Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hội An | Report 10 | The People of Tay Bac

Ms Hiền TrangPhoto © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Undoubtedly, Hội An is now a tourist haven but it still is a wonderful little town, with a myriad of photo opportunities whether candid, serendipitous, posed or set up. Its ancient town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its yellow textured mustard walls are an ideal backdrop for photographs, and some of us took advantage of that feature. Even its plentiful restaurants seem to have an interesting ancient history to them.

The group's assignment in the streets of Hội An was to try to emulate the chiaroscuro style of Alex Webb...but unfortunately, while it was sunny (and humid), the sun's angle didn't cooperate. There was however, alternatives that occupied us the too few days here.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Our day started at 4:00 am, when we boated to the mouth of the Thu Bon River to photograph the large fishing nets (reminiscent of the Chinese nets in Cochin). These large contraptions are lowered into the water to catch fish during the night. They are slowly raised and lowered by the fishermen using foot-powered winches.

I had booked a morning boat through Dang Ke Cuong, a talented local photographer who I had met on my previous stay in Hội An two years ago, and whose images of similar fishermen are wonderful.  The setting was just splendid, and the sunrise happened on cue and cooperated fully. Most of us either ran out of batteries or storage space in their cameras during this outing, which included time at the fishing wharf a few miles from Hội An itself. There the activity was frenetic, and the buyers of fish (that ended on the restaurants tables) were relentless arguers and hagglers.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
As I wrote above, the streets of Hội An are rife with photo opportunities; some contrived and others not. Elderly ladies are largely ambivalent about being photographed, and some require some coaxing to allow it. This elderly lady was quite happy to be photographed in front of what I thought was her restaurant. She must've been quite a beauty in her days, and I could easily imagine her in an ao dai, being courted by eager young men.

Speaking of which, I am extremely fortunate to have finally met with the adorable Ms Hiền Trang (top photograph), who was willing to pose for our group in various interesting places in Hội An. Accompanied by her friend, photographer Minh Nhat Nguyen, who acted as photo shoot director, we spent two hours emulating fashion photographers in the field. Not perhaps the purview of travel photographers per se, but a worthwhile exercise fusing exotic location photography, fashion photography with travel photography.

The day ended with dinner at a local restaurant (not a tourist trap by any means) where cau lay and squid dishes...and La Rue beer, of course.

Photo © Minh Nhat Nguyen-All Rights Reserved