The Streets of Hanoi.

As you might know, Hanoi is a major city and the capital of Vietnam. Like many large southeast Asian cities, it is crowded with much traffic. We stayed in the heart of the “old city”, perhaps the most crowded area of Vietnam. What is usually difficult for us to deal with (crowds) becomes a perfect location for some street photography. Both of us are fairly accomplished as landscape photographers but somewhat new to the street. Luckily, we have with us, our guide and friend and fellow WorldPix affiliate, Alessandro Vannucci, who is quite the street photographer. You may remember Ale’ from our visit to Cambodia last year: The Italian. He hasn’t changed much since then – he still doesn’t drink, smoke or chase women. And now I find out he doesn’t drink coffee.

So, what is street photography? I showed Ale’ some of my photos from Myanmar last year, photos I consider my best attempts at street photography, photos that have garnered prominent awards. He says they are reportage and not street photography. My feeling is, if I am walking down a street and taking photos, it is street photography. I say tomato, he says potato.  After a lengthy discussion over dinner and then breakfast, I have come to understand that his definition of street photography is: chasing interesting light with people in their natural surroundings. OK, I can live with it. Potato it is.

Photographic Style

Now that we had this settled, we moved onto another topic: photographic style. “What is your style,” he asks me? This topic has been troubling me for quite awhile. I paused a bit, thinking about my style and realized I do not have one. Ale’s is easy. His photos are dark and moody. Mine? Mostly they are technically accurate. Is this my style? Maybe I’d prefer to be dark and moody.

Back to the question, “What is my style?”  Knowing I was struggling to answer, Ale’ poses some questions for me that he says will help define my style. What is your favorite music? Favorite movies? Favorite books? From these answers you can start to garner your style. OK, these questions are easy for me to answer: The Beatles, The Doors, Billy Joel. Casablanca, Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones. And, Ken Follett, Fredrick Forsyth, Philip Kerr, Daniel Silva, Michael Crichton, Nelson DeMille, and Ellery Queen!

Some themes quickly become apparent. War, 1960s, Intrigue, and Adventure. Now, how do I fold these themes into my street photography? I haven’t a clue, but I do have another two weeks with Ale’ to try and figure it out.

Here are some of my street photos from Hanoi, trying to get the mood and the activity of the city. Do you see my “style” in these photos? I’m not sure I do.

A lot of Vietnamese women use the shoulder pole (aka, carry pole) to carry many things, mostly food.

Up and down these streets we see people eating while sitting on small, usually red, stools. The green background and wet street helped with the shot.

Hanoi streets have a lot of colorful stores. I loved these dresses.

I waited until there was a hand in the shot which provided some action

Cock Fighting is a tradition in Vietnam. This was a sparring match in a local park. I was rooting for Little Jerry.

Artsy photo taken on a busy street. This is a single shot, hand-held, longish exposure. Can you see the boy?

I wanted to convey the business of a typical Hanoi street. Just like the previous photo, this was hand-held with a longish exposure.

It was nearly dark when I shot this. I liked the face of the man in green. What are they doing that makes his lady-friend give him “the look.” I know, can you guess?

A Vietnamese tradition of burning fake money. This fire started to get out of hand. It was almost completely dark at the time of the shot.

Final shot of the street series. It was now dark. The light with the orange canopy provided an interesting mood. The street vendor walking by made the shot.

This is my Hanoi, how I felt walking the streets. What so you think? And, remember, it’s all about the light!