Photographer Annie Liebovitz said “Find a way to tell a story that means something to you.” This is my story…
Hanoi, Vietnam. March 2020
For a Street Photographer that very first step onto the streets of Hanoi is like landing squarely in utopia. In the Old Quarter and French Quarter beautiful street scenes and photogenic people are around every corner. It's entirely possible for ones creativity to be overstimulated resulting in dozens of full memory cards. Hanoi citizens own four million scooters. The unmistakable drone of small engines and an occasional cartoon like honk are a constant presence. Ubiquitous scooters zip along the streets and through chaotic uncontrolled intersections with skillful ease. Weaving about in all directions dodging everything in their path including pedestrians is the norm. Highly used, well-worn scooters are often ingeniously overloaded. Anything from live chickens, full sheets of plywood, ten foot pieces of pipe or even a kitchen appliance can be seen loaded on a hapless scooter. Labyrinth like alleyways dominate the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Many of them are lined with countless entrepreneurs. Larger alleys have their own distinctive character and are home to vendors selling freshly prepared food or unique merchandise, old and new.
Daily life and commerce in Hanoi clearly happens out of doors on the streets, sidewalks, narrow alleys and in every empty space between buildings. In most areas of the Old Quarter and French Quarter it’s nearly impossible to walk on the sidewalks for any great distance. They are filled with parked scooters, merchants, grills and food vendors. Small plastic tables and short multicolored chairs are a fixture near every food stands. It’s there the locals enjoy fresh food under colorful awnings. Neighborhood men smoke extra strong tobacco in long bamboo pipes which resemble an Australian didgeridoo.
When the sun settles below the many rooftops the weary merchants retreat through narrow allies to their small nearby homes to rest. Long before the sun rises above the same rooftops those weary merchants travel to the local markets to purchase fresh goods. The routine continues day after day for the hard laboring street vendors of Hanoi.
For any photographer who longs to capture images of gracious and naturally friendly people in their environment Hanoi, Vietnam is the right place to be.
Personal note: In March of 2020 the world experienced the COVID-19 virus. A monumental life changing event for many. Even with the Corona virus holding the world hostage my time in Vietnam was truly organic. It was an honor to meet and photograph the kind people of Hanoi. I am looking forward to returning to Vietnam when normalcy returns or what might be a new normal.