I wish I could pretend that I’ve been holding off uploading the rest of the pictures from my trip as part of an effort to let anticipation build, but in reality I’ve just been really really busy. On the other hand, I’ve been shooting a lot faster than I can post-process, so that’s good. I’m going to try to post a picture from a day or so for the rest of the week, just to catch up on the back-log, so check often!
This isn’t really an artistic photo in that it’s not visually stunning and there’s no amazing features of composition or form to draw the eye in; what it is is partly what Vietnam was to me, the clash of new and old. To an American eye, at first glance Vietnam reminded me of Mexico. The average standard of living is similar, there’s the history of centuries of colonialism, and there’s the unique culture that has formed out of all those centuries of conquest and colonial powers, in this case the Chinese and the French and the American adding flavor to the Vietnamese culture. What was different though, was that while Mexico seems to be standing still, or even slipping into chaos and anarchy, Vietnam is racing forward at a thousand miles an hour.
As befitting a country that’s started to proudly call itself one of the new generation of Asian Tigers, everything about Vietnam is changing and being replaced and upgraded. Every new bridge, tunnel, highway, or other piece of infrastructure had been built within the past ten or twelve years; skyscrapers were being built to replace the now-outdated skyscrapers that had been erected five years ago; half the restaurants in our guide book for Saigon had been replaced or been driven out of business by fancier rivals since the two-year-old book had been written. But while this is going on, the traditional culture hasn’t quite been swamped. I saw people in full old-style dress riding motorscooters through the streets, and whole families carrying chairs out to the crowded sidewalks to have meals with their neighbors while power-suited businessmen walked by. Likewise they seem to have more respect for and interest in their “Ethnic minorities”- the ethnic groups that were conquered by the majority Viet people throughout Vietnamese history- than many other nations do for their indigenous groups, including the US. So I guess what I’m getting at through all of this is that Vietnam fascinated me with its mix of new and old, and this photo was an attempt to capture that as best I could.