Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘black and white’

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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Meo Vac market (part 3)

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This final set of pictures from Meo Vac market focuses on another aspect of this hectic, sprawling weekly gathering in the mountains of northern Vietnam: clothes and shoes. Just inside the covered area of the market, seamstresses and seamsters (if that’s a word) hunched over old pedal-operated sewing machines, making clothes to order from material bought at stalls nearby. Elsewhere, shoppers haggled over traditional skirts, knock-off jeans and plastic shoes.

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Meo Vac market (part 2)

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While cows and pigs are being traded outside under the early morning sun, the inside area of Meo Vac market is full of activity of a different kind. As I mentioned in my previous post, the Sunday market gets going very early in the morning; this means that there are hundreds of people all needing breakfast. The centre of the market is a huge covered area, much of it taken up by dozens of kitchens where traders and customers take a break from market business to enjoy a bowl of noodles.

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While live animals are bought and sold outside, there is freshly butchered meat available inside.

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Meo Vac market (part 1)

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One of the things I most wanted to do on this last trip to Ha Giang was to visit the Sunday morning market in Meo Vac. I planned the whole trip so that I would reach Meo Vac on a Saturday afternoon, and be ready for an early start the next day. Even though I got to the market before six, it was already busy, as numerous villagers arrived in town, some by truck, some by motorbike and some on foot, but all with goods to sell.

There are countless regular markets throughout the province. Some are weekly while some, confusingly, are held every six days. Some are in large-ish towns like Meo Vac or Dong Van, some in tiny villages. These markets are an essential part of life in Ha Giang. They’re where town and country meet, as farmers from different villages and ethnic groups gather together to trade with each other and the people of the towns. It’s not all business of course – the market has an important social function, and there was plenty of gossiping, flirting and boozing going on too.

This market was chaotic, crowded, smelly, utterly engrossing and a little overwhelming. In photography terms, it was a complete change of pace from the preceding few days, when I’d been mainly photographing landscapes. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people and animals, by rapid movement and fleeting moments. There were potential pictures everywhere, and there were times when it was difficult to know where to turn. For the most part, the market people were far too busy going about their business to concern themselves with the tall, clumsy photographer in their midst. I decided to shoot in more of a documentary style – mostly up close with wide angles, observing and recording rather than interacting, though I did occasionally engage with people for a few of my customary portraits.

Meo Vac market is mainly known as a livestock market, and there were plenty of worried looking cows, pigs and chickens changing hands. There was a lot more going on besides – with meat, fabric, clothes, shoes, household goods, moonshine, and all sorts of other things also being bought and sold – but all that will have to wait until a later post, as this series is all about the animals.

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