Some Final Thoughts and Images

Shooting rice harvesting in Sapa near the Chinese border.











Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Photography by Khoa Tran

At some point early in this photo shooting trip, my able assistant, Saigon photographer Khoa Tran, half-jokingly told me his primary responsibility on our journey “…is to keep you from getting killed.”

Happily, Khoa did his job.

Khoa had been warned that I am a bit of klutz and fall off things like rice paddies. As I leave Vietnam, I know that I have many wonderful images for my project, Vietnam Unexpected. So in addition to keeping me safe, Khoa did a great job of providing the kind of support I needed to find the photographic subjects I needed for my work.

I leave with an eagerness to return home and get busy on the sorting and editing of my images, as well as eating some American food.

But there are many things I love about Vietnam which will draw me back here again. I love having pho and strong iced coffee for breakfast. I love plunging into the frenzy of Saigon’s traffic and hearing the constant hum of motorbikes. I love the variety of foods found on the streets and in restaurants. And I love scenes in the small villages — women in conical hats, children at play or men drinking coffee and smoking — that resist the enormous economic and social change around them.

And I find it amazing to bear witness to a society and culture that are in historic transformation.

I love turning each corner and finding unexpected photo possibilities that are rich in color, texture and life. I am regularly surprised at the capacity of this place to offer up fascinating visuals that make compelling and challenging photo subjects. Each day brings multiple surprises.

My most unforgettable character will always be the young boy at the Agent Orange treatment center in Hanoi who greeted me with a huge hug and his hip hop dance routine. His simple joy in meeting other people, his uninhibited and innocent delight with self expression and his life shaped by a war long ago explain a lot about why I pursue this project.

Somehow the advenure on the fishing boat in Nha Trang began to feel like a remake of Gilligan's Island.

The minority children around Sapa are always hoping the foreigner will pay for photos.

I will miss my breakfast of pho, the tasty Vietnamese noodle soup.

My favorite character: The hip hop dancer at the Friendship Village in Hanoi.



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