“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Ansel Adams

Vietnam Encounter

Last year I took a trip to Vietnam. I had an absolutely amazing time. These photos are from an encounter I had with some locals on the streets of Hoi An.

As I was walking along the river, I spotted two women with baskets of fruit hanging from their shoulders and snapped a quick photo. I had hoped to go unnoticed, but then they spotted me as I snapped one more. It was at this point that one of the women came up to me, placed her hat on my head, gave me her baskets of fruit and tried to take my camera! She gestured that I should stand next to her friend so that she could take my photo. I tried to say no thank you but unfortunately I don’t speak Vietnamese and she didn’t speak English.

Now, the Canonet QL17 is a rangefinder with manual focusing and I guessed that she wouldn’t have a clue how to focus it, so I simply set the focus to infinity and hoped for the best. I gave her the camera and stood next to her friend. At first she was surprised that there was no digital screen on the back of my camera, but then she found the viewfinder and brought the camera to her eye. She snapped a photo. Then she tried to snap another, but the shutter wouldn’t fire. She was quite confused and I was unable to communicate to her that she needed to advance the film manually before taking the next shot. Unable to get my camera to work, she handed it to a random man walking by (the man in the third photo). At this point, I started to worry that I wouldn’t get my camera back! Fortunately, the man was much more camera savvy and managed to advance the film before snapping the fourth photo. He then handed the camera back to the woman who gave it back to me. But they weren’t done.

The women then proceeded to sell me some fruit! Again, I tried to say no thank you, but they were persistent and I figured if they were kind enough to snap my photo, then I could at least buy some fruit from them. They overcharged me for the fruit (150,000 Vietnamese Dong–about $8), but after some protesting on my part, I decided to just pay what they were asking. After all, it wasn’t about the fruit. For $8, I had a fun little cultural exchange. And got some photos.

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