26 Apr 2015


I found this photo a few weeks ago.It was in a slide file with the other slides from the same film.It was taken in the north of Vietnam in 2004 and had been overlooked for 11 years.When I returned from that trip I was very busy with work and I had the film processed and filed the slides and forgot about them.At that time there was not a lot you could do with slides except look at them on either a lightbox or with a projector.You could make prints but they were very expensive.The expansion of internet has totally opened up the way we view and use photos.

The photo was taken with a Leica M6 using a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit lens-a superb and quite compact lens.I do not know what film was used.I am not going to pull the mount apart to check but I suspect it was Ektachrome.
There is something special and unique about film.In many ways I wish that I was still using film.Apart from its look and wide dynamic range it encourages a measured and contemplative approach to photography. However it is expensive and digital is just so convenient.Perhaps too convenient.

I find the photo very confronting.It is the very cold hard stares of the two girls that I find disconcerting.The look is a look of resentment not a look of fear.Just examine those eyes.It makes me think that maybe I should not have taken the photo.
It was taken in the country north of Sapa towards the Vietnam/Chinese border.The girls are from a minority hill tribe.I cannot remember which one.The minority peoples have been harshly treated by the Vietnamese government.They are extremely poor.I cannot blame the girls for resenting me.Here I am a westerner with my fancy camera treating them as if they are exhibits in a zoo.I do worry about photographing in these environments.It worried me in Myanmar two years ago.I try to be respectful and to elicit an unspoken assent when I take these photos but it leaves me with a guilty feeling and a growing disquiet about the inequality in the world.
Perhaps I should not be writing this after the previous story where I tell of the problems with losing power for 4 days and not being able to watch TV or toast bread.These girls had probably never seen electric power.It's all relative and it should not be.
I am off to southern India later in the year.It will be interesting to see how I react to photographic situations there.


  1. There has always been inequality John

  2. Of course I understand that but it does not mean that I have to accept it.And it is getting worse globally.In Australia we have a government which is apparently intent on increasing the wealth of the already rich at the expense of those at the bottom of society and it is the same in many other countries.
    Australia is taking part in some vague military operation in Iraq where we are bombing ill defined targets with apparently very little effect at a cost of $2.5m a bomb.Think what that $2.5m-just the cost of one bomb - could do for the lives of these poor children.We just do not have the will to fix global poverty.If we did have half the conflicts across the planet would go away.Our priorities are totally wrong.