saigon, 6/6/19


Motorbikes cross through the intersection, often nearly colliding, as I pull my gear from my backpack and set up my camera. I’ve been in Saigon almost exactly 24 hours, and the clouds are partially blocking and unblocking the sun, creating a chiaroscuro of light and shadow. These light effects are what has inspired me to stop.

But the light has changed, becoming duller and gray, so after setting up all I can do is wait while watching the motorbikes and cars negotiate who has the right of way through the intersection. 

Two different riders pass by and show interest in my camera. The first is a young man who says “wow!” while the second is someone older than me with a gray goatee who looks at the camera, looks at me, smiles and nods a knowing smile. I wonder if he’s previously used a view camera.

During my previous visit to Saigon, a man came up as I was taking pictures with my Mamiya C220 and talked about how his father used a similar camera (I assume he meant a twin-lens reflex) when he worked for a newspaper. Then he suggested that the camera belongs in a museum. The Mamiya is a work of art, and I agree. I wonder if he would say the same about my view camera.

The cloud cover grows heavier. It rained some an hour earlier, though there isn’t any precipitation forecast now. But the signs are ominous. The light shifts, the contrast rises, and I’m able to take my photograph. Afterward, I eat a quick dinner and return to my hotel. Twenty minutes later, a storm lets loose, and the bonsai outside my window heave to and fro in the wind as the rain slams against the building.