes ask me if it ok to photograph people and publish them in a book without getting everyone’s permission and that is a fair question. My view on this is, I have seen myself in different publications without my permission, and let’s face it, most newspapers do this on a daily basis, and their readership is massive.
The photographs in this book have been taken as recently as June 2010 and the oldest is from 2006 when I first started this project. It is hoped that all photos reflect the current lives of a diverse mix of today’s Vietnamese, as you will discover there is a massive wealth disparity among its people.