I spent a few hours again on Sunday walking around near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, trying to find photographs and generally taking in the air of the 1,000-year anniversary celebrations. I’m still struggling with how I feel about everything. I’ve spoken to a lot of people and I’ve read a lot about the proceedings online. The vibe oscillates wildly between cynicism and blind glee. I fall somewhere in between. Our Man in Hanoi sums up things nicely here. Strange times indeed.
For me, I’m most interested in the overt and very obvious duality present in the capital right now. Many of the official festivities are being held in private. Crowds are pressed against barricades that hold them back from empty streets. Friend and fellow photographer Justin Mott observed that he’d never before seen a female traffic cop, yet the other day as he walked around his neighborhood, he passed five tall, attractive Vietnamese women donning the drab khaki outfits of Hanoi’s Finest. The city has spent tens of millions of dollars on this event, but many Vietnamese people are calling it a waste of time and effort (and money). Hotels are full, but with visiting diplomats and delegations. And on and on.
I’m still not sure where these photographs, as a whole, belong. But I’m having fun taking them. Maybe they’ll feel a bit more cohesive after a few more days of shooting. But I leave town tomorrow evening for New York City and the Eddie Adams Workshop, so then again, maybe not.