Tears of the camera eye

June 26, 2008

Tears of the camera eye


A new photo exhibition, the first of its kind in Viet Nam, chronicles seven profound yet deeply intimate stories of love and compassion.

New Home for Old Age, by Na Son
Companionship in Poverty, photo by Justin Maxon, featuring a woman named Mui and her child.
Little Children on a Big River, photo by Lam Khanh, from a series on the life of poor children on the Hong (Red) River.

The timeless themes of love and compassion echo through the photographs of a group of young Vietnamese and American artists in an on-going exhibition in Ha Noi.

The exhibition, the first of its kind in Viet Nam, chronicles seven stories that muse over seven different aspects of life through the eyes of six photographers. The show takes the form of traditional press photographs, courageously re-imagined to bring a poignant take on the simple yet profound aspects of life that are often overlooked by conventional reportage.

The first story features love in times of poverty. American photographer Justin Maxon spent a month following mother and child, Mui and Pha as they wandered around Long Bien bridge. Mui suffers from mental illness and probably contracted AIDS from her husband.

Maxon captured heartfelt moments depicting Mui and her child caring for each other in the hostile environment of the streets. His photograph of the two bathing each other on the banks of the Hong (Red) River, won first prize at the prestigious World Press Photo in 2007.

The second story is by Vietnamese photographer Na Son. He captures various touching moments of old people living at the Home for the Aged in Ha Noi.

“In this, the first ever private house for the aged in Ha Noi, I was touched to see old people find a second home with new friends, helping each other forget the loneliness of old age,” he says.

The third tale, also by Son, reveals the painful and heart-rending aftermath of the collapse of Can Tho Bridge in September 26, 2007,

Upon hearing of the disaster, Son rushed immediately to the scene in order to bear witness to the tragedy. His photos of the collapse were published in many newspapers in Viet Nam and around the world.

The fourth story, by American photographer Justin Mott, deals with the legacy of Agent Orange in Viet Nam. During his visit to the Centre for the Care of Children in Ba Vi District, Ha Tay Province, Mott met handicapped children whose lives have been destroyed by Agent Orange. Haunted by the suffering, he returned to the centre many times and created a photographic report with elements of multimedia, to present to the world the devastating sequel to a war that ended long ago.

The fifth story, told by Vietnamese photographer Lam Khanh, is about the life of poverty many children endure on the Red River. These impoverished children live in a fishing village in little houses floating on the river. “Every day I cross the bridge, it feels normal to see them from above. But when I go down to the bank and wade in the river to take photos, the feeling is very different,” says Khanh, who works for Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

The sixth story, by Trong Chinh also of VNA, tells of steel-workers in Da Hoi village, Bac Ninh province. The young photographer captured the rhythms of a job and a life that despite being extremely difficult, is the only hope of many to escape a life of poverty. The problems these artisans face as they battle daily to earn a living amidst disease and danger, resonate clearly through the photographs.

The final tale is inspired by a letter that a young girl sent to her father, in the midst of exams. The captions of Nguyen Trong Tung’s photographs are taken from the words of Nguyen Thi Da Thuong’s letter. Hailing from Hai Duong province, she travelled to Ha Noi to review for her university entrance exams. Tung spent over three weeks exploring Thuong’s life, following her to training centres, to the market, to her rented home, in order to discover the hardships students from the provinces face living far from home.

The exhibit runs until Sunday, at Maison des Arts located at 31A Van Mieu Street, Ha Noi. An auction of these beautiful photographs will be held at 3pm on Sunday. All the money collected will be sent directly to the Centre for Children affected by Agent Orange in Ha Noi. — VNS

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