Mekong Squared

I’ve been working on a few film-based projects as of late. Getting my hands dirtier and getting back to some of the things that made me initially fall in love with photography. The more tactile aspects of it. Old cameras and expired film and the like. And there’s the anticipation as well. The waiting for the images. It can be a nice thing to not know exactly what’s gone through your camera until it’s processed. There’s more surprise. Which granted is nicer for me than for editors. And which is why I don’t hand in rolls of film to clients.

But for personal work, I’m trying to shoot more of it, with varying degrees of success. I’m rusty. I still tear the sprockets of my 35mm film and my hands get sweaty when I’ve groped around in the dark for too long, looking for the developer that I swore I had just a minute ago. I’m also lazy, and never check water temperature, or use very precise measurements for my chemicals. Sometimes I wash my film with shampoo while I’m in the shower. Then it hangs in the bathroom until my fiance complains enough for me to take it down. But I don’t know. I guess that’s all part of it. These days, the results feel like they should be grittier. The film should get a bit scratched up. There should be some imperfections. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m trying to be less perfect from now on. To let the mistakes build up into something possibly beautiful. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

The Red River Diaries

I spent quite a bit of time last month traveling the length of the Red River in Vietnam for an editorial story in The Word magazine. We went by train, bike, and car. The sky was slate gray the entire trip. It rained that misty, incessant kind of rain for days on end. We braced ourselves against boring rural towns and gusts of wind off the Gulf of Tonkin. We thawed our hands in small cafes against even smaller heaters. We complained about the weather. A lot. We met interesting and interested people along the way. We were invited to tea. We were shown into people’s homes. We were told their stories.

The complaining was just habit. It’s what we’ve come to do when we forget how great it is to travel and meet people and see the country from a perspective that most foreigners never get to see. The towns we passed through weren’t tourist towns. They were farming towns. Small places with friendly people curious as to why we were even there in the first place. Forgettable in the overall picture maybe, but a bit poignant when you’re right in the middle of it. Anyway. Here are some pictures from the journey. From Lao Cai to Xuan Thuy, from the China border to the river’s delta.