Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Happy graffiti (and other pictures)

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A few more pictures from my early days in Yangon; like in Hanoi, so much of life here happens out on the street.

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Yangon tough guys (YSP #1)

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I came across these two tough guys outside one of Yangon’s many construction sites one October morning. Often the most unwelcoming looking people end up being the best subjects for photographs. People are nice, as it turns out.

Early days in Yangon

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Hard to believe, but I’ve been living in Yangon for just over three months now. I’ve not been posting much in that time, but I’ve been out shooting a lot, building up a sizeable, but just about manageable, backlog of pictures. So, not before time, here are some pictures from my first couple of weeks in the city, taken at the end of September last year (as usual, this blog is lagging some way behind real life, and is showing no real inclination to catch up).

It was a strange, busy, exciting time for me. Staying in a hotel and with my new job yet to start in earnest, I was in a kind of limbo for two or three weeks. There was the feeling of freedom and eagerness to explore that comes with being on holiday, mixed with the slight feeling of trepidation and the nagging need to sort out practical things that come with moving to a new country. So while I spent a lot of time taking pictures and reacquainting myself with Yangon, I also had to find myself somewhere to live and start laying the foundations of a long term stay.

These pictures were all taken in Downtown Yangon, the area that I think of as the heart of the city (and where I now live). It feels a little strange, as a Brit, to use the very American-sounding term Downtown, but that’s what the district’s called, so I’ll just have to get used to it (I’ll be calling people ‘dude’ before you know it). Downtown is the ideal area to dive into Yangon life, and an endlessly rewarding location for photography, its grid of numbered streets making it easy to navigate while always holding out the possibility of streets yet to be explored. There’ll be more – probably quite a lot more – pictures from this part of my new home over the next few weeks and months.

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And finally…

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Yangon nightfall

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I tend to put my camera away once the sun has gone down. But one of the things that I’ve been trying to do more of since moving to Yangon is shooting after dark. These pictures were both taken as the sun went down on my second day in Yangon, back in September. Lots more pictures from Yangon coming soon.

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Hanoi street portraits 5.3

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I’ve been working on the Hanoi street portraits project on and off since the beginning of 2015. The idea is a simple one: black and white headshot portraits of people I encountered on the streets near my (then) home in Hanoi. You can read more about how I approach these street portraits in this post from last year.

It was a project I returned to at regular intervals over the last couple of years, I think partly because I liked the restriction of having some self-imposed rules. With clearly-defined limits on composition and framing, I could concentrate on trying to capture character and mood.

I found the time to work on one probably final wave of the series in my last couple of weeks in Hanoi in September. This particular project may have come to an end, but don’t be surprised to find Yangon street portraits making an appearance on this site in the not too distant future.

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Narrow neighbourhoods (III)

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In my last few weeks before leaving Hanoi in September, I had lots of grand plans about various photography projects I would start or revive as a way of saying farewell to a city that had been my home for so long. Most of these never really got started. Turns out that there are quite a lot of other things you have to think about when you have less than a month to pack up your life and move to a new country. So, as always, there are a lot of pictures left untaken. I particularly regret not making it back to the Red River brick factories that were a fleeting obsession of mine this time last year. But I did spend some time wandering up and down the thin stretch of lanes and alleyways in between the dyke road and the river that I think of as the narrow neighbourhoods, and which I featured on this site in April last year. This is one of my favourite photo walks in Hanoi, a busy but not overcrowded stretch that offers countless little slices of everyday Hanoi life.

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Butchers of Ha Giang City

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Ha Giang City was the start and end point of my motorbike trip through the province of the same name in April/May this year. The city wouldn’t be at the top of anyone’s list as a destination in itself, but on both of my visits, I’ve enjoyed a final motorbike-free day wandering around the city, ruminating on the trip just completed. As I mentioned in my previous post, I think that the urban side of this largely rural, mountainous province is sometimes overlooked, so I thought I’d share a few pictures from the city, specifically the market. I can never resist a good market, as you may have noticed.

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