BLOGS / AARON JOEL SANTOS
A Portrait of Ong Duoc
I've known Ong Duoc for nearly two years now, since I started working on my Urban Farmers in Hanoi project, which deals with farming families and rapid over-development in the capital. I knew some aspects of his life, but before yesterday, when I got to sit down with him and a writer, I had no idea of the extents of it. He's an extremely fascinating individual. And I only caught brief glimpses of the conversation.
He fought at Khe Sanh during the American War and was left behind, thought dead with the rest of his battalion. He lived for six months in the wild, drinking water from streams and hunting his own food until he found his way out of the wilds. He came to Hanoi. His family was worshiping him at an altar--a common practice to honor the dead in Vietnam. But even thereafter, he couldn't officially prove who he was, as he had no papers and no identification. So he remained deceased. He lived on the streets of the capital for 18 years. In 1990 he built a houseboat with his wife and first son on the small farming island beneath Long Bien Bridge, where he has lived since.
Polaroids from New York
I’m trying hard to think differently about the way I photograph, to become both more restricting and more creative in my style and method. My images have been feeling a bit stale lately and I’m almost trying to move backwards in order to progress again. I’m trying to shed some of my baggage and see if I can’t stumble upon something new. Part of this process was buying a small Fuji instant film camera during a recent layover at the Tokyo Narita Airport in Japan, to facilitate more image-taking during seemingly mundane moments of the day, at times when I would normally either not have my larger digital camera on me or when it would be buried beneath zippers and Velcro in my bag. It’s not that I’m necessarily a fan of the snapshot aesthetic that was all the rage a few years ago, but it is a great way/excuse to take new images.
These pictures are all from New York at the beginning of this month, while I was attending the recent Eddie Adams Workshop. It was nice to not think too much about the photographs I was taking, nice to see a print show up immediately before I could erase it on my card. And still they seem very nostalgic. Worn and washed out and traveled right out of the developer. It would be nice to add this kind of aesthetic to some project in Vietnam. Soon enough.
From Hanoi, the Beginning of Something
Hello. Hi. Xin chao. Bonjour. Aloha. Etc. I'm never really sure how to start these things off. Blogs that is. They lend themselves better to time and effort and begin with something of a leap of faith. So here it all goes. Things will build smoother once we've set some sort of foundation. For now it's probably best that I just say a few words and then leave the images to linger. My name is Aaron. I'm a photographer. I live in Hanoi. I ramble. And I guess I blog, though I hate that verb.
As with most of my ideas, this one is starting out pretty broad: a dumping ground for smaller vignettes from the capital and elsewhere, shown mostly through photographs and short writings. I've lived in Vietnam for three years now, yet being a photographer I'm constantly challenged to continue seeing the country through fresh, unjaded eyes. So I'm trying hard to see and show things in a different light. On that front I'll probably mostly fail. But that's fine. We're just here for the ride.
I took all of these images in one day in Hanoi. Yesterday I think. It's amazing what's out there. From temples to spas to a place called "Babe Wash". A man doing his morning exercises on road blockades, snake wine in Le Mat Village, Cot Co Tower, miniatures of war and a young man having a cigarette out of the bus window. All part of that great confusing fabric that is Vietnam. It was a good day. Hopefully this kind of variety will be indicative of what will be found here. Until then.