Just six months ago I wandered around this very place, making images for what would eventually become Hanoi Reflection. Last week I ventured back out there and I couldn't believe my eyes. So much has changed in the meantime. The foundations of new towers and sometimes even entire housing estates, are now visible, where just half a year ago there was not much more than a vast empty space. The speed at which the city, or some parts of it at least, is transforming, is incredible.
I took the opportunity to explore the same area all over again, seeing where those newly built roads would take me. I stumbled upon wastelands, old cemeteries, new construction projects and of course: neon-lit skies.
I thought my Hanoi photo project was done when I finished Hanoi Skin, Under The Skin and Hanoi Reflection. But it's not. Recently I've added Hanoi Isolation and now Hanoi Transformation as little addendums. I'm sure this is not the end. So I'm taking the liberty to keep going, and keep adding new bits and pieces to this project. Let's see where it takes me next.
Wednesday 1st April 2020 at midnight. That's when Hanoi and all other localities in Vietnam entered a more stringent lockdown-like social distancing phase. The idea is that each family isolates itself from other families, one village from other villages, one province from other provinces.
In the week or so leading up to that moment, I decided to take my camera out a few more times to document the neighborhood where I live. The goal was to finally make some of the photos I'd visualized many times before. These buildings, streets and alleys are a familiar sight. I walk and bike around this area on a daily basis. I knew where to go and what to do to get the images I had in my mind.
While my Hanoi photo project, consisting of Hanoi Skin, Under The Skin and Hanoi Reflection, is actually complete, I consider the photos in this journal post as an unforeseen addendum to that project.
How should we document this situation? Many photographers resort to creating work about life at home during the strange days we're experiencing. They portray the daily routines of their family, do a bit of macro photography in the garden or shoot the odd, empty streets during their food run.
Currently there's no lockdown in Hanoi, like in many other places. Still, our family, as many others, have chosen to limit our movements and social interactions. It's the sensible thing to do, given the circumstances. The consequence is that we feel like our lives are in a state of limbo: we're still free, but there's this undertow, a constant feeling of unease in our hearts and minds.
A few days ago, I took to the nightly streets again in my immediate neighborhood. Turns out I'm not one to document my family, the plants in our garden or the still-not-so-empty streets around the city... yet. Maybe that is still to come. But for now, the images in this post are the ones that resonate most with how I feel. And while I merely consider these to be rough drafts, unpolished and under-researched, I would like to share them.
Let's see where this path leads to next.
Today is as good a day as any to revive the idea of a journal. As our world and lives are grinding to a halt, why not treat the time to come as a window of opportunity to make a change - any change? Thinking about hitting that reset button seems appropriate.
I took a short stroll around my neighborhood last night. Who knows, it might have been the last one for some time to come. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. My aim was simply to catch some fresh air, and the mood of the day. The result? This little journal revival. It's just a spark right now. Let's see if it turns into a fire.
I'm not sure how often I will publish something in this space. I like that day-by-day approach for now. In any case, anything I'll publish will be a combination of a few images and a bit of text. Consider these pieces little musings on photography and life - but mostly photography.
Check in every once in a while if you're interested. It would be my pleasure.