The foreboding mountainous landscapes of northern Vietnam are grim and beautiful and mysterious and every time I travel through Ha Giang Province I’m reminded of all of this and more. Last month, I took a road trip there with little more than a great friend, an old motorbike, a few small cameras, and a bag film of expired film. Here’s one quick picture. Blood red and blurry. More to come.
I just developed some old film from Cape Town, South Africa. I left it out for a few months, open to the sun and heat and humidity of northern Vietnam. So now all the numbers from the film paper have burned through and mold has started to grow on all of the images, giving them an aged, washed-out kind of feel. I like it for the few photographs from the trip that I like. Here’s a homemade panorama from the tip of the continent.
Never before or since my short trip to North Korea have I felt so perplexed about the realities of a country. It’s easy to know certain things: it’s a hermit nation, it’s citizens have little to no access to the outside world, it’s been run by a family of despots since the end of the Korean War, and it seemingly revels in its own bad behavior, taunting the world but stopping just short of biting the hands that feed it. But like all things worth exploring, what’s on the surface can be a very shallow reflection of the place as a whole.
During my few days in country, I met some of the nicest, most intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. North Koreans, born and raised. They would talk to me about the US’s foreign policies, about Vietnam’s peculiar brand of communism, and about many other things, but they would never talk about their own country. Except to say how great their Dear & Great Leaders were, or to proclaim how they wanted for nothing in North Korea. Which, well. Obviously. It made for a perplexing read on things. Lines were blurred from the start. I would see the same people over and over again. The man in the park was also the man in the museum. That family over there was having a picnic in the woods the day before. Maybe. I think. I don’t know. In a nation where every piece of reality seems fabricated, where is the final line drawn?
So that’s what I tried to show in the photographs I took. An unreal reality. A constant fog over the eyes. Blurred edges. Shadowy figures. A constant kind of questioning. But even now, so far removed from it, I have no idea what I really saw.