After her father presented her with a Canon camera a year ago, Nguyen Thu Linh, an 18-year-old student from the National Economics University, began to spend time on the weekend in Ha Noi’s Old Quarter taking pictures of its little animated streets.
The Hanoian has always known the city but since she began to take pictures of the city, she has grown to love it more and more, day after day.
“I love to tell different daily stories of Ha Noi, its streets, its people to my friends. When they see my photos, many are surprised to see that Ha Noi is more beautiful and interesting than they thought. They see Ha Noi many times everyday, but they are too hurried when they pass a street, a tree, and they do not feel the beauty of the city.”
“If we decide to stop, to walk more slowly to observe the streets, to talk with people, we’ll see that Ha Noi can surprise us every day,” Linh said.
The girl is now a fan of street photography, an emerging trend that has attracted an increasing number of amateur photographers in Viet Nam.
Street photography is a genre that records everyday life in a public place. This enables the photographer to take candid pictures of strangers, often without their knowledge.
More and more Vietnamese amateur photographers like Linh have spent time on their passion for street photography.
Recently, photo lovers in the city were treated to a street photography exhibition titled Like a Life, which was held at the AIA Viet Nam Insurance Company’s Ha Noi office.
The exhibition featured 54 photos taken across cities and provinces of the country, from the point of view of two photographers, Nguyen Van Trung (nickname LS Trung) and Chu Viet Ha (nickname Ha Viet). The photos capture, in the most honest way possible, people’s daily lives.
The two men are fans of “Decisive moments” (an idea of the well-known French humanist photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is considered the master of candid photography). Being attracted by interesting moments of daily life, they love observing to figure out and capture moments with their eyes and camera. They love playing with lights and flash, and each style gives them a different inspiration and attraction.
“Besides writing, I found another way of memorising the colourful life around me on every single busy journey, with my camera,” said LS Trung, a 36 year old who works as a lawyer.
“My photos help me express my emotions and to deliver my messages to viewers through pictures,” he said.
Street photography has become a wonderful tool that helps Trung tell life stories with lots of humour, through his own view and experience. He likes approaching his subjects as close as possible in order to touch their soul and patiently keeps waiting for special moments to come.
He regularly joins in and has been recognised on Facebook Groups (APF Magazine Street Photography Group, Street Photography in the World, Vietnam Street Photography, We Like Travel, and Viet’s Landscape).
Sharing the same love for street photography as Trung, Ha said that it had given him the opportunity to interact with the world and with people he would have never talked to. With street photography, Ha loves to capture in his lens the special and strange stories of the street, with interesting, and sometimes surreal, scenes and moments within day-to-day life that most would never notice.
“Thanks to street photography, I can come into contact with people from different positions and classes, who I have never connected with before,” he said.
“After being gifted a DSLR camera some years ago, I learned how to shoot by myself. So I went down the street and shot street life. Accidentally, I met a group of old photographers and joined them to study each weekend morning. This group built up the first foundations for my future photography career,” he said.
“I always try to get close to the subject as much as possible because I want to become a factor in the life story. As for locations that I can visit often, I don’t shoot the first time. I try making friends and chatting with people there, and then when I’m more familiar with them, it will be easier to connect and capture their life. As for photo walks, I move slowly, pay attention and observe, hold the camera in my hand and shoot quickly, and keep moving,” he said.
To take street photos, Ha usually goes shooting around Hoan Kiem Lake, then walks to Dong Xuan Market. He loves Hoan Kiem Lake because there are beautiful views to boost his mood and many exciting activities over there, such as outdoor exercises in the morning and late evening.
On the contrary, Dong Xuan Market is more crowded and busy with labourers. Over there, shapes of light and shadow created by a canvas roof or particular architecture is the great inspiration of street life photography.
Viet Nam - ideal destination
Viet Nam with its buzzing street life has become an ideal destination for street photography, for both Vietnamese people and foreigners.
“For street photography Viet Nam has it all. Repairmen of all sorts reworking something that in the west would be thrown away, people eating on small plastic stools, buying chicken’s feet or pig’s ears, etc. It all happens!” Linh said.
And this lack of privacy, and the very public nature of Vietnamese life, means photographers have a lot more freedom than they would in the west.
“You can see virtually every aspect of Vietnamese life on display by just walking around a place,” Linh said.
Many amateur photographers said that the best locations for street photography in Viet Nam are old neighbourhoods and street markets.
Their passion for street photography has allowed these young people to meet a lot of new friends, and share in the life of a lot of different people.
“The street life has never stopped surprising and impressing me. I love street photography, as it can bring people closer to each other,” Linh says.