Tuesday, 21 September 2010
Monday, 13 September 2010
5 - 13 Sep 2010
Saturday, 4 September 2010
24 Aug - 4 Sep 2010
Monday, 23 August 2010
This is a blast update covering my time in Vietnam during July. There are a limited number of photographs because the site is clumsy and slow when attempting to upload lots of images and place them in the correct place. The site likes to put them where it wants which is not good for my humour.
Sunday 4 July
Fly Bangkok – Saigon arr mid morning. Weather hot, cloudy and humid. Travel by taxi to hotel. Acclimatise pm with a visit to the local market, walk the streets and visit the fine art museum. This is in a run down French colonial building. Many paintings and pen/pencil drawings from the 60’s. Met the group in the early evening and dined out at a restaurant overlooking the city. Rained hard all evening.
Monday 5 July
Weather as Sunday. Cyclo tour of the city visiting War Remnants, Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral, HCM Museum (closed) the side of the Saigon River and the City Museum. A good way to see the city quickly and not too fast for photography. Unfortunately, the city authorities are looking to ban cyclo’s because they hold up traffic flow. This will be a shame for future tourists if it happens. It was noticeable from my first visit that the number of motor-scooters and more alarmingly motor cars has increased considerably’. Their road systems are 1960’s. How long before they have constant gridlock or kill tourists? Found the Remnants museum extremely moving and the quietness of the visitors became noticeable as they walked around. The exhibits pull no punches and are vividly explicit. It is run down for a major tourist attraction. How must an American visitor feel? Can I capture the mood of this place in my images without just showing artefacts of war?
Tuesday 6 July
Weather as Monday although blue skies as we travelled south. Temp in the mid 30’s! Travelled by mini-bus to Cai Be on the upper Mekong River. Took ca 2 hours to leave the city owing to traffic levels. This will only get worse. The style of architecture results in long narrow buildings with different heights. Explained as being due to land prices in the city, but I am not convinced as this continues into the countryside.
Once at Cai Be we moved to water transport. The waterways are extremely noisy from the huge unsilenced boat engines. The Cathedral at Cai Be (Roman Catholic) looked odd to my western eyes against the Vietnamese backdrop. Cai Be has a floating wholesale market with each boat literally strapping its wares to the mast for identification. Moved on into the motorways which seem to criss-cross one another and vary in width massively. They are a hive of activity with the traffic system only marginaly better than on the land. The rivers are bridged frequently. The hand crafted style seen in the Smolan collection no longer in evidence. It was noticeable that many had no handrails!
Visited several factories including rice paper manufacture, fish and soy sauce, sweets and bricks. They were all cottage industries except for the brick works although mechanisation as low. Wages we were told are ca $3 per day/6days per week/10 hours per day. The owners ‘luxury’ houses and cars were curiously pointed out to us. Capitalism is moving in.
Lunch was at a riverside restaurant with excellent quality local food and fruit. The night was spent in a communal home stay lodge by the noisy riverside. A trip on a small twin oared boat was also made. This was a quieter ride and allowed us to see the gentle side of river life.
Sunny. Left the Delta very early in the morning for a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels, which was a 4 hour journey. The journey was through rubber plantations and rice paddy.
The tunnels are a major tourist attraction which includes a communist wartime propaganda video, a verbal explanation of life in the tunnels, a walking tour of the area showing a captured tank, a crawl through a tunnel, bomb craters, booby traps and the opportunity to fire weapons. Are the Vietnamese selling the ordnance back to the Americans? Surely not.
Three hours back to rainy Saigon and KFC.
Thursday 8 & Friday 9 July
Saigon to Da Lat in the central highlands. (1500m above sea level) A 10 hour journey and distance of ca 150 miles. Road conditions getting out of Saigon as Tuesday. The journey is a hilly one and so very little rice paddy. Move into coffee, tea, fruit and veg landscapes with some greenhouse cultivation . Visited a minority village of the K’hor people, who do not have Vietnamese as their mother tong.
Da Lat is a romantic city for the Vietnamese. It is certainly cooler. It was the one time summer retreat of the last king who abdicated in 1945 and died in France in 1997. A visit to his 1930’s style estate was made. The city also has several tourist attractions which are curiously 1950’s style. It brought to me the odd thought that at one time these men who were managing silly rides, only 30 years ago would have been fighting men. This is one city whose development over the next 10 years will be of interest.
Other things seen are; Crazy House (Architecturally) Cable car, Culture Park, Embroidery museum and the old railway station including a redundant steam engine.
Saturday 10 July
This was a sunny day and entailed an 4 hour journey through a hilly terrain of the Ngoan Muc Pass down to Nha Trang on the coast. The city is developing as a tourist resort with western style hotels being erected. It was interesting to see part built hotels which had been part built on my last visit. My guide explained this as ‘the money doesn’t always go where it was intended’, which is polite for corruption. The afternoon was spent at a Cham Towers which is a mini version of the temples at Anchor Wat in Cambodia.
A beautiful sunny hot day spent touring a local fishing island and seeing local life. This included the coracle boats, markets and village architecture. It also gave us a chance to relax. The evening meal was taken in a typical Vietnamese BBQ restaurant with the locals. A bit on the non too hygienic side foe me and I paid the price on the following day.
This was a travel day in gloomy weather along the coast to Quy Non of approx 6 hours. The afternoon was spent at a home for the deaf and blind. It is unfortunate in Vietnamese society that any debility in a child is hidden away. Only the enlightened will ask for help. The older children work on craft items which they sell. The home is run by charitable donation and staffed by Westerners and those who have passed through the home. It was chance for the children to sing and dance and practice their English. It was a bit cheesy but important to them so worthwhile.
A 7 hour journey in sunny weather to the Memorial Site at Son My (My Lai). The visit included a video of the opening of the memorial site with footage of those Americans who had attempted to stop the massacre. Is this a way of making visiting Americans feel better? This was followed by an explanation of the massacre from a lady, an accompanied tour of the museum which was primarily ordnance, photographs and newspaper reports. A marble stone with the name of those killed, their age and gender dominates the museum. The outside has several statues which have an aggression whilst at the same time great sadness about them. This part of the hamlet is laid out in plots depicting the houses. Each has a plaque of the names of those killed and mock remains of the houses and dead animals. Mass graves are also marked. The most touching sight is of concrete paths imprinted with the feet of fleeing villagers and the boots of the following attacking GI’s.
We arrived in Hoi An late afternoon.
Very Hot. The morning was spent looking around this 16/17th century town set on the coast. Hoi An was in the south and not bombed by the Americans. It has a thriving market selling local produce and fish as is common in Vietnam. Its shops are mainly tailors and the town is set up as the ‘made to measure tailoring’ centre of the country. The once thriving early morning fish landing quayside has been moved up river out of site of the tourists. A real shame. Went to a local show of dancing and singing which I recorded part of. I do find Vietnamese theatre a bit too expressive and long winded although very colourful.
Cloudy today. Took a cycle tour of the local villages, lakes and coastline. Well off of the beaten track and able to see the everyday lives of the country people. This is prawn farming country for the locals and tourists. There is a beauty about his aspect of Vietnam which really needs to remain unspoiled.
The outskirts of Hoi An along the coast is being turned into tourist territory and people are being compulsorily moved away. How wrong is this and how far away from what they had fought for? Are the Vietnamese being deceived and are just too tired to protest? Have they been betrayed by their leaders as suggested by Gabriel Kolko in ‘Vietnam – Anatomy of Peace’?
A rainy day and I see our first amputee from the war. ‘Americans, Claymoor mines’ he explained. He sells English text newspapers on sunny days and umbrellas on rainy ones. We travel from Hoi An to Hue over the Hai Van Pass. The weather was unfortunate and spoiled our view.
Arrived in Hue, the one time capital and scene of extensive fighting and cruelty at the Tet Offensive. It rained heavily all day, although we made the tour of the Citadel. This was the one time seat of royalty and had had extensive and ornate palaces on a similar scale to the Forbidden City in Beijing. These had been extensively damaged during fighting with both the French and the Americans. It is gradually being restored under the auspices of the World Heritage authorities and the plan is to re-build the whole complex.
The evening was spent at a traditional Vietnamese banquet with entertainment. It Is intriguing to see and hear the sounds which can be extracted from single stringed instruments and teacups!
Started gray and rainy but brightened up by late morning.
The morning was spent on a boat ride down the Perfume River, a visit to a Chinese style pagoda and to see the car which had taken the Buddhist monk to Saigon in 1962 for his act of self immolation.
Spent the rest of the day on the back of a motor scooter braving the conditions of town and country driving. The trick appears to be never to stop, regardless of other road users, lorries and road junctions. Visited rice paddy, local villages and markets, a covered bridge, roadside craft shops, a hill overlooking the Perfume River with the pill box and abandoned royal tombs.
This was my favourite day as we took the 11 hour journey by rail from Hue to Dinh Binh and into the north. The countryside was a hive of activity as the people worked the rice paddy with water buffalo and bent backs. This part of the journey should be made on a bicycle and take three weeks to do. It is stunningly beautiful and has not changed since the days of the images taken by Jones -Griffith and others. Only now, the soldiers have gone.
Cloudy day. Travelled to the Cuc PhuongNational Park via more royal tombs near Ninh Bin. This was a real tourist trap with everyone wanting to sell memorabilia at the same time. The incessant sales talk is one area of tourism which needs discouraging.
The National Park has an endangered monkey sanctuary financed by the west. The monkeys are being re-introduced into the wild onto the uninhabited island of Ha Long Bay where they can be protected against poachers. The afternoon was spent walking in the forest but there was too much up hill for my liking.
An early start in good weather and a 7 hour drive to Ha Long bay along the coastal road. The journey went around the port city of Hai Phong which had been heavily bombed by the Americans. This part of the journey became progressively more industrialised mixing rice paddy with factories and tourism. Arrived in Ha Long two days after a typhoon had caused some flooding and boats to sink. Made the tourist overnight trip on an imitation junk which included excellent food, a trip to underground caves and a swim in the bay.
The last part of our journey by bus would take 4 hours on the journey to Hanoi along increasingly industrialised roads. Many Japanese high street names were in evidence. An afternoon cyclo tour of the old quarter (tourist quarter) was taken. This is a hive of markets and street sellers selling primarily counterfeit goods.
The evening was spent at the Water Puppet Theatre which thank goodness now has a little humour rather than telling long tales of love and tragedy.
Cloudy and cooler. (It had been +40 in Hanoi the previous week)
Had an English breakfast in a restaurant run by street kids who had been rescued by an Australian one time tour guide,
Afterwards went to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum. There appeared to be a constant stream of both Vietnamese and tourists to see Uncle Ho. The V motives are understandable, but why do westerners do it? Need to re-read relevant section of ‘Dark Tourism’.
Last minute walking tours of the city and shopping. Enjoyed the hustle and bustle of city life, the chaotic traffic and the charm of these lovely people. The question of how did they become involved in so many wars continues to cloud my thoughts? I suppose the HCM comment of 2 Sep answers this plus the museum poster ‘Independence or Death’.
Sunday 25 July
Leave Hanoi mid –afternoon in rain for the journey via Bangkok to home.
Monday, 26 April 2010
I have moved on quite well over the last week with a selection of 40 photographs titled 'Behind the Barricade - The Bangkok Riots' being added to the Uni Image site. I have also done some sound editing and have commenced learning SlideShow Pro in readiness for adding images, sound and movies with Ros tomorrow. The Riot images will also be included as a separate project as it is not often a traveller becomes involved in such a violent and tragic event.
Now that the fun and games of Thailand are over, I can once put some time back into this project. This has been a reading week with me looking concurrently at the subject of Dark Tourism, the hard work 'Anatomy of Peace' which seems to just re-write each chapter in a different order to the previous one! I am also looking at the early work of Phillip Griffith-Jones in more detail and exploring how others saw his work both as a photograpoher and a journalist. I am moving on to researching 'Passage to Vietnam' which has been loaned to me as a CD by Ros. (Many Thanks)
I have also done a little research into post production looking at both Blurb and Loxleys as book printers.
Monday, 19 April 2010
Thursday, 8 April 2010
I have made it to friends from Englandwho live in Pattaya after 8 days of quite tiring traveling on rail, road and ferry from Singapore to Bangkok. This involved 2 x 7 hours and 1 x 22 hours on the railway. I got lots of images of life associated with the railway, each a story in themselves but part of the plot of life of a railway. Most disturbing was the apparent commandeering of peoples homes to build the new railway in Malaysia. This would make for a series of documentary images in their own right. The slums as the train enters Bangkok are upsetting and in complete contrast to the quaint stations seen farther south.
Some technical issues when travelling by train in this part of the world:
1. Every time you get off of the train, the lens condensates up!
2. Two cameras with different lens are essential. (17-55 and 18-200) Don't try changing lens on a moving train.
3. Be prepared to be continually changing ASA values to match the speed of the train.
4. Be prepared to bribe the guard to clen the windows. Scratches you can do nothing about.
Monday, 29 March 2010
Monday, 15 March 2010
PreProduction has had to take a bit of a back seat this week in favour of research required for the other three subjects. I continue to read the Kolko book 'Vietnam - Anatomy of Peace'. It is only thin but quite heavy reading. It deals primarily with economic reform, the communist regime, the need for covert capitalism and of course corruptive influences potentially negating sacrifices of the war with the US. I have also begun to research Phillip Griffith Jones's book 'Vietnam at Peace'. His series of images taken over 25 years since 1975 cover all aspects of life as it attempts to recover. He shows lots of early 'tourism' images and makes the point that the need for tourist Dong, especially from Americans, was beginning to see remnant museums and tourist sites being sanitised to avoid offending anyone!
Friday, 5 March 2010
This week I have concentrated on finalising all of the logistics which are now all finally done.
I have been loking at sound re-cording and dug out my old minidisk player. (Yes I had one) The problem with these machines is that the player and disks are nice and small, fiiting into a pocket nicely. My problem is the transformer battery charger, it weighs about 2kg and is the size of a car battery. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
I have concentrated on research this week and have been looking at the history of Malaysia and a series of images taken by Craig Schuller along the Thai side of the track. To see his images go to:
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Starting to think about my MA final project in light of the various lectures. I had already been considering a documentary photography project in Vietnam as this is an area of interest to me. I had been fascinated with the politics of the country since 1945 until the late 70's and the departure of the Americans. I had seen images by Phillip Griffith-Jones, Tim Page (including his recent TV documentary and book 'Another Vietnam'), Don McCullen and others who had taken some of the iconic images of the war. Malcom Brown and his 1963 image showing the self immolation of the Buddhist Monk Quang Duc; Eddie Adams & his 1968 image of the street execution; Ronald Haeberles 1968 My Lai massacre and Nick Uts 1972 photograph of the 'Flight of Phan Thi Kim Phuc.
My interest is leaning to the plight of the population rather than straight war images. There are lots taken during the American conflict by both Griffith Jones in his books 'Vietnam Inc' (1971)and 'Vietnam at Peace' (2005) and Tim Page 'Another Vietnam' 2002. There are literally thousands of books about the Vietnamese war with the Americans and its narrowing them down to the pertinant ones which is my problem!
I decided to keep my options open (with the advice of Rob Coley) whilst carrying out the research. They are:-
- To capture the feeling and mood of the people today through portraiture and/or going about their everyday lives.
- To explore the degree to which the war with the Americans is being exploited by the Vietnamese to earn money through tourism and in particular Americans. ‘Tourism of War’.
- Western influences on Vietnam, despite their rejection of ‘capitalism’ in 1954 (North) 1975 (South)
The areas for research I am undertaking are:-
- The story and images behind Vietnams post-WWII situation (1945-2000)
- Vietnam story today and images.
- Logistics of the project.
- Post Production and the exhibition.
Need to be careful this doesn't end up a holiday brochure journal, although if any images can be sold separately, why not?
17 - 25 Jan 10
I have been concentrating the rfesearch for and the drawing up Portfolio 1 + a presentation for the 1st pitch due on 3 March
Thursday, 4 February 2010
- PERSONAL - this encompassed things like leaving home for the first time, (I was 5) living overseas, starting a career, getting married and starting a family, getting divorced, having grandchildren, special interests and hobbies, retirement and university and a tragedy. These would fit most peoples lives as a general heading, but the actual event is different emotionaly for us all. I.e some people are sad when a divorce happens, I sent out thank you cards!
- WORLD EVENTS - Death of Kennedy, Vietnam War images, the 3 day week, the Thatcher years with the Miners strikes, Lockerbie, the Twin Towers.
- INVENTIONS - The vernier guage, the calculator (yes, I remember log books and slide rules) Nylon shirts, the Sony Walkman, Television, commercial aircraft, the mobile phone, central heating.
The list is obviously by no means exhaustive and will continue to grow.