Thursday, 31 May 2018

POV : William E. Crawford | Hanoi Streets

Photo © William E. Crawford | Courtesy The New York Times
I don't recall writing a blog post about an article that appeared on The New York Times' Lens feature, but I could not let the wonderful photography of William E. Crawford on Hanoi Streets go without giving it its due merit on the pages of this blog.

One of the photographs that I couldn't stop looking at is of this Vietnamese general. I have no idea who he is or what his history may have been...but I've met Vietnamese men (and women) of his age with similar facial expressions, whose astounding gentleness and courtesy to me -as a visitor to their country- are the most rewarding experiences I took away from my travels in Vietnam.

In the Lens article, Mr. Crawford is quoted as saying "despite the embargo and the wounds of the American War there was no obvious anti-American hostility ... the lack of hostility towards Americans, at least in the North, was a relief to me."

This is so true! Everywhere I went in Hanoi and elsewhere in Vietnam, I was received with open arms even though I was seen as an American (the difference between being American-born or naturalized seemed irrelevant to them). Even Vietnamese men who told me were Vietcong during the American War were friendly and extremely cordial...and shared meals and many cups of rice wine (and ribald jokes) with me.

William E. Crawford is a documentary photographer who spent three decades documenting Vietnam, and in particular Hanoi, its people and the surrounding countryside. As one of the very first Western photographers to work in post-war North Vietnam, he was drawn back to the country numerous times at regular intervals between 1985 and 2015 to record this fascinating country's culture, people, and society with beautiful, compelling and intimate photographs, concentrating on colonial and indigenous architecture, urban details, portraits, and landscapes. 

While he used a large format camera an tripod, he -as I did, but not with the same gear- wandered Hanoi’s busy streets returning to the same places, especially in the 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

I could not find Mr Crawford's website, but he is publishing a book Hanoi Streets 1985-2015 which has close to 200 color photographs.

Since I mentioned the wandering in Hanoi's Old Quarter, I thought I'd add a link to my own Hanoi Color: Moments in Hanoi's Pho Co.