Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Hầu Đồng : The Spirit Mediums of Viet Nam

The highly anticipated photo book Hầu Đồng : The Spirit Mediums of Viet Nam will soon be available to coincide with the inclusion of this ancient indigenous in the UNESCO Registry which is expected in September 2016.

With over 100 large color photographs and more than 60 pages of text, it explains the ancient syncretic religion of Đạo Mẫu, its rituals and its pantheon of deities, along with my narrative of my own experiences documenting it in Vietnam since 2014.

I am one of the very few non-Vietnamese photographers to be welcomed during countless Hầu Đồng ceremonies, and allowed to produce a photo book of this tradition in this magnitude.

Serendipity is a funny thing. Having literally stumbled on this Vietnamese religious tradition and its ceremonial tangential manifestations of Hầu Đồng and Hát Chầu Văn in late 2014 literally supercharged, and reinvigorated, my enthusiasm for documentary photography, audio recording, storytelling and multimedia production.

I completely immersed myself in this project, traveling many times to Hanoi from New York City to attend often undeclared ceremonies in the capita, its suburbs and in other distant regions to its north and east. To have access and be welcomed in these ceremonies wherever they are held, one must gain the confidence and trust of the community, and initially be accompanied by someone known to the mediums or the musicians.

Producing a book is an achievement for certain, but there's something infinitely more important to me than the photographs I made...and that's the friendships and the human kindnesses I've been privileged to experience while at these ceremonies.