Woman with boy on ladder, 2009
Digital C Print, Dimensions Variable
The photographs in this body of work came to be out of a couple of different but complimentary impulses. The first was a simple curiosity of what the Long Bien night market in Hanoi, Vietnam where I have lived since 2007 actually looked like at night. I have often been past the market during the day when it is closed and very little, if anything, is ever happening. It is, in fact, asleep. I found it is an entirely different place after night falls.
The second, more personal, challenge for myself was to make photographs in a different mode, both technically and aesthetically, and to engage the subjects, the people who work and even live in the night market, in a manner that required collaboration and ultimately a trust. I wanted to bring some of the aesthetic of the studio into the street and to do this at night in this venue, a rough wholesale fruit and vegetable market in a tough section of the city near the Red River, seemed both absurd and entirely logical. I like that kind of friction.
On a separate note, there are a couple of other ideas at work here for me. In the West, Vietnam continually connotes a war long over and other socio-political issues which often seem to sublimate the very everydayness of the place. With as little prejudice as I am capable of, in this series I wanted to just look and be looked back at by people with no more overt agenda than just that. These people photographed and I developed some relationship both in the moment we made the image and in the weeks I regularly returned, always with their portrait as a gift. I also had in mind to embrace some tone of a 19th or early 20th colonial portraitist (in Indochina they were typically French and I admire a lot of that work) and so I tried to adopt a somewhat neutral distance and attitude with the camera while looking for something that expressed the nuance of this time, these people, this place.