A Moment in Vietnam

Some time ago, I finished my first photo book, called A Moment in Vietnam. I spent three years putting it together and I enjoyed nearly every part of that and I’m quite proud of it. However, my next book, whenever that comes, will be quite different. Through this project I learned a whole lot about photography, about putting collections together, and maintaining, researching and presenting photo projects. Let me elaborate.

Filling the gaps

After deciding to make a book, one of the first things I learned was that I needed to go out and take a bunch more photos. I think it’s a natural thought of a photographer that if one photo can tell a story, more photos together can tell more of a story. I had been doing that, but the turning point came when I stopped thinking about just adding pictures onto a pile, and thought about what the pictures would look like arranged out into a book, and saw that there were many gaps. Suddenly I had a lot of work to do!

I thought to myself, ‘What are the defining views of Vietnam, that I haven’t captured?’ and ended up with a great long list of things I needed to snare with my camera. I needed the food. I needed the wild traffic. I needed Ha Long Bay, and the little alleys of Hanoi, and the farmers in their fields, and the coffee, the dusty highways, the chill of the north and the torrential rain of the south. Each of these things became a mission, and when I was able to show multiple of these in one frame it was a great thing.

Filling those gaps was quite different from the way I’d started out in photography, which was just taking pictures of whatever I thought would look nice, or things I could make into a visual story. Instead, my missions were now quite specific. For example, I didn’t just want food – I wanted a working person’s meal and more upscale city-chic kind of offering next to it. I didn’t just want to capture new year’s traditions, I wanted to show young people following new year’s traditions. Trying to fulfill these missions was a fantastic challenge that really stretched my skills.

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