Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Winter sun


We love to moan about the weather in Hanoi. The English national obsession with the climate is perfectly at home here in northern Vietnam. Most of all, we love to moan about the Hanoi winter. Grizzled expats spend the summer months regaling newcomers with tales of the horrors that await them: the cold, the drizzle, the damp, the fog, the greyness, the mould. Oh God, the mould. My Vietnamese students, meanwhile, bring out their hats, coats and scarves as soon as the temperature drops below 25. “But this is like summer in England,” I tell them. Amidst all this bellyaching, we tend to forget the dry, bright, crisp winter days of December and (fingers crossed) January.

I like the changing of the seasons. Changes in the weather mark the passage of time, punctuating the year. In 2012, I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, where it’s always hot, and I missed the passing of the seasons. In my memory, that year in the south feels like one long indistinct stretch of time, with little to distinguish one month from another. Here in Hanoi, for a few months of the year, I get to swap my shorts and t-shirts for jeans and jacket, escape from air-conditioning, and feel that time is moving on.

These winter days are perfect for taking street portraits in the weak sunshine or under the high white cloud. These pictures, taken over the last two or three weeks, are my tribute to the Hanoi winter.

(Disclaimer: the author reserves the right to whine and carp, at length, about the weather when the damp and the mould kick in.)

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5 Responses to “Winter sun”

  1. Andrew

    Excellent portraits, Jon. I’m like you. Seasons are important to me. I could never settle in Singapore.

  2. Simon

    I just came back from Hanoi, I got caught out with how chilly it was. Spent my time sleeveless and shaking! – love your street portraits.

  3. Arnaud

    Really great portraits here Jon! And it’s just a point of view but to my opinion streets portraits gains a lot of sense being taken with environmental angle given by 24 to 35mm lenses.

    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you. I agree with you about environmental portraits – these were all taken at 35mm. Although having said that, I’ve recently been enjoying using my 85mm lens for closer framing.


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