Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Mekong Delta portraits

A week in the Mekong Delta in the build-up to the Tet holiday.  A week of friendly people, fresh seafood, very few cars, floating markets and flower-lined streets.  A week that wasn’t long enough.

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153 Responses to “Mekong Delta portraits”

  1. Todd Materazzi Photography

    Timeless, priceless and wonderful – which are the photographs and people in portrait. Great series.
    Sincerely
    Todd

    Reply
    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you! I had intended to write a little more in this post, but decided to let the pictures speak for themselves.

      Reply
  2. Jody and Ken

    All great. You must have a remarkable touch with people to put them so at ease with being photographed. Do you generally speak to them before shooting, or just take the shot and hope no one’s offended? Ken

    Reply
    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you! I nearly always speak to people first. I don’t use very long lenses (nothing over 105mm), so I’m physically quite close to the people I’m photographing. I like to establish some kind of connection, even if it’s only through nodding, smiling and my very basic Vietnamese. If someone says no or obviously isn’t comfortable, then I don’t take their picture. I’ll often hang around in one spot for a while, until people get used to me being there, realise that I’m just a harmless idiot with a camera, and start to relax.

      Reply
      • Jody and Ken

        Thanks for the reply. I think you’ve inspired to get out and walk around. I mostly photograph food and the 24 – 105 is my go-to lens. I should spend more time wandering outside with it. Ken

      • Life Voyage Photoblog

        wow thanks for the tips, it’s something that I’m trying to get used to, to get people at ease with me (a stranger) taking their photos 🙂 nice portraits the photos speaks by themselves

  3. Raed Al-Jawad

    WOW! so vibrant and sharp, I wonder what lens and F stop you are using and do you apply some post effects? really nice shots and what make them great, they tell a culture and story.

    Reply
    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you! These were all taken with a 24-105mm f/4 lens on a Canon 5D, mostly at f/4. I process my pictures in Lightroom, just to add little oomph to the colours.

      Reply
      • Jura

        Beautiful photos – I was going to ask the same thing about how you got such depth and rich colour. Thank you! But of course regardless of Lightroom your subjects are fantastic!

  4. folamiwilliams2011

    I love the photos. You not only capture the people, but pieces of their story as well!

    Reply
  5. maryfollowsthelamb

    My favorite one is the second one from the top – the woman of wisdom with laughing eyes. I like the fact that you did not just post pictures where everyone is happy and smiling, but a real slice of life. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Cheri Lucas

    Oh, these colors. These portraits are vibrant and beautiful. You’ve captured daily life and the spirit of this place within faces and smiles. Lovely work.

    Reply
  7. allisondh

    Beautiful portraits! also, jealous! I dream of a trip through the Mekong delta. Looks as beautiful as I’ve heard.

    Reply
  8. Elsy

    Thank You – for all the Marvelous photos from Mekong Delta portraits – so Beautiful work.

    Reply
  9. Eagle-Eyed Editor

    What wonderful photographs! I love the wide range of generations and facial expressions. Portrait #2 (woman in the green & white top) rather reminds me of the famous “Migrant Mother” photo by Dorothea Lange — she looks like she could handle anything. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    Reply
  10. perpetualflaneur

    Hi John, wonderful photos you have here! I cannot wait for more! By the way, what are the specs of you camera to produce such work? Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Cabbie Notes

    You have talent in taking photos of people. You’re photos really tell quite a story. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more of your work. Cheers.

    Reply
  12. BobR

    Some great shots! Really looking forward to returning to that corner of the world again.

    Reply
  13. Fiona Pimentel

    Wonderful photos. As someone said they are timeless, as I recognise some of the scenes from my mother’s paintings, from when she lived in the Far East 60 years ago!

    Reply
  14. findingwonderwoman

    Beautiful pictures. I spent two weeks in Vietnam last year and that was nowhere near long enough. Such an amazing country, bit sad my happy snaps don’t look much like yours though.

    Reply
  15. cam80

    Very moving work. After traveling overseas during the past year, seeing and photographing the story-filled faces of such people myself for the first time, I can really appreciate your art!

    Reply
  16. mutyang

    Oh, I love the deep colors. I like how the skin color of the people are highlighted as such. This is really beautiful.

    Reply
  17. gds.lucystoner

    Lovely portraits! It is the one subject matter I can’t seem to get right… so I envy those who do portrait photography very well. Yours are inspiring!

    Reply
  18. crimsondaisy

    I love these shots! They are beautiful. Do you ask them to pose or just click random shots of them?

    Reply
    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you! I think the best shots are where people feel comfortable with having a photographer there. I usually like to have eye contact, but try to capture something natural, rather than someone’s “camera face.” This often involves hanging around in one spot for a while and taking a few shots – when people feel relaxed, that’s often when I get the pictures that work the best.

      Reply
  19. sanjalee

    Vibrant colors and great use of natural lights => Awesome shots! I Last three pics are just wonderful!! 🙂

    Reply
  20. ccjay

    These photographs are beautiful. So rich with culture and warmth. I love them all but the third picture of old man at counter is my favourite. 🙂 They all tell a story without saying a word. You’ve captured awesomeness. Thank you

    Reply
  21. hannahbanana

    I live in HCMC myself, but you’ve definitely made many ordinary sights look less common and much more fresh and interesting! Love the contrast, great photography.

    Reply
  22. lisslissliss

    Incredible photographs. You capture so much depth but also vibrancy and culture. You take extremely stunning photos, therefore I must now follow you! 🙂

    Reply
  23. sleepwalkingintokyo

    Wow! such wonderful portrait photos! and I love the vividness and contrasts of these photos! Btw. do you ask for their permission before you take their photos!? I’m a bit afraid of taking photos of strangers as I’m not sure if they like to be photographed…

    Reply
    • Jon Sanwell

      Thanks! In pictures like these, where a person is the obvious subject of the picture, yes, I do ask for permission, usually just by holding up the camera and smiling idiotically. If someone says no or obviously isn’t comfortable, I’ll move on.

      Reply
  24. Rosy

    Excellent Photographs!!
    Beautifully capture the expression of the people and there life.

    Reply
  25. eataduck

    Just beautiful man, I’ve been to Vietnam and this brings back more memories than a bunch of scenic shots, very nice job!

    Reply
  26. culturelites

    Very evocative potraits, with people and their everyday context. Brings out the human essence in each of them. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  27. brightworm

    The Mekong River of Vietnam is a wonderful place. Have you visited or taken any pictures on the river? I first visited in October 2010. My personal fave pictures that I’ve taken are those of the floating market and the boats.

    Reply
  28. {lv}

    These are great! I love portraits and seeing the person’s expression and details.

    Reply
  29. mosiiechic

    I am in love with this entire portfolio. The poses almost look as if this was a deliberate editorial, but at the same time they have a candid feel to them. It makes this look very well structured and rich – wonderful storytelling through solid composition and knowing when to capture just the right moment. Keep shooting! This is fabulous.

    Reply
  30. littlesquares

    those pictures are far beyond wonderful! the lights are incredible, the expressions are amazing, there’s just so much in them!

    Reply
  31. beingjulz

    These are absolutely wonderful!! It’s hard to pick favorites as each face tells such a great story. The two that really caught my eye at the moment – the gal in pink with the red fruit and the girl on the boat eating and gazing off into the distance. Can’t wait to look around some more.

    Reply
  32. A Story of Light

    Amazing work! Incredible color. I am a sucker for portraiture, I love the fact that each image comes with it’s own story, it’s own energy.

    Reply
  33. Michelle

    these are incredible. i went to vietnam in college one summer. these photos really bring back memories of my trip and all the amazing people we met

    Reply
  34. millayt

    Truly enjoyable…love the boy in the hat! You really got some fantastic people in this series. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    Reply
  35. Lady Lost

    These pictures are so inspiring. I often wish I could get up so close to people. I see the shots but lack the courage to approach people. These have given me motivation to put myself out there!

    Reply
  36. lou28

    Reblogged this on lou28 and commented:
    All the sides to Vietnam that I could never capture for you with my limited photographic experience

    Reply
  37. Tata Fata

    Hi Jon! Your photos are wonderful! I’ll be on the Mekong Delta next week or so, to make even just one shot nearly close to one of yours would made my day! Thank so much for such beautiful poetry!

    Reply
  38. hermosausaadmin

    Amazing shots! The color saturation is what caught my eye at first. Then, when taking a closer & slower look at each pic I love how they felt so intimate. You can really pick up a sense of connection between you & your subjects who chose to face the camera directly. I find it interesting how hardened the look of the young man on the bike (pic #6) was compared to the elders who more readily & openly smiled. Made me think with age comes wisdom & acceptance. ^_^ Congrats on being FP! Have a great day!

    Reply
  39. Wes B.

    A wonderful series of photographs showing wonderful people. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  40. Aaron

    Great photos – this is something I’d like to do as well but just can’t get the courage to speak to the people!

    Reply
  41. tananastyle

    Love the pics! The colours are so vibrant and the people’s expressions are great.
    Would love to visit Vietnam one of these days.

    Reply

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