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.