Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘hanoi’

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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On leaving Hanoi

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I’ve lived in Hanoi for a long time. I’ve had two spells in the city, the first from the summer of 2008 until the end of 2010, and the second from the autumn of 2013 until now. And now my time here is coming to an end. In a couple of days’ time, I will be leaving Hanoi and moving to Yangon. I’m incredibly excited about the move. I took two trips to Myanmar in 2015, and the idea of one day living there lodged itself in my head fairly early in my visit. Having slowly marinated the idea in my brain for a couple of years, things suddenly started moving very quickly over the last month, as I found myself a new teaching job in Yangon and finally started making concrete plans. I don’t want to tempt fate, but I have a very positive feeling about this new start.

But I will miss Hanoi. It’s been my home for many years, and has shaped me in ways I probably won’t fully appreciate until more time has passed. I’ll miss my lunchtime bún chả or phở gà. I’ll miss my afternoon coffee by the lake. I’ll miss the friends, old and new, that I’ve made along the way. I’ll miss scooting about town on my Honda Wave. I’ll even miss the casual lunacy of the Hanoi traffic. But I won’t miss mouldy March.

I can’t even begin to fully describe Hanoi in words. It’s a truly unique place, and everyone who’s spent any time here has their own take on it. It’s not always an easy place to live, but for all its frustrations and imperfections, there’s something about this city that gets under a person’s skin.

Choosing the pictures to include in this post has been a difficult task. On another day, I would have made a different selection, but these are the pictures I’ve taken in Hanoi over the last few years that most seem to mean something to me today.

Things might be a bit scattered on this site over the next few weeks. I still have some more pictures from my trip to Indonesia to post, some more from Ha Giang that have been on the backburner for a while, and a few bits and pieces that I’ve shot in Hanoi over the last couple of weeks. And of course, I hope to be out and about shooting in Yangon as much as I can, and sharing some of my early impressions. There’s a lot I could write about what I’m looking forward to about life in Yangon, but for the rest of this post, I’m just going to wallow in photographic nostalgia.

Hẹn gặp lại, Hà Nội. See you again.

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April wanderings

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Sometimes when I take pictures, I have a particular project in mind, maybe a specific location or neighbourhood or a particular style of photograph. Other times, I just wander about randomly and take pictures of what or who I see. Recently, I’ve been doing the latter. I don’t think either approach is better or worse than the other; they’re both just a reflection of how I’m feeling at the time, how focused – or not – my mind is. So these are some pictures I’ve taken on the streets in Hanoi over the last month; no overall theme or story here, though I think some of them fit together quite nicely in twos or threes.

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