Monday, 24 November 2014

Old Stores of New York City

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I've thought of another photography project for the winter won't be one that'll tax my photographic skills, but will certainly nudge me to read the many blogs and articles that focus on New York City landmarks.

Walking the West Village streets of New York City on a daily basis allows me to pass by (and in some cases, frequent) some of the few remaining old stores and restaurants that still exist in the neighborhood. It gave me with the idea to photograph these storefronts using my Fujifilm X-T1 camera to emulate a Rolleiflex's square format monochrome...just to give the resulting photographs a touch of "authenticity".

This project will not stop at the West Village, but will hopefully spread to various neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan. I already know more than a dozen stores that fit the bill....whether in Little Italy, Lower East Side or Chinatown.

I also intend to add a few historical trivia about each photograph whenever possible. For example, for the photograph of the Vesuvio Bakery in SoHo (above) that I made just yesterday,  there'll be this:

Vesuvio Bakery, (aka Birthbath Bakery), 160 Prince Street, New York 10012
The bakery opened in 1920 and was owned by Anthony Dapolito, who delivered Vesuvio bread on his bicycle as a child for many years before his death in 2003. Birdbath Bakery bought it, but kept the storefront as is.

I think that this sort of information would give context and historical texture to the photographs. I'm very far from being the first photographer or New York historian (professional or amateur) to think of, work on and complete, such a project...but it'll add to my personal appreciation of my adopted city.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

CGAP Photo Contest 2014

Photo © Tran Dinh Thuong-All Rights Reserved
I started to frequently peruse Hanoi Times online to find tidbits of information for my forthcoming personal project in Vietnam, and noticed that it reported that seven Vietnamese photographers had won won prizes and/or recognition in a photography contest organised by a World Bank affiliate.

The CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) is affiliated to the World Bank, and its annual photo contest seeks "to showcase the different ways in which poor households manage their financial lives and to raise awareness about the importance of formal financial services for people at the base of the economic pyramid."

I never heard of CGAP - and whilst readers of this blog know my stance towards photo contests- I took a look at its results, and found that many of its entries are impressive. This year's contest received a record 4,820 entries from professional and amateur photographers in 95 countries.

I urge you to take a look at the results of the photo contest here. Not only are these photographs impressive in their own rights, but they're from largely unknown (at least to me) photographers...and what a delight this is. Fresh names, fresh work...and none of the usual suspects who regularly  participate in such photography contests.

CGAP also featured all of the entries (yes, 4818 of them) with the names of the photographers on this page. Most of the entries are environmental portraits...some more travel photographs than documentary, but the general quality is really quite commendable.

So happy browsing, and be prepared to be impressed.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Michael Švec | The Kingdom of Mustang

Photo © Michael Švec-All Rights Reserved
Mustang (derived from the Tibetan word Möntang) is the former Kingdom of Lo where Tibetic languages are still widely spoken and traditional Tibetan culture remains. It was once an independent kingdom, although closely tied by language and culture to Tibet. From the 15th century to the 17th century, its strategic location granted Mustang control over the trade between the Himalayas and India. At the end of the 18th century the kingdom was annexed by Nepal. Its monarchy ceased to exist on October 7, 2008, by order of the Nepalese government.

It's a weeklong hike from the nearest airport (usually Jomsom or Pokhara) to the capital city of Lo Manthang, which is is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world, and which was  recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

The remoteness of Mustang hasn't discouraged Michael Švec from traveling to photograph its landscapes and people, and produce a wonderful audio-slideshow titled The Last Forbidden Tibetan Kingdom.

While Michael Švec is a digital art director in Prague, he is also a documentary and fine art travel photographer, who works on assignments in Asia, Middle East and Europe. He traveled the world for more than ten years, focusing his lens on documenting traditions of changing cultures around the world, human rights issues and spirituality within people and places.

He tells us that he likes to stay with the people of the regions he travels to, he lives with them, eats with them and shares their lives as much as they allow him to. He needs to be accepted by the community before taking the pictures. Nice sentiment, and a difficult to achieve sometimes.

Michael's portfolio includes an audio-slideshow of the Indian Kushti wrestling, as well as slideshows of the Kalash people of Chitral in northern Pakistan, of the Pushkar camel fair and of the tribes of the Kutch.

Delve a little deeper, and you'll find photographs of Rio de Janeiro, Rajasthan, Ethiopia, Nepal, Kashmir, Iran, Morocco and Kashmir amongst others.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Stephanie Keith | Vodou Brooklyn

Photo © Stephanie Keith-All Rights Reserved
The Guédé are the spirits of Haitian Vodou that include the powers of death and fertility. These spirits include Ghede Doubye, Ghede Linto, Ghede Loraj, Ghede Masaka, Guédé Nibo, Guédé Plumaj, Guédé Ti Malis, and Guédé Zaranye, and the festival of Fete Guédé is the Vodou religion’s version of Day of the Dead on November 2, however the Haitian spirits are more playful and lively.

Vodou believers observe Fete Guédé by laying out gifts such as homemade beeswax candles, flowers and bottles of rum stuffed with chilli peppers. It is in November that 
vodouists celebrate Gede, the spirit who embodies death and resurrection. Gede dances to the drums, blesses people, drinks liquor rubs talcum of his face.

Every November in Brooklyn, Guédé parties occur on weekends, and photographer Stephanie Keith entered the world of vodou by photographing these parties in the cramped basements of Canarsie, East Flatbush and Red Hook.

Stephanie Keith is an award-winning photographer/photojournalist whose work has taken her to all corners of the 5 boroughs plus the Middle East, South America and Norway. She has a degree in Anthropology from Stanford University, a certificate in photojournalism from the International Center of Photography, and received a Master’s of Photography from NYU in 2003. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time magazine and The Washington Post have all published her photos and photo stories. One of her photos was chosen by Time Out NY as one of the 50 most iconic photos of NYC.

The Caribbean Studies Press has just published her photos about Vodou as a book, entitled: “Vodou Brooklyn: Five Ceremonies with Mambo Marie Carmel.”

An interesting interview "The Vodou They Do in Brooklyn" describes how Ms Keith's fascination with vodou led her to these photographs and the book.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

POV: The Task I Like Best (Well, Almost)

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Collecting information, and then scouting, for a future photo expedition-workshop, is a challenging task that is time-consuming, and requires reliable contacts...and one that takes patience, cerebral stamina and luck.

During the past 2 to 3 weeks, I've been researching and gathering information for a particular self-assignment project in Viet Nam; one that seems to be quite tough to nail down from New York, but would have been reasonably easy if I were in Ha Noi instead.

This particular project is like unraveling seemingly endless rubber bands of a golf ball, one strand by one strand, with the added frustration of sometimes coming to a dead end, or unearthing a promising lead but receiving no response to emails and/or Facebook messages. Sure, there's a sense of accomplishment when I get a lead; especially one that leads to another lead,...but there's a lot of disappointment when it turns all to nothing, or even worse, when there's no response.

I often wonder what did we do before the advent of the internet, email, and the various social media? Photographers and photojournalists had to rely on local information supplied by friends, fixers, and various other contacts and sources...and that took time to arrive and be verified. We now have it much easier...but it's still an uphill struggle to get what we need. I enjoy the challenge, there's no question about that. It's a sort of information sleuthing; one that needs to be checked and double checked.

For this current research, I trawl Vietnamese websites and, while I appreciate Google Translate and/or the browser's translate option, the results are often hilarious and unreliable. Trying to accurately pin down festival dates based on the Lunar calendar is tantamount to nailing Jell-O to the wall. I'm already imposing on Vietnamese friends and contacts for translation and advice, but there's a limit on how many times I can ask for help.

Probably the most disappointing so far is the no-reply to my emailed request for assistance (contact sharing) from a USC professor who specializes in the type of religious festivals I'm seeking. One would think professors would gladly share information on subject matters that are important to them. Not that one.

Aside from the Vietnamese websites, I check every promising location on Google Maps, calculating the distances and directions from Ha Noi, or wherever my hub will be at that time.

I'd compare this research to erecting a spider's web. All strands will eventually (hopefully?) lead to the center. Writing the results in long hand in a Moleskin notebook seems to help me focus much more than using a computer or an iPad.

Once the information is sifted and verified, the actual physical scouting will occur along with making travel plans, setting up a budget, etc.

I really can't wait for that phase.

Ah, well...enough of this. I must go back to the hunt.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Last Anchorite | Egypt

An anchorite is someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely ascetic and prayer-oriented life. In other words, a religious hermit with a "fixed address'.

This 19 minutes-long documentary features the story of Father Anthony El Lazarus, a Coptic monk who lives in seclusion in the Red Sea mountains, in a 4th-century monastery about 200 miles southeast of Cairo, Egypt. He's former university lecturer in literature and philosophy, and spent 40 years as an atheist.

This is an ancient tradition since early Christians flocked to the Egyptian deserts where Copts had already embraced the idea of a solitary, devout Christian life. It's accepted that he early Christians were inspired by the eremitic (reclusive) traditions of the Hebrews.

The Coptic Church is based on the teachings of Saint Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century. He was one of the four evangelists and wrote the oldest canonical gospel. Christianity was the religion of the vast majority of Egyptians from 400–800 A.D. and of the majority after the Muslim conquest until the mid-10th century and remains the faith of a significant minority population. 

With wonderful cinematic skills, filmmaker Remigiusz Sowa captures the essence of the reclusive monastic life led by Father Anthony and those like him in the isolated monastery in the Red Sea Mountains.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Foundry Photojournalism Workshop 2015 | Bali, Indonesia

Eric Beecroft just announced the Foundry 2015 Indonesia early bird enrollment!

The workshop will be held July 2015 (exact dates to be confirmed soon) in Bali. The tuition is $475  for local photographers and $975 for non-local photographers.

From now until December 26, 2014, photographers can sign up simply by paying a nonrefundable $100 deposit. This amount will be taken off the remainder of the tuition, and it also guarantees first come first serve when the specific instructor choice and class registration are open.

I've often suggested that attending a Foundry workshop is not only about enhancing their craft with advice of some of the best (and certainly selfless) photographers and photojournalists in the business, or about the class they've chosen or even about their own stories and image-making, but it's also about rubbing shoulders with other participants, whether these are peers, or just starting their photography careers, or veterans, and with all sorts of other styles of's about augmenting their exposure to different worlds, about exposing themselves to divergent thought processes, to varying points of view, and in doing so...grow as human beings (and yes, as photographers too).

Bali, needless to say, is an inspired choice of place for the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop. It's a superlative source of visual and sensory experiences, of unlimited photographic opportunities...from travel to hard core social issues, and overflows with unique cultural events ranging from deity purification ceremonies to cremations.

Here's one of the multimedia projects I've produced during my many travel photography workshops in Bali.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Anthony Pappone | Ethiopia's Omo Valley

Photo © Anthony Pappone-All Rights Reserved
"If you take a picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things."Sebastiao Salgado 
Readers and followers of my blog know of my distaste for the current spate of photographs that depict indigenous people who are encouraged (monetarily or otherwise) to wear decorative accessories that are not natural to them. Photographers who travel to the Omo Valley are particular susceptible to this 'disease', and are insensitive (but rarely unaware) to the impact transforming members of the various Omo Valley tribes into fashion models with outlandish headgear and accessories.

The exploitation of these tribes by some photographers, travelers and tourists, who view them as nothing but beautiful displays, continues despite the effort of well-intentioned travel companies.

Anthony Pappone's Portraits in The Omo Valley is certainly not one of these insensitive exploitative photographs. His photographs of Omo Valley tribal members are beautiful and simple. There is no artificiality in his portraits, nor is there accessories intended to dupe the viewers. The Omo Valley people are beautiful in their simplicity, and Anthony's photographs prove to us that there is no need for deceit in the representation of these people.

Anthony Pappone is an Italian photographer specializing in travel, festival, portrait, tribes and ceremony photography around the world. Just a traveler before becoming a photographer, he caught the bug during a festival in Ladakh, and he started on a career of following festivals and religious ceremonies wherever these occurred. From Ethiopia to Nagaland, from West Africa's Benin, Ghana, Mali to Yemen...he documented festivals and everyday life with his wide angle lenses.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Frédéric Lagrange | The Wakhan Corridor

Photo © Frederic Lagrange-All Rights Reserved
"You get older faster in the Wakhan Corridor."
The Wakhan Corridor, the region known locally as Bam-e Dunya (or roof of the world), is the narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. The corridor is wedged between the Pamirs to the north and the Hindu Kush to the south. Sparsely populated due to its harsh climate, the region has about 12,000 people and is a political creation of the Great Game, the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia.

It took many years for French photographer Frédéric Lagrange to plan and organize his month-long trek to the region, taking with him local porters, an Afghan guide, donkeys and 100 rolls of film. 

During his trek, Lagrange photographed and produced film footage that eventually became a 20-minute film, Lost on the Roof of the World.

Frédéric Lagrange started his career in 2001, focusing mainly on travel photography, then widening his work to include fashion and portraiture. His photographs have been featured in numerous magazines and ad campaigns around the world such as: Vanity Fair US, The New York Times magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue (Japanese, German, Spanish, Indian), The New Yorker, Louis Vuitton, Condé Nast Traveler, GQ (US, Japan), Anthropologie, Free People, and W hotels, among others.

Currently living in Brooklyn, he was chosen as Photo District News’s “30 under 30 Photographers to watch in 2003”, and was the recipient of many photography awards and his work is also featured in The American Photography Annual, The Society of Publication Designers Annual, and the PDN Photography Annual. He is also one of 30 photographers sponsored by Kodak worldwide.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

POV: Leica M9 Monochromes "Outta De Box"

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy/Leica M9+Voigtlander 40mm
Let me say it up front so there's no misunderstanding: I'm not a "fanboy" of any camera beyond considering them as utilitarian tools I use to make photographs. Some are better suited for particular photographic work, others are better ergonomically suited to my hands and way of thinking, etc. I have the exact same attitude to cameras as carpenters have to their hammers or pliers.

That out of the way, I have an admiration for the Leica M9's monochrome image quality. I frequently use a setting that allows it to shoot a monochrome jpg and a color DNG at the same time, and I am quite amazed at the quality of the monochrome jpgs right 'out of the box'. The  above photograph is an example...nothing but in-camera conversion.

Yes, the majority of the monochromatic jpgs out of the Leica M9 are -at least to my eyes- just right. Unless I specifically want to enhance these jpgs by adding some vignetting or burnt edges, there's no need for spending any time on Silver Efex, Photoshop, Lightroom presets...nothing. Boom!

Does it mean that the Leica M9 (and a quality prime lens) is my primary camera? No, it isn't, but when I need (and feel like it) to shoot monochromes, I choose it over my other cameras. When I was in Sa Pa a few weeks ago, I deliberately chose it with a Voigtlander 40mm for a bout of monochrome photography in its streets and market. I did the same in Ha Noi.

There are many aspects of the M9 that are, in comparison to the X-T1 and the X-Pro, outdated...even primitive. It's widely recognized that its ISO is almost unusable above 800, that its LCD sucks and its battery life is a little better than abysmal. However, its CCD sensor (when coupled with quality glass) churns out admirable jpg monochromes.

I gripe about the M9...but despite its annoying limitations, it has become analogous to the well-balanced well-worn hammer that fits in the hand of the carpenter as if it always belonged there.

Ah! If only it had auto-focus! But using -when possible- the zone focus system resolves this to a certain extent, provided the ambient light allows the use of f8 or f16.

I'm not as sanguine about the M9's color images though. I realize I'm amongst a tiny minority perhaps, but I'm not as enamored with the color images I've seen out of the Leica M9. The images produced by the Fujifilm X-T1 are -to my taste- superior in color rendition than what I'm able to get with my M9.

Seeing where I am photographically at this time, I would buy the Leica M Monochrom if I could, and use it whenever I needed to produce monochrome images, and then rely on the Fuji X-Pro1, and X-T1 for color...or on the Canon system that's been gathering some dust in my closet.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The People of Tây Bắc Published on Medium

I've just published The People of Tây Bắc; a monochrome photo essay on the weekly markets of the ethnic minorities in Northwestern Viet Nam.

I've come to appreciate Medium, the rather new blog-publishing platform. Founded by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone in August 2012, it has evolved into "a hybrid of non-professional contributions and professional, paid contributions, an example of social journalism" as described by Wikipedia.

Although it's a gorgeous platform for photographers as well, it was originally designed for writers. I use it to upload large photographs...using the edge to edge option, which provides an attractive viewing display.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Mattia Passarini | Remote People

Photo © Mattia Passarini-All Rights Reserved
Here's photographic work that will gladden the hearts of many of photographers (and many that I know well) who relish portraiture of remote indigenous cultures. There are some that are environmental portraits, but the majority are just facial portraits...some posed and others not.

Mattia Passarini's portraits are from China's Sichuan, Yunnan, Pakistan's Northern regios, India's Chhatisgarh, Orissa, Gujarat, the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Baka and Bambuti Pygmies, Rabaris, Jats (notoriously difficult to photograph), Ahirs, the Ramnami, China's Miao, Myanmar's Dai and Muun, and Indonesia's Mentawai...they're all there.

And for those who agree with Survival International that British photographer Jimmy Nelson’s stylised pictures of African, Asian and Amazon Indian groups are “wrong”and “false and damaging”, this cornucopia of imagery doesn't have a whiff of artificiality. This is "what you see is what you get" ethnophotography.

Mattia Passarini's biography is sparse, but he started on his global photographic endeavors on moving to the United Kingdom. Over the course of 11 years of travel, he visited more than 35 countries across four continents, capturing images of the world’s tribal people, and of lives and places that exist in relative obscurity.

He currently lives in China completing a project on a local ethnic group.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gabi Ben-Avraham | Jewish Holidays

Photo © Gabi Ben-Avraham - All Rights Reserved
I've been enjoying this photography website for a while, browsing and savoring its various galleries at a slower pace than usual,  and you'll understand why when you visit it.

Those who follow my work and this blog know that religious festivals, rituals and observances, wherever they occur and of whatever tradition they follow, are like 'catnip' to me. The more obscure and esoteric the more magnetic the 'catnip' is to me....especially if they're monochrome.

If you're like me; a fan of travel documentary work...of street photography...of dark shadows pierced by brilliant rays of're bound to like the broad compelling work of Gabi Ben-Avraham, an Israeli photographer who describes himself as a "hobbyist", and who only received a digital camera as a gift a few years ago.

There's certainly nothing amateurish in Gabi's work, and there are many galleries to admire amongst those he posted on his website.

The one I prefer is his Jewish Holidays, from which the above photograph is featured. It was shot during the Kapparot ritual when a rabbi swings a live chicken over the head of a woman to symbolically transfer her "sins" to the bird. Kapparot is practiced on the eve of Yom Kippur. There are also images made during the festivals of Purim, Sukkot and Passover, or Pesach. The images are brooding and dark; a perfect style for this sort of photography.

Drop by Gabi Ben-Avaraham's website, and you'll be sucked in its numerous galleries, ranging from pure street photography in Tel Aviv, to travel photography in Havana (Cuba), then to his light and shadows exercises.

Just make sure you have the time to delve in all of the galleries, and you'll agree with me. Gabi might describe himself as a hobbyist all he likes, but his work is as solid and as professional as they come.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Đạo Mẫu | Serendipity Then Research

One of the main interests that underpins my career as a travel photographer is the documenting of ancient religious rituals, ceremonies and festivals that are still observed and practiced around the world, and the primary objective of many of the photographic expeditions-workshops I lead is to document such rituals and festivals. This interest is somewhat of a brand for me; a brand that I cherish and nourish.

Following my gut instinct, and helped by a degree of serendipity, during my recent photo expedition in Viet Nam, I stumbled on an ancient religious ceremony called Đạo Mẫu, which I photographed on two occasions in Sa Pa and Bac Ha,  and have now uploaded a selection of color photographs on a gallery titled Đạo Mẫu: The Worship of Mother Goddesses.

These photographs were all made with a Fuji X-T1 and a Zeiss Touit 12mm.

Whilst photographing these two ceremonies (one followed the other over two days), I was hampered by a dearth of information regarding these ceremonies. Either the translation was inadequate or the information obtained by those involved in the ceremonies was sparse and superficial...even the name of the rituals differed.

Hearing chants and music coming from the Gia Quoc Cong Vu Van Mat temple in Bac Ha, but finding no one that could understand English, I asked patrons in a nearby restaurant what the ceremony was about, and one finally understood my gesticulations, and told me that it was hầu đồng...words I recognized from my earlier photo-shoot in Sa Pa.

All I knew at the time was that the ceremonies revolved around a medium who communicated with spirits), trances, and religious songs....and I photographed the unfolding ceremony in the Bac Ha temple, as I did earlier in Sa Pa. With other things relating to the photo expedition-workshop on my plate, I hadn't the time to research it deeper than a cursory internet search with the little information I had. Otherwise, I would've sank my teeth in the research like a bull terrier.

I have since started research Đạo Mẫu, or The Worship of Mother Goddesses in Viet Nam, and the rituals of Lên đồng (or Hầu đồng), the practice of spirit mediumship in this type of worship. There are scholarly texts that associate Lên đồng séances to extremely ancient indigenous rituals, which possibly included rites of human sacrifice of mediums possessed by evil spirits.

One of the sources of basic information is Wikipedia, which describes the main ritual, which may last from two to seven hours, as beginning with petitions to Buddha and to the deities for permission to proceed with it, after which the medium sits in the middle of four assistants, whose job it is to facilitate the medium's incarnation of different deities and spirits. Musicians and singers perform invocation songs to induce trances in the medium, at which point he or she is ready to incarnate different spirits. The assistants help the medium to change costumes, and hand over the various props such as swords and torches.

This is precisely what I witnessed during the ceremony (actually, they were two ceremonies back to back) in the Bac Ha temple. The two mediums were flanked by four assistants, and musicians played songs in a corner of the temple.

The color of the medium's four costumes represents a deity who manages a part of the universe. Heaven is red, Earth is yellow, Water is white and Forest is green.

My interest in Đạo Mẫu is certainly piqued, and I intend to continue gathering information on it, online and through friends in Viet Nam. My knowledge of Southeast Asian religious traditions is not as broad as I would've liked, and with Đạo Mẫu serendipitously appearing on my radar, it's certainly time to redress this.

That said, the rituals of Lên đồng (or Hầu đồng) are not easy to photograph. The temples where I witnessed the rehearsal and the ceremony were small, and had devotees sitting on every inch of the floor, so it was difficult to move about and get different angles, especially as the altars are large. The ceremony itself was held at night, with poor and uneven lighting. Although the costumes are gorgeous, with the medium performing unusual rites such as throwing small denominations of cash to attendees, puffing on cigarettes and twirling swords and flags, the rituals are somewhat repetitive, and finding different angles is a must. The mediums appear to be fascinating characters, and would offer interesting insights into this belief system.

In short, Đạo Mẫu is on my list. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Peter Ansara | Winner of The Travel Photographer's Street Photography Contest

Photo © Peter Ansara-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Peter Ansara-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Peter Ansara-All Rights Reserved

I'm happy to announce that Peter Ansara of Tacoma, WA has won The Travel Photographer's Street Photography Contest. The win was quite decisive, and was determined by the readers of this blog who gave Peter's photograph (top) the most votes.

The two top black and white photographs were made in Seattle, Washington while the third was made in Monument Valley, Arizona.

Peter retired from the United States Air Force with 25 years service in 2002, and has photographed for some 35 years. He loves street photography and photographs in Seattle 3 or 4 times per month. He also runs and operates a non profit organization in Tacoma, Washington.

The runners-up were Jeff Oftedahl and Anthony Pond.

Congratulations to Peter who will soon receive the WotanCraft Ryker Urban Classic 001.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Diana Mayfield | Hà Nội Noir

During the just completed The People of Tay Bac Photo Expedition-WorkshopI gave its participants
the assignment of photographing the bustling street life of old Ha Noi, shooting from the hip, or on the fly, as much as possible to capture fleeting expressions, and the ever changing scenes of this exciting city.

The assignment also included of converting the resulting photographs to monochromes (hence the name Ha Noi Noir), and to produce a short photo-film with ambient sound recorded during their many walks in the streets and alleys.

This is Diana Mayfield's project, which mixes interesting snippets of street life...some humorous and some realistic. Ha Noi's street life centers on eating, busy traffic and small shops. One finds all of these in this short movie.

Diana Mayfield has a pedigree in travel photography that spans more than 20 years, and is one of the  original photographers contracted to Lonely Planet Images in 1998. Her photographs are widely published in books, magazines, brochures, advertisements, newspapers, web, etc. Her buyers include Qantas, Air France, Thomas Cook, National Geographic, Diners Club, Sunday Times, The New York Times, Le Monde, Rand McNally, Macmillan Educational and others.

She's represented by Getty Images, and has led photo tours to Italy, Greece and Spain for 8 years. She's now concentrating her cameras on S.E. Asia and India, with a particular interest in remote tribes and marginalised societies.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Dan Eckstein | Horn Please

Photo © Dan Eckstein-All Rights Reserved
The first time I traveled in India I had the rather unnerving experience of riding in a bus from Jaipur to Jodhpur in pitch darkness. I shall never forget my growing terror in watching an incoming truck blinking its signal light which I thought meant it intended to turn right into the path of my bus.

It was an enormous relief to realize the truckers were doing so to indicate their presence (and the limits of their carriages) to other incoming vehicles.

The Indian truckers usually belong to a certain caste, and are generally treated with contempt by their employers. Their trucks are often decorated with beautiful artwork, colorful gewgaws, religious icons and slogans, making a convoy of such vehicles look like a circus is moving to town. These long-distance lorry drivers transport cargos of freight across the whole of India; tea from Assam, computer parts from Bangalore and exotic flowers and vegetables from the southern states of the country.

Dan Eckstein's project Horn Please documents the trucks, drivers and roadside culture of India.  Having driven 10,000 kilometers over two years to document these truckers, Dan produced "Horn Please: The Decorated Trucks of India"; a book that is to be published by powerHouse Books on December 2nd, 2014.

Dan is is a photographer based in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, who spent four years studying photography at Skidmore College. He assisted Magnum photographer Bruno Barbey in Paris. His work has been widely published and exhibited and he was included in The Collector's Guide to Emerging Art Photography. He was awarded Best Photo Essay in PDN's World In Focus photo contest and included in American Photography 30.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Music Man of Tho Ha

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
As all photographers know full well, serendipity plays an important role in offering photographic opportunities that are rarely repeated. I'm not talking of serendipitous events that happen in a flash, and that lucky photographers manage to capture in a blink of the eye by just happening to be there when it happens, but rather of unexpected opportunities that can arise from asking the right questions, sometimes from taking the wrong turn, and sometimes just a few seconds before giving up and returning home.

During The People of Tây Bắc Photo Expedition-Workshop, I decided to break off from Ha Noi's street photography schedule, and drive to the village of Tho Ha, about 45 kilometers from the capital city.  The village specializes in producing rice paper, used for spring rolls and other Vietnamese culinary dishes.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
While the village is known for its photogenic setting, we didn't find it that interesting, and were on the verge of leaving it when our interpreter Huyen stopped at an old house to ask for directions, and we were introduced to Việt.

We were welcomed in his house, and were offered brain-numbing rice wine, thankfully in small goblets. It didn't take too long for Việt to grab his many traditional Vietnamese stringed instruments, and start playing melancholic tunes. An accomplished musician, and to a certain extent, a passable good singer, Việt was very proud of his musical heritage. and we were made to understand that he served with the Viet Cong during the American (Vietnam) War, and he played music for his fellow soldiers.

Việt owns a small enterprise producing rice paper in the village, and he 's extremely proud of his son who works for a Ford assembly factory  in Hai Duong, as he is of his grandson who may have his musical talents.

The đàn nguyệt ("moon lute") being played is a two-stringed Vietnamese traditional musical instrument, is used in both folk and classical music, and remains popular throughout Vietnam. It's related to the yueqin, also known as the moon guitar, a traditional Chinese string instrument.

According to Xuan Tran (friend and travel agent supremo), the song is titled "Người ơi, Người ở đừng về", and it's a type of Quan Họ traditional music.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Christian Bobst | Meskel in Lalibela

Photo © Christian Bobst-All Rights Reserved

Meskel is an annual religious holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church commemorating the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century. It  is celebrated for two days beginning September 26th, and commemorates the legend that in the year 326, Queen Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the cross upon which Christ was crucified.

It is in Lalibela, one of Ethiopia's most religious towns, that Christian Bobst photographed the ceremonies and rituals observing this fascinating religious festival. During the ceremony, a priest rubs the pilgrims with the holy Lalibela Cross to heal diseases or drive out devils of the bodies of the believers. The Lalibela Cross is thought to date to the 12th century and is considered one of Ethiopia's most precious religious and historical heirlooms.

Christian tells me he used two Fuji X-T1 camera bodies and prime lenses between 14mm to 35mm, as well as using the cameras' wi-fi capabilities to capture high angle shots. He also appreciated the lightness in weight,  smaller size and the retro look of the Fujis.

He also tells me that during the ceremony, one of the pilgrims saw the pictures on the screen of Christian's iPhone while taking the high angle shots on the X-T1 he had perched on a monopod. The pilgrim liked the photographs so much that he persuaded the presiding priest to allow Christian to photograph right in the center of the crowd.

Christian Bobst is a Swiss documentary photographer who originally studied graphic design. For almost 15 years, he worked for advertising agencies like Young & Rubicam/Switzerland and Jung von Matt/Germany as an Art- and Creative Director, before deciding to move on into documentary photography in 2010.  He now works as a freelance photographer, and is a member of 13 Photo in Zürich.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Three Finalists In The Travel Photographer's Street Photography Contest

Photograph A. Photo © Peter Ansara-All Rights Reserved

Photograph B. Photo © Jeff Oftedahl-All Rights Reserved
Photograph C. Photo © Anthony Pond-All Rights Reserved

Which Photograph Wins The Travel Photographer's Street Photography Contest?
Photograph A
Photograph B
Photograph C
Poll Maker

It was a tough job to choose three finalists from the numerous entries I've received over the past weeks...but here they are, and it's now up to the readers of The Travel Photographer's blog to choose the winner of the Street Photography Contest, who will receive the WotanCraft Ryker Urban Classic 001 camera bag.

The voting will come to an end on October 24th...when the winner will be announced.

The rules for the contest were simple and easy to follow, and were listed in this post.

WotanCraft Atelier's website has full information and details on the WotanCraft Ryker Urban Classic 001 bag.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

POV: Fuji X-T1 Goes To Vietnam

Fuji X-T1/Zeiss 12mm f2.8-Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

"It is the photographer, not the camera, 

that is the instrument."- Eve Arnold

Well, this is the first time I travel on a photographic expedition without a DSLR (or two or three) since I started them in 2000 (or even earlier).

Yes, I traveled for almost 3 weeks to Viet Nam with two Fuji cameras and a Leica M9...and a bunch of lenses. I wrote about that in fuller details in a post titled The "Unbearable" Lightness of Fuji X Series. On my return, I tallied an estimate of my usage statistics, which are as follows:

Fuji X-T1 + Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8: 75%
Fuji X-Pro1 + Fujinon 18mm f2.8 : 10%
Leica M9 + Voigtlander 40mm f1.4: 15%

And asked myself if I missed my Canon 5D Mark II and my panoply of primes and zooms?

Not once was the answer.

I've been a loyal Canon user since I've started photography, and I have nothing but praise for its cameras. I shall still retain my Canon 5DII and a bunch of lenses for as long as I can. However, I realized that my style of photography has evolved during the past few years...prompting me to splurge big time on a Leica M9, and not too long ago on a Fuji X-Pro1.

The evolution of my way of seeing, the lightness of these two cameras and the quality of their images laid the foundation for my being ready and very receptive for a DSLR replacement. Traveling to photograph Holi in India earlier this year, and having to hold the 5DII at shoulder-length to photograph inside temples and avoid color powder/water bequeathed me a short-lived tennis-elbow like pain, but it made me realize that DSLRs are really heavy computers with lenses attached to them.

And I only used a fraction of its menu settings. 

The arrival of the Fuji X-T1 on my radar screen was timely. As I said, I was ready, willing and able to replace the DSLR with a smaller tool...and there's no question in my mind, especially after my using it in Viet Nam, that it is a DSLR-killer for me. 

I am not a fan boy of anything. Cameras are nothing but sophisticated tools. I used Canon cameras, I use a Leica M9, a X-Pro1 and now a X-T1. They're all good cameras...there are no bad cameras in this day and age. They're all technologically very advanced, and it's largely a matter of choice, familiarity, and ergonomics what works for you and what doesn't.

Fuji X-T1/Zeiss 12mm f2.8-Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I won't get technical in this POV. There are tons of bloggers more qualified than I am who have dissected the pros and cons of the Fuji X-T1, and from what I read, the large majority agree that the X-T1 is a game changer.

During my Viet Nam photography expedition, I've worked with the X-T1 on a daily basis. Shooting normally or shooting from the hip in the streets, it performed extremely well. The quality of its built is excellent, and it feels just right...its weight, its controls and its ergonomics are right.

I always say that the Leica M9's overall feel is just right. It's a thoughtful camera. So is the X T-1. Totally different cameras of course...but both are well built and well thought out.

It feels like cheating to be able to frame a scene, twiddle the exposure compensation knob (placed on top of the camera), and see what happens to it in the utterly brilliant LCD. Everything I need is on top of the camera. Yes, there are small annoying quirks...some are due to operator error, and some are of  the "it is what it is, so work with it" kind.

I sort of rolled my eyes when I learned that the X-T1 had a tilt-screen. Trust me, I don't do that anymore. It's quite useful for low shots and for shooting in the streets. The shutter is quiet. I was shooting with people who had Nikons...and they sounded like Big Berthas.

The CH is about 8 frames per second, and while there seems to (occasionally?) be a sort of grey-out between shots at that speed, it didn't bother me. I doubt if it's really 8 frames per second, but it's fast enough for me.

Fuji X-T1/Zeiss 12mm f2.8-Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

The auto focus needs to get used to. The AF-S is pretty good. Maybe not as good as the Canon 5DII, but I learned to live with an occasional lapse. I have not used the AF-C yet, but my understanding is that it needs to be fiddled with in the camera's settings. 

What else? Ah yes. The battery life sucks. The LCD just sucks the juice out of these small batteries. So I was quiet happy to invest in a battery grip, and work in the field with two batteries in the camera. I had to rely on the "back-up" battery when I was out all day shooting...and I had an extra battery stashed away just in case. I also saved juice by turning off the display, and keeping my chimping to the absolute minium.

The X-T1 is weather-sealed. I photographed in the rain (steady rain-drizzle...not a monsoon downpour) and it was fine. I just wiped off the drops with my scarf and that was it.

The humidity was intense all through the trip, and I lost tons of water...but despite it all, the X-T1 didn't feel slippery. Really good grip...and good solid knobs (except for the four-way pad on the back).

I found that I had to really make sure that battery compartment in the grip was locked properly. It sometimes didn't...but it might also have been my error.

I'm not going to get sucked in a debate about the merits of full frame versus cropped sensors. Would I prefer that the X-T1 be full frame? Perhaps, provided the lenses still remained light and compact....and I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. And from what I've seen, the IQ of the X-T1 is really formidable, and its high ISO capabilities are impressive. So that debate is not for me.

I used the Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 lens on the X-T1 most of the time. Occasionally, I used the Fuji 18mm for street work, and the 18-135mm was only used during the fishermen photo shoot, and one time around Hoan Kiem Lake.

I very much like both the prime lenses I own. They're sturdy...workhorse kind of lenses, and they reflect my shooting and framing preferences. The 18-135mm zoom lens -while quite good and responsive- is nowhere close to the prime lenses as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps I've moved away from zooms. It's a very useful lens to have, and some may consider it the only lens they need for travel. I don't disagree that it is all that...but personally, I'm into prime lenses.

So far, much of my post-processed work from the Viet Nam photo expedition was in monochrome. I shot in B&W with the M9, and color with the X-T1 (and then both processed/converted to B&W using Silver Efex).

These photographs are featured on Hanoi Noir. Try guessing which are Leica and X-T1.

And the audio slideshow below is of the same photographs.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Verdict | The People of Tây Bắc Photo Expedition

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Having had more than a week to mull over what worked and what didn't on The People of Tay Bac Photo Expedition-Workshop, I come to the conclusion that it earns a B....not a B+, not a B-...just a plain B.

However, the trip's logistics and accommodations were faultless, and all the credit goes to the travel agent I work with in Hà Nội. They were responsive and on the ball at all times.

I think the prevailing extraordinary high humidity levels we faced all through the trip played a significant role in dampening our energy levels (certainly mine were), especially in the streets of Hà Nội. That said, and set's what I thought were home runs (or third base hits).

1. Hà Nội Street Photography:

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
A definite home run.

Hà Nội's streets are just ripe for the taking of photographs...whether monochrome or color. The scenes are there and are sometimes too numerous to choose from. Visual (and aural) overload besieged my senses for the first one or two days, but then it passed and I immersed myself neck deep in the flow of life.

The Hà Nội Noir assignment to the group participants was especially well received, since it introduced them to the street photography's 'on the fly' element that they were not entirely familiar with. The shooting from the hip technique was experimented with, and provided an inventory of interesting images to each participant.

2. Hội An Fishermen:
Traditional Fisherman. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Another home run.

I had pre-arranged through Eviva, my local travel agents, a dawn-time trip on a local boat to photograph the fishermen using traditional netting systems. We boated to the mouth of the Thu Bon River to photograph these large fishing nets (see top photograph and the one above). These large contraptions are lowered into the water to catch fish during the night. They are slowly raised and lowered by the fishermen using foot-powered winches.

These must have been the most photogenic 4 hours of the entire photo expedition. The weather was just perfect, with the sun rising on cue and the whole experience was phenomenal. The subsequent hour-long visit to Hội An's main fishing harbor/market was also interesting, and offered many photographic opportunities.

3. Hầu đồng Ceremony:

Medium in a trance. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Home run, because it's a ceremony I've never witnessed (nor heard of) before.

Hầu đồng is also known as lên đồng, and is a ritual of spirit mediumship practiced in Vietnamese indigenous religion and Đạo Mẫu, a Vietnamese mother goddess religion, in which followers become mediums for various deities.

It was by pure serendipity that we witnessed and photographed such a hầu đồng full ceremony in Bac Ha, and a rehearsal in Sa Pa. The full ceremony may last up to seven hours, and it begins with petitions to Buddha and to the deities for permission to carry out the ritual, after which the medium sits in the middle of four assistants, whose job it is to facilitate the medium's incarnation of different deities and spirits. It's a fascinating spectacle during which the medium (dressed in pink in the above photograph) chants, dances and changes in no less than 6 or 7 costumes of different colors during the ceremony.

Due to a misunderstanding, a member of our group committed a grave offense during the ceremony in Bac Ha, but a sincere apology to the temple's authorities (after which I was offered glasses of rice wine to drink to help the reconciliation along) allowed us to continue photographing. It's a testament to the generosity of the Vietnamese temple's congregation that the incident was so promptly forgiven.

4. Hội An Streets:

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Yes, Hội An is a tourist town. What can we expect from a small town recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO? But setting that aside, it's a wonderfully atmospheric place with an incredible wealth of stunning backdrops for street photography, for travel photography and for fashion/model photography.

I would definitely consider staying in Hội An for a week or so. Rather than stay in the lovely and posh (but sort of generic) Hoi An Hotel, I'd stay at the Vinh Hung Hotel, an upscale but tiny heritage hotel located in the heart of town. And have Cao Lau, the local signature noodle dish  at Miss Ly every day!

It'd be wonderful to take my time...and indulge in slow street photography. In other words, pick a spot (preferably with a cup of coffee or a La Rue beer), wait and cherry-pick whatever happens in the street. As I wrote in a different post, I'd also enjoy fusing travel photography to ethnic/modern fashion photography. The style can be posed...with static portraits, or can be pseudo environmental-street portraits.
Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
There's no limit to the willingness of eye-catching persons, whether locals or tourists (such as the lovely Vi in the above photograph) to pose for photographers. Hội An is a magnet for newly-weds (or about to be married) who come here with their make-up artists and photographers.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
The pretty and lively bride in pink loved my suggestion that she pose under the bird cages...I told her that it'd be an appropriate setting since they were lovebirds. She left her photographer, and ran to the spot I indicated. Nothing is set up in this photograph...the brooms, the bird cages, the bicycle...all was left as is. That's Hội An.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
A bride-to-be is being dolled-up by her make-up artist, just around from the famous Japanese Bridge. It's these quotidian scenes that attract me visually to places like these. Yes, here the bride saw the photographer...but I'd wait for as long as it took to become just part of the background, and for a scene (a story) to develop.

Have I said that Hội An was a home run? If I haven't yet, then is.

5. The Tây Bắc Region:

Flower Hmong in Bac Ha. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I need to be quite emphatic about this: I resent blue tarpaulins, motorbike helmets, motorbikes and baseball caps photo-bombing my photographs.  

So no home run for the northern region of Tây Bắc, which for us mostly meant the markets of Bac Ha, Can Cau, and Coc Ly. We had to pass on Xin Cheng market due to Typhoon Kalmaegi. The exception was Sa Pa, which is a nice little town with some opportunities for street photography and ethnic photography of the H'mong.

Bac Ha market is the largest of the region, and perhaps because I had been before, it didn't have the visual umph it had when I was there in 2012. One thing for sure has changed...the area where the Flower Hmong, Dzao and others ate their breakfasts and lunches was moved by Bac Ha municipality (or whatever it's called) from the center of the market to the right of its entrance. It's now more orderly, but it removed the ad hoc feel that the market had before the move.

And because of the threatening rain, blue tarpaulins were stretched all over the out a rather nasty light to faces and clothes. 

That said, Bac Ha is still the granddaddy market of the region. As we had spent the night at the nearby Sao Mai hotel, we had the market almost to ourselves until 10:00 am. When the tourists arrived with their GoPro and heavy cameras, we left for breakfast.

Flower Hmong Matriarch in Can Cau. © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Can Cau Market is held on Saturdays, and is predominantly frequented by the Flower H’mong. While not far from Bac Ha, it took us about 3 hours to drive from Sa Pa. Much smaller than the Bac Ha market, it doesn't have its 'charisma'. It'd be easy to blame the humidity, but it was quite high...and it drained us of energy quite rapidly. The locals seemed to take the humidity in stride, carrying umbrellas and sometimes fans.

Flower Hmong family in Can Cau-© Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Coc Ly market is held weekly on Tuesdays, and is also crowded with Flower H’mong. Only 35 kilometers from Bac Ha, the roads are quite nasty and bumpy...and were probably made worse during the rainy season. It's perched on a hillock, and it struck me as one of the least interesting. I was amused when a meddlesome American woman kept watching me photographing a very amenable Flower Hmong for a while, and then told me to stop because I was "harassing" her.

In short, there indisputably were some interesting photographs to make in these markets, but group tourism's tentacles have reached these markets, and they've lost some of their authenticity. I suspect many of the implements and products sold to to the locals are made in China...while the handicrafts presumably made by the local minorities seems to be shoddier than usual.

In a future iteration, a People of Tây Bắc Photo Expedition will continue to be based in Sa Pa but will venture to markets and villages further far as possible from tour buses, it that's possible.

6. Sa Pa:

Hmong in Sa Pa market. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I like Sa Pa. The Victoria Hotel is great...although their staff can be somewhat impersonal. But that's what happens when your guests are mostly tour groups. The restaurants are welcoming, all have free wi-fi and the food is quite good. Not as good as Hoi An...but good.

Yes, I like Sa wasn't misty nor cool as it was in 2012, and the main square is now empty of the Hmong vendors that had taken it over in the late afternoons. They've been chased away, and given a dreary space above the market to sell their goods. Presumably to have them pay a permit fee or something like that.

Along with the group, I enjoyed doing some monochrome work in the tiny market; exploiting the chiaroscuro of its alleys, and the black dress of the Hmong as best I could. It was in Sa Pa that I also stumbled on a Hầu đồng rehearsal ceremony, which in a way prepared us for the real thing in Bac Ha.

Hoi An Lanterns. © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
So what would I do differently?

If I was omnipotent, I'd change the weather. It affected the attendance of the Tet Trung Thu street festival; it prevented us from attending the least touristy market in the northern region and it exhausted us.

But within my direct control, I'd reduce the number of days in Hà Nội and increase the stay in Hội An. I'd still stay in Sa Pa, spend a day in Bac Ha, but travel much further in search of traditional small villages that are not on the tourist trail.

Red Dzao in Ta Phin. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Tights Reserved
Now, the finale for the those who like statistics. My estimated usage of my cameras was as follows:
Fuji X-T1 + Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8: 75%
Fuji X-Pro1 + Fujinon 18mm f2.8 : 10%
Leica M9 + Voigtlander 40mm f1.4: 15%

(I used the Fuji Zoom XF18-135mm f3.5-5.6 for the fishermen photo shoot, and another time in Hà Nội 
around Hoàn Kiếm lake.)

Did I miss my Canon 5D Mark II and my panoply of primes and zooms? 

No. Not once.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Cedric Arnold | Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Photo © Cedric Arnold-All Rights Reserved
Here's a festival with religious connotations that I ought to add to my list of to do events.

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event held in Thailand during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, and was held  from 24 September - 02 October 2014. It celebrated the Chinese community's belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health, peace of mind, and will also offer spiritual cleansing. Its accompanying sacred rituals grant good fortune on those who observe this rite.

It is thought that the festival was introduced to Phuket by a wandering Chinese opera group who fell ill with malaria while performing on the island.

One of the most exciting aspects of the festival are the ceremonies held to invoke the gods. Firewalking, body piercing and other acts of self mortification undertaken by participants acting as mediums of the gods, have become more spectacular and daring as each year goes by. Men and women puncture their cheeks with various items including knives, skewers and other household items. It is believed that the Chinese gods will protect such persons from harm, and little blood or scarring results from such mutilation acts.

Cedric Arnold's Phuket Vegetarian Festival brings us spectacular monochromatic photographs of this event. Very reminiscent of Thaipusam, the festival includes acts of self mortification that are shocking and gruesome.

Cedric Arnold is a photographer specializing in portraiture, travel, documentary & corporate photography, as well as movie stills. In his personal work, he is often drawn towards exploring the markings of time, this can be in the subject matter itself or expressed with the medium he uses: out of date film, old instant film, or even through chemically altering prints and emulsion.

This is the fourth time that I feature Cedric Arnold's work on this blog. Previous posts can be found here.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Hà Nội Noir | Audio Slideshow

Street photography has almost become an obsession. Arriving Hà Nội with my body clock completely out of whack didn't stop me from taking a quick walk about the streets of its Old Quarter.

As the oldest continuously developed area of Vietnam, Hà Nội's Old Quarter has a history that spans 2,000 years and represents the eternal soul of the city, and walking along some of its more than 36 streets, I remembered their names: Hang Gai, Hang Quat, Hang Bac and Hang Ma.

A majority of the street names in the Old Quarter start with the word hang, which means merchandise or shop. Hang Gai, where my hotel The Golden Silk Boutique is, offers silk clothing ready-made and tailored, embroidery, and silver products.

One of the assignments given to the group participants was Hà Nội Noir; a series of monochrome street photographs depicting the teeming life found in the small streets of this capital city. Over the course of the few days I spent in Hà Nội, I walked its 36 streets (well, almost all of them) and shot mostly from the hip as is my custom to capture impromptu scenes and candid expressions.

Most of the photographs were made with my new favorite combo: Fuji X-T1/Zeiss 12mm f2.8. Others were made with a Leica M9 and the Voigtlander 40mm f1.4.