Here's a trailer of my work in progress book project; Hầu Đồng: The Spirit Mediums of Viet Nam, on which I've been working for the past year, and whose fieldwork will be completed by summer of 2016, if all goes to plan.
I estimate the photo book in its final form will have around 100 full-color photographs of Hầu Đồng ceremonies, of its rituals, of its mediums, its religious paraphernalia and much more. In addition, it'll have no less than 25-30 pages of text explaining the ancient syncretic religion of Đạo Mẫu, its history, its mythology and its pantheon of deities, along with a narrative of my personal experiences documenting it in Vietnam.
The trailer is a conscious attempt on my part to set a firm timeframe for the book's publication. Otherwise, this documentary project might never finish. As I've written in an earlier post, I could be victim of the matryoshka dolls (aka Russian nesting dolls) syndrome; a metaphor for discovering more and more opportunities every time I probe the Hầu Đồng world and its community.... and this project could go on and on like the Energizer Bunny.
Since I worked on this personal project, I’ve experienced a resurgence of excitement, not only for photography, but a spike in my intellectual interest in syncretic religious traditions, occult cultural customs and practices, Asian history and languages, to mention just a few. And I can say that working on this project has given me a sense of direction, and the expression "as happy as a pig in mud" comes to mind.
The experience of researching the material needed for this book project, whether in Hanoi or New York City, whether in live conversations or in emails/messages with the generous Vietnamese who are helping me or in my office using the available internet search engines to gather as much information as possible... whether succeeding or failing... whether finding the ceremonies and people or not... experiencing highs and lows, whether experiencing disappointments or success, it was worth every second, and it ain't over yet.