A few weeks ago I was hired to take some portraits and other art/architectural photographs at The Bui Gallery in Hanoi. They wanted something a bit hipper and grittier than your standard kind of commercial images, and also something that kind of showed off the old French villa that they inhabit, so they let me in to bother them for an afternoon. Here’s a small selection of images from the few hours I spent with the always wonderful gallery staff and owners.
Clothes were provided by Valerie Gregori McKenzie’s Song boutique in the Old Quarter, and the works on display are by Hanoi-based artist Vu Kim Thu.
After the photography opening at The Bui Gallery a few weeks ago, the above image was pulled from the walls on fears of censorship issues and violations of Vietnamese law. And pedophilia concerns. Maybe. I think. Though that isn’t the kind of thing that gets talked about in Vietnam, in my experience. All of it’s a gray area at best. I’m happy that the image got to hang for the opening, though it’s a bit frustrating to see it pulled down only a few days later, along with a photograph from fellow exhibitor Jamie Maxtone-Graham, all because too many local journalists and media agencies were coming in and asking questions. A little controversy should be a good thing. Asking questions should be a good thing. Art, whether you like it or not, should be a good thing.
Of course on my end I fully stand by the gallery’s decision to remove the image from the show. Their necks are on the line much more than mine. I disagree with the much larger picture, the one that has nothing to do with us much smaller beings. So what do you think about this kind of imagery? Is it exploitative or wrong or disgusting? Does it violate some innate sense of privacy? I’m not sure that it matters whether or not I had permission to take the photograph. It’s on a wall. Permission or not. Right or wrong. We don’t always have the luxury of knowing every story behind every image. I’m just curious. Maybe there’s no reaction at all?
I finally got to see my prints for the gallery show this Friday at The Bui Gallery. They’re pretty serious. Now I’m just hoping that the framers don’t mess anything up over the next two days. Cross your fingers. If this thing goes off without a hitch, it should be a great opening. My friend Jamie Maxtone-Graham is also showing some fantastic portraits from the night market, beneath Long Bien Bridge, and two other photographers will have their work on display as well. So if you’re in Hanoi on Friday please stop by and say hello (from 6-9pm at 23 Ngo Van So Street).
On Friday of next week, February 26th from 6-9pm, I’ll be opening a photography exhibit with three other individuals at The Bui Gallery in Hanoi. If you’re around the capital, please stop by to see some new work to ring in the Year of the Tiger. The four rooms of the gallery will be painted black and separated by large black curtains, creating something of an ominous viewing air. There’s even talk of black carpeting for the show. And what better way to view the myriad inconsistencies and juxtapositions that are Hanoi?
The Bui Gallery came to Hanoi nearly a year ago after establishing itself in Paris, and Betty Bui, the gallery owner, has mentioned plans to open a third venue in Singapore in the near future. I’m excited to be part of the gallery’s roster, and look forward to working with them at the opening next week, and far into the future.
While I was in Singapore, I visited the gallery’s printer and looked over some of their sample images. Everything looked great, but still, here’s to hoping they do a good job with the final prints, as I won’t be around to monitor them. Which makes me slightly nervous, especially since a few of the images will be shown quite large (180x120cm), and I’m not used to relinquishing control of my final printings. Anyway, I hope to see fellow Hanoians and wayward travelers at the opening.