Year of the Snake

February 19, 2013

Cai Mai

Happy Chinese New Year!

red envelope


Charlie Chaplin

September 18, 2012


Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) , Vietnam 2010

© Duc Ly 2010

from: my-journey-back-to-Vietnam

I remember watching Charlie Chaplin films in Vietnam. The man drove around on his bicycle with a box contraption strapped to the back. He collected coins from children and then were then allowed to peer into the wooden box where black and white grainy snippets of film shows Charlie Chaplin antics. We even have a special Vietnamese name that we call Mr. Chaplin. I forget what it is.  If any one out there knows what it is.  Please comment.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) , Vietnam 2010

© Duc Ly 2010

My father had a shop next to a portrait artist. I visit his studio often. He painted portraits of the dead. Clients would come in with a wallet size photograph of the recently deceased and asked him to enlarged the photograph to a drawing or painting. Often these were done in black and white. Some times they were done in color. He score the wallet size pictures with a tiny grid. Then he transposed these grids onto a specified size request from the client. This is how it is done.

Some of the children at Mid Autumn Festival party at White Palace, Ho Chi Minh City.

The ballerinas

preparing for the dance

At the Mai Tam House of Hope

Mai-Tam   House of Hope portraits  Photos by Duc N. Ly

Nha Trang

December 7, 2009

Originally uploaded by Christian Lagat.

Christian’s been doing some very exciting work in Vietnam!  He uses a Ricoh GR digital camera that is compact and easy to travel with.  Christian captures the gentle pace of the country and beautiful compositions of the shores of Nha Trang,  a place that I was too young to visit when I lived in Vietnam.
Check out his collection of Vietnam.  This set is from Can Tho where I used to live.  I’ll have to ask him his reasons and perhaps conduct an interview.

Duc:  So how do you find the opportunity to travel to Vietnam for Pictures

Christian:  Hi !  Thanks a lot again for your interest in my pictures !  I’ve been only one time in Vietnam. This year, in spring, for 3 weeks. It was a tourism travel with my wife and my 2 boys (15 & 13).
We really enjoined the trip…people, landscapes, food, everything was perfect !  We’ve been only in south and central Vietnam, and we would like go to north in the future.

I wanted to go there for years, because for my generation, specialy for people like me interesting in politic and history, Vietnam was the terrible background of our youth. When I was a kid in the 60’s, I was very impregnated by all the vietnamese city names I heard on the radio.
Another reason, is the fact that these recent years we travelled four times in india, and I knew that it will be very much “restful” to go in Vietnam for my kids and wife…;-)  Cam on.

Duc:  Hi Christian,  You are right about the names which have also impregnated my mind as well.  Especially, Nha Trang because my oldest sister went there to visit.  It was a very popular destination even back then.  I was too young to visit but saw photographs she brought back which was taken by a professional photographer.   At first, I thought you were a photojournalist working on a project on Vietnam. Your work is very impressive. Have you been photographing long?  What is your advice on travel photography? I like the India series. There have been serious documentary work done on India and Vietnam. Michael Ackerman and Mitch Epstein come to mind. Which photographers do you look at?

Christian:  In fact, now, I’m not vey interested by Photography with a big P.
I was a little bit when I was young, 30 years ago, when I read a lot of magazine and books (I remember to be very impressed by the work of Raymond Depardon and Don Mc Cullin) , but now, I’m just traveling, or walking in my own town, shooting and shooting !…;-)

Have a nice week-end.

Related Link:  Diligam’s set on Flickr of Pulau Bidong.

Amerasian Childfind

June 10, 2009

Amerasion Child Find Network is a nonprofit based in Oregon.  There’s a great story in the Asian Reporter about a family reunion.  The then child,   Thu Pham was separated from the father, an American Military Police Officer.  Nearly fourty years later, the family is reunited in Michgan.  Tu heard about the website and contacted Clint Haines, the CEO of Amerasian Child Find.  Mr. Haines then posted the message with photographs of the father on an Army’s 504th Military Police Battalion’s website/forum.

The Boat

The Boat

The first story of the book. Father comes to visit son at creative writing school. Son gets ideas from friends to exploit the Vietnam experience from Father. Father tell son about story then later burns it after it is written. It is never shown or published. Seems to be a commentary there.

From The New Yourk Times artical by Patricia Cohen:
The last story, “The Boat,” describes a dire 13-day journey from Vietnam to a Malaysian camp, an experience not that different from one that Mr. Le, just a few months old, and his family went through after joining the legions of refugees trying to escape the Communist regime in 1979.

“One of the chief ambitions of the story was to play with that idea of what we consider to be authentic, how much autobiography is implied or assumed, how we read something differently if we think it’s been drawn from the author’s life,” Mr. Le said of “Love and Honor.”

His father spent three years in a re-education camp after the war, but unlike his fictional counterpart, who destroys one of his son’s stories, Mr. Le’s father made some suggestions and asked if he could translate the tales. His mother, he said, has not yet read them.

The Book of Salt

December 17, 2007

A Novel

The Book of Salt: A Novel

I heard about this book long ago. It is only now that I am reading it. The book re-imagines history.

We are the same age. We even live in the same town, Can Tho.

“To the list of most offensive oxymoron I added the phrase smart bombs. I wept, remembering the remedial ones that shook my family’s house in Can Tho, a city to the south of Saigon, on the banks of the Mekong.” -Monique Truong. for the Times article.

It’s eerie to see your house again on a VHS video tape. Our neighbor from Vietnam went back to Can Tho in the mid 90s. My family visited the neighbor in San Jose when they got back. We are sitting in their living room in California watching the video. When my parents left, the house was handed over to the local officials. The video shows a distant view of the crumbling facade. I can still remember collecting the mosaic tiles that drop due to the humidity and age. It is now being occupied by the communist officials, that thought was strange. It is more of a building then a home. There were six levels. The ground floor is the shop. We lived above. Our cousins, uncles, and hired help live on the floors above. There is the balcony from where I like to watch the parade of Ao Dai, women and men, couples, and families strolling towards church. I flew kites on the very top terrace and watch fire works on the Lunar Chinese New Years. The blinds hung between railings and the ceiling. When the sun went away, the blinds were rolled up. This rolls provided a perfect nesting place for swallows and mynahs.

I have not gone back to Vietnam. I had a chance to when my old-girl-friend invited me to go back in the late 90s. I had just started working at a prestigious architectural firm and didn’t have vacation time. I suppose that was one of the points in our eventual partings.

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