Month: April 2013

The Relic


Before we left for Vietnam, each of us had to provide extra information to the Hue provincial authorities, who thought a group of Americans traveling together might constitute a problem. Or at least be worth keeping track of. There is, after all, a history of activism in the area.

In May of 1963, a protest in Hue against President Ngô Đình Diệm’s brutal persecution of Buddhists ended in nine deaths that Diệm, a Roman Catholic, blamed on the Communists.  (more…)

Sacred Housekeeping

sweepingBuddhist pagodas in Vietnam have a strong aesthetic. There is a lot of dark wood, gleaming surfaces, smoke, red and gold. While many are tranquil and meditative, in urban areas they are busy places. People come and go. They buy fish at the gate to release into a pond as an act of mercy. They stand in prayer position, shaking their tented fingers in reverence. They leave offerings of fruit, bread, candy and cakes.  (more…)

At the Caravelle

caravelleWhen I took this picture I was conscious that I was telling a story. I composed the elements, moving a napkin away and pulling the glass closer. I wanted the drink, the elegant box of nibbles, and the computer. The flower vase was a nice touch, I thought, and there’s my story:

It was a free afternoon in Saigon. (I know the official name is Ho Chi Minh City but I like the sound of “Saigon.”) I ran through all the possibilities of places I might want to go and decided to have a drink at the Caravelle Hotel, where the journalists had hung out during the war. As the location of the Saigon bureaus of ABC, NBC, and CBS it had been the hub of communications. (more…)

Spirit Houses

I am not a photographer. I have a camera and I take pictures, but the camera is not the way I think. So I look through my pictures now because I am curious. What motivated me to pull the camera out of my bag? What story does that choice have to tell?

I find a lot of pictures of food. That makes sense. Food is how I negotiated Vietnam on my first visit. These images might reflect a subconscious need to be fed, or to take refuge in a common language.

I find contemplative images because I am drawn to Buddhism. I remember taking some of those pictures because I liked their aesthetics and for me aesthetics and spirituality are linked.