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Ha Giang, the far North of Vietnam
Old 12-04-2011   #1
kiemchacsu
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Ha Giang, the far North of Vietnam

Recently, I had a chance to visit Ha Giang again. That was my third time to be there but I always feel exited, the reason? May the pictures could explain some things.

Some notes from Wikipedia for brief instruction

Quote:
H Giang ( listen) is a province in northeastern Vietnam. It is located in the far north of the country, and contains Vietnam’s northernmost point. It shares a 270 km long border with Yunnan province of southern China. Hence it is known as the final frontier of Vietnam. The province covers an area of 7945.8 square kilometres and as of 2008 it had a population of 705,100 people.[1]
The provincial capital is also called Ha Giang, which is connected by Highway 2 and is 320 km away from Hanoi. The border crossing is at Than Thui, 25 km from the Ha Giang town. It is one of the poorest provinces of Vietnam as it has highly rugged but scenic mountainous topography with least potential for agriculture development.[2][3][4][5][6]
The province borders China with a length of over 270 kilometres (170 mi); the border gate is known as the Thanh Thuy. In addition there are three smaller gates namely, the Pho Bang, the Xin Man and the Sam Pun.[7]
And here we go, some pictures from that trip

1

Ha Giang 11/2011 by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

2

1111_58_M3_BW400CN by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

3

1111_59_M3_BW400CN by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

4

1111_67_M3_BW400CN by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

6

1111_45_M3_BW400CN by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

P.S: sorry for the confusion in the file name, it was a mistake while naming the scanned file. The film was FOMAPAN 100. Leica M6 | 35/2 V4
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Old 12-04-2011   #2
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Pictures are great, lovely light.
I like the oof and dof - seems like medium/large format to me.
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Old 12-05-2011   #3
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Excellent - they give a real feel of the place. We will go back to Vietnam at the end of this month, but to South Vietnam. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of this very unique part of the world. I am currently in Kalimantan, where outside of the cities the people also share a simple subsistence existence as portrayed in your photos.
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Old 12-05-2011   #4
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Wonderful pictures!
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Old 12-05-2011   #5
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Wow! They're excellent! (I'd love to see these printed.)

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Old 12-05-2011   #6
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Beautiful, timeless photos, they look as if they could have been taken 40 years ago.
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Old 12-05-2011   #7
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nh sng thật l ma qui

magically lighting...
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Old 12-05-2011   #8
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These have a unique, kind of a theater set -like look to them.
Excellent compositions, by the way.
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Old 12-05-2011   #9
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Wonderful subjects, interesting coverage. Would like to see more pictures.

(Just a suggestion: How about adding some silvery mid-tones and "sparkle" by developing the Fomapan 100 in D76 for example, if "gloomy" was not the style you have intended for? )
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Old 12-05-2011   #10
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Wowww, lovely photos of minority peoples. Looks as the lighting FX with the help of morning/afternoon mist. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 12-05-2011   #11
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the next photos were taken on Tri-X rate at 400

7

sung la_ (3) by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

8

sung la_ (4) by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

9

sung la_ (5) by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

10

sung la_ (6) by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

11

sung la_ (7) by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

12

sung la_ (2) by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

13

sung la_ (1) by kiemchacsu, on Flickr
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Old 12-05-2011   #12
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Wonderful, Thank you for sharing.
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Old 12-05-2011   #13
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Just Divine...shots 1 & 3 are Stunning !
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Old 12-06-2011   #14
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brilliant series.
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Old 12-06-2011   #15
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Love every single picture. Well done!!!
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Old 12-06-2011   #16
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Excuse me. What I see is a community of poor people that have a hard time coming by in their 'simple subsistence'. The issue is that these communities are ever more vulnerable in a globalizing context and often draw the short stick. This is something the photoseries might want to express as well. The way the pics are presented romantizes a supposed 'rustic nature' and suggests there is some 'original happiness' or 'satisfaction' that western societies have lost. Just my anthropologist's cup of tea. I like the pics though.
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Old 12-06-2011   #17
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I like these a lot. To me they could have easily come from a 1930s National Geographic or something of that sort. While I note that you took the shots with a V4 35mm summicron, the rendering looks like that produced by older uncoated optics.
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Old 12-06-2011   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wouter View Post
Excuse me. What I see is a community of poor people that have a hard time coming by in their 'simple subsistence'. The issue is that these communities are ever more vulnerable in a globalizing context and often draw the short stick. This is something the photoseries might want to express as well. The way the pics are presented romantizes a supposed 'rustic nature' and suggests there is some 'original happiness' or 'satisfaction' that western societies have lost. Just my anthropologist's cup of tea. I like the pics though.
I think that's a highly ethnocentric point of view... Who are we to say that the people in the photos are not actually happy or satisfied?

'simple subsistence' implies measurement against a standard of living. I've never been to North Vietnam (although I hope visit someday), so I would not know whether or not these photos represent simple subsistence or the norm.

I do agree that the photos are excellent.... I never would've guessed Fomapan. Great work!!!
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Old 12-06-2011   #19
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thank you for sharing these photos.
Out of curiosity, how did you communicate with them?
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Old 12-06-2011   #20
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Well the OP is Vietnamese and there's little dialect/language variation in Vietnam so I don't think he has much trouble And you'll be surprised how many people can speak English up there as it has become a tourism hotspot in the recent years, although again concentrating mostly in towns rather than the rural areas.
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Old 12-06-2011   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kxl View Post
I think that's a highly ethnocentric point of view... Who are we to say that the people in the photos are not actually happy or satisfied?

'simple subsistence' implies measurement against a standard of living. I've never been to North Vietnam (although I hope visit someday), so I would not know whether or not these photos represent simple subsistence or the norm.
Many poor people are happy, of course. But that happiness is often momentaneous, and can disappear in a whim when the next vulnerability factor makes itself present. This is more apparent where communities become disrupted, which doesn't seem to be the case here.

My point is that we often take beautiful pictures of our travels, but our lack of familiarity with the context makes that we don't pick up the signals of what's really going on. With all respect to the OPs pictures, which I really think are very good from a classical/compositional photographic point of view, but there are some clues in the pics that really indicate the poverty level of that community, and I don't really see a lot of happy faces (yes, the children, and the man interacting with the photographer).

And our travel pictures often serve to highlight a romantic ideal of harmony, beauty, honesty and nobility that, by implication, has become opaque in our own living environment. So is the point made in my earlier statement ethnocentric, or is the attitude revealed through our travel photography ethnocentric ? The fact is that we all are ethnocentric, and that we spend part of our photographic lives trying to relativize it or even escape from it.

Back to the OP's pics. Don't you see a juxtaposition of, on the one hand, the composition and the use of light and, on the other, the indications of poverty and a harsh life ? I do.
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Old 12-06-2011   #22
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Lovely photos of a part of Viet-Nam I have never visited. It seems a struggle for existence in an area where there must have been skirmishes between the giant China and the little Viet-Nam.

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Old 12-06-2011   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wouter View Post
Back to the OP's pics. Don't you see a juxtaposition of, on the one hand, the composition and the use of light and, on the other, the indications of poverty and a harsh life ? I do.
That's just the point - I don't see a harsh life. I ***choose*** to see an idylic village lifestyle and simpler times, albeit lacking in the modern conveniences that we enjoy in the western world. I do see a juxtaposition, but rather than pleasant light-harsh life, I see the juxtaposition of pleasant light-idyllic life, i.e., I see harmony... simpler times of old.

Also, given that the OP is from Hanoi, and I assume, Vietnamese, the location of this village is more or less in his backyard, so I ***choose*** to see a connection between the OP and the villagers, versus a travel curiosity.

Just my $0.02.
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Old 12-06-2011   #24
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I think these Pictures Represent LIFE..

Not empty minded drive by tourist shots , not Life among the Peasants
But Rather A Photographer who has Intermingled and Captured
Existence in its Day to Day workings and STRUGGLES

I Agree with Peterm1 that they have an Old Style National Geographic Feel
and
Agree with You Wouter in ONLY One Respect / Globalization has Ruined The World and its perpertrators are the Corporations & Banks who Support them

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Last edited by helenhill : 12-07-2011 at 05:36. Reason: Edited my sentence re: globalization has ruined ...
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Old 12-06-2011   #25
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Helen - I think you see STRUGGLE through your NYC filter, and if I were to put on my "adult-life in Southern California" filter, I would see the same struggle. But if I were to see the photos through my "born and raised in SE Asia" filter, I do not see struggle, but rather harmony. Just saying...

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Old 12-06-2011   #26
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kxl: Those are Your Filters applied to my Glasses ...

Struggle is not necessarily a Bad Thing...Builds Character
and We ALL struggle in various forms from Day to Day whatever socio economic background we come from

as for the photos I also see Beauty in the Land, the Life, and The 'Twinkle' of The People
Yes I see the Harmony in their Day to Day existence...especially in the Childern

as I stated in my First Sentence : "These Pictures represent Life" ...Life in Motion ...Pure and Simple
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Last edited by helenhill : 12-06-2011 at 16:44.
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Old 12-06-2011   #27
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I do not have a problem with these photos...I Loved them
and expressed that in the beginning of the Thread
I just got a tad ticked with 'Wouter' coming down a bit Heavy on the OP...
thats All
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Old 12-06-2011   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wouter View Post
Back to the OP's pics. Don't you see a juxtaposition of, on the one hand, the composition and the use of light and, on the other, the indications of poverty and a harsh life ? I do.
I get the feeling from both your posts that you are trying to project your own socio-political agenda onto someone else's work, which I consider rather impolite. The images were not offered for that purpose.
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Old 12-06-2011   #29
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really nice shots.

I especially like the very first one you posted.
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Old 12-07-2011   #30
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Hi guys,

It's very excited to know that my photos are being explored in many different senses, good or bad of course depends on the eyes of audience. Please note that this is my 3rd time I visited Ha Giang and I could say that more or less I approached the subjects as an insider, NOT as an superficial traveler. I do agree with Helen's statement above that the pictures represent LIFE, at least that's what I am trying to convey to the audience. Again, every criticises are welcome.

Continue with photos, these are taken with an M3 and 90/2 Pre-ASPH, Fomapan 100 film souped in Tmax dev

14

1111_20_HN_HG_fomapan1 by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

15

1111_18_HN_HG_fomapan1 by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

16

1111_27_HN_HG_fomapan by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

17

1111_28_HN_HG_fomapan by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

18

1111_30_HN_HG_fomapan by kiemchacsu, on Flickr

19

1111_23_HN_HG_fomapan2 by kiemchacsu, on Flickr
This one was taken by the 35/2 IV

20

1111_21_HN_HG_fomapan by kiemchacsu, on Flickr
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Last edited by kiemchacsu : 12-07-2011 at 00:52.
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Old 12-07-2011   #31
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Trung:

It looks like your pictures can be as good as anyone's. My only recommendation is to limit what you post to your very best. It doesn't matter for this forum, but you can produce top-notch pictures and you have enough of them to present only your best, without dilution by your "good, but not great".

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Old 12-07-2011   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helenhill View Post
kxl: Those are Your Filters applied to my Glasses ...

as I stated in my First Sentence : "These Pictures represent Life" ...Life in Motion ...Pure and Simple
The best critic so far, IMHO... Socioeconomic commentaries on the obvious transparency may only act as "filters" to the message the photographer intended to convey. The OP has wonderfully succeeded to allow us see the "Life there" with such an objectivity as to not need anything else to perceive what the lens actually saw there.
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Old 12-07-2011   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigeye View Post
Trung:

It looks like your pictures can be as good as anyone's. My only recommendation is to limit what you post to your very best. It doesn't matter for this forum, but you can produce top-notch pictures and you have enough of them to present only your best, without dilution by your "good, but not great".

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I guess I am not just 'anyone". Most of his pictures (actually all of them) shown here are superb. I would like to see even more.
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Old 12-07-2011   #34
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Very nice photos! I know Vietnam quite well but have mostly spent time in the Southern and Central provinces. The Northern provinces have a very different feel, especially those close to the Chinese border. To me, the photos exemplify the rich diversity you find in Vietnam. My favorites are the first and third photos. Great job OP! I hope you will post more.
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Old 12-07-2011   #35
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Quote:
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I guess I am not just 'anyone". Most of his pictures (actually all of them) shown here are superb. I would like to see even more.
That may have come out badly. I do recommend pruning, though. (e.g. The sat-dish-in-the-head shot can go, etc.)

You're in the my "anyone" category, too - damn good stuff on your site, if you care for my opinion.

.
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Old 12-07-2011   #36
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Originally Posted by hans voralberg View Post
Well the OP is Vietnamese and there's little dialect/language variation in Vietnam so I don't think he has much trouble And you'll be surprised how many people can speak English up there as it has become a tourism hotspot in the recent years, although again concentrating mostly in towns rather than the rural areas.
Vietnam must have changed. Of course, I was only in the Central Highlands and near the DMZ there. Although they tend to be able to communicate with each other fairly well, there are three distinct dialects; Southern, Central, and Northern.

Then there are differences within those. At least in my experience. I had just spent a year in Quang Tri when I was stationed in Da Nang. I had trouble understanding them. As I got better at it, I ran across some cleaning ladies from Hoa Khan (or Khanh). I didn't even recognize them as speaking Vietnamese when I first heard them talking to each other. Eventually I got to where I could mimick them.

But since at least in my experience, all could understand each other, just having to learn regional words, I would tend to agree they can all speak together.

As to the photos, I really enjoyed them. I was curious about their dress. It was not what I was used to in the Central and South. I didn't have much contact with Montagnyards, nor do I know if the people there are montagnyard. Actually, the dress almost seemed more Mongolian. Could you comment on their ethnicity and clothing kiemchacsu?
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Old 12-07-2011   #37
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According to Wikipedia. Aside from the Vietnamese (or Kinh), the most numerous ethnic groups in H Giang are the Ty, the Dao, and the Hmong. Cheers.
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Old 12-07-2011   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigeye View Post
Trung:

It looks like your pictures can be as good as anyone's. My only recommendation is to limit what you post to your very best. It doesn't matter for this forum, but you can produce top-notch pictures and you have enough of them to present only your best, without dilution by your "good, but not great".

- Charlie
Charlie, very appreciate your recommendation. I myself also know which one is my favourite among the series, however, in order to convey a wider view of the land (as I stated Ha Giang), I have or I should post more even though they could dilute the best one as you said. Cheers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wijninga View Post
Very nice photos! I know Vietnam quite well but have mostly spent time in the Southern and Central provinces. The Northern provinces have a very different feel, especially those close to the Chinese border. To me, the photos exemplify the rich diversity you find in Vietnam. My favorites are the first and third photos. Great job OP! I hope you will post more.
Thanks Peter, it seems that the 1st and the 3rd are the best suite to all of your taste! You should visit the North of Vietnam when available, definitely that it has a unique character in comparison to the Central and the South. Cheers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by iBay View Post
I guess I am not just 'anyone". Most of his pictures (actually all of them) shown here are superb. I would like to see even more.
Thanks, I will post more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oftheherd View Post
Vietnam must have changed. Of course, I was only in the Central Highlands and near the DMZ there. Although they tend to be able to communicate with each other fairly well, there are three distinct dialects; Southern, Central, and Northern.

Then there are differences within those. At least in my experience. I had just spent a year in Quang Tri when I was stationed in Da Nang. I had trouble understanding them. As I got better at it, I ran across some cleaning ladies from Hoa Khan (or Khanh). I didn't even recognize them as speaking Vietnamese when I first heard them talking to each other. Eventually I got to where I could mimick them.

But since at least in my experience, all could understand each other, just having to learn regional words, I would tend to agree they can all speak together.

As to the photos, I really enjoyed them. I was curious about their dress. It was not what I was used to in the Central and South. I didn't have much contact with Montagnyards, nor do I know if the people there are montagnyard. Actually, the dress almost seemed more Mongolian. Could you comment on their ethnicity and clothing kiemchacsu?
Quote:
Originally Posted by EZfan View Post
According to Wikipedia. Aside from the Vietnamese (or Kinh), the most numerous ethnic groups in H Giang are the Ty, the Dao, and the Hmong. Cheers.
As Ezfan already mentioned, Vietnam has 54 different ethnic groups which the Kinh (Vietnamese) is the dominant. In Ha Giang, there are H'Mong, Ty, Dao, Nng, L L... in which H'Mong is the dominant with over 30% of the population. In this serie, all of the photos are about the H'Mong ethnic as well as their habitation.
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Old 12-09-2011   #39
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I just got a tad ticked with 'Wouter' coming down a bit Heavy on the OP...
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That's right, and I apologize to the OP for having hijacked his thread to make a point that goes beyond his pictures.

Now, I have come to the conclusion that I have been ethnocentric in my statements, yes. I failed to take into consideration that this community probably has a buddhist background, which might lead them to experience harmony and satisfaction even in adverse conditions. I have looked at this context with a vision biased towards latinamerican reality.

But I still see harsh conditions and poverty in the pictures. It is the photographer's choice to build on that, or not, in composition and the 'various layers of meaning' and the fact that the OP has not done this cannot be used as an element of critique. We can only say "I would have taken different pictures". My representation of this village life would have been different, but the OP's interpretation doesn't lose beauty, relevance or value with that.

Just a word on harmony and simplicity so often thought to be found in subsistence (family) agriculture communities. I have never visited one community based on subsistence agriculture that was in peace and harmony - I have visited a lot, mainly here in south america, but in Bangladesh and Africa as well. The rythm of life and cultural codes are different, but behind what seems like a harmonious community often lies a reality marked by lack of education options, lack of medical care, poor housing conditions, invisibility to government policy and institutions, an extremely heavy workload mainly for women and a high incidence of domestic violence. As outside pressure increases (by market forces or adverse government policies) these vulnerabilities tend to increase and the villagers have little to defend themselves, as their equilibrium of subsistence/survival is very precarious.

Now I should start posting more pics to sustain my point of view, right ?

Cheers to all.
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Old 12-09-2011   #40
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As Ezfan already mentioned, Vietnam has 54 different ethnic groups which the Kinh (Vietnamese) is the dominant. In Ha Giang, there are H'Mong, Ty, Dao, Nng, L L... in which H'Mong is the dominant with over 30% of the population. In this serie, all of the photos are about the H'Mong ethnic as well as their habitation.
Thanks. I finally had the time to look up some of the Montagnyard peoples. Those I was used to seeing on occassion would have been the Dagar. I know of the others farther north, and as far as I know, some of our Special Forces may have had contact with them as well.

I really enjoy your photos and hope you can post more.
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