Gallery: fleeting moments in Indochina
Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it stillDorothea Lange
Our visit to Indochina was only just over two years ago, yet in some ways it feels like a world away. A world barely touched by Covid, in which we didn’t question our ability to travel. Took it for granted, perhaps? Looking back at my photos I wonder why we didn’t realise that the disease already causing deaths and chaos in China would spread to engulf the whole world. Were we like ostriches, our heads in the sand? Or was it such an alien concept that we couldn’t envisage it?
Among the photos of that trip are many featuring the people of the region. People passed briefly on the street or encountered in a quiet village. People living their lives, as we were, unaware perhaps of what was coming. Although certainly by the time we reached Vietnam, the last of the three countries we visited, schools and universities were closed and businesses reliant on tourism were getting anxious.
Inspired by Terri’s Sunday Stills theme I thought I would share some of those images. My life and that of each of these people touched for a ‘fleeting moment’, then we went our separate ways. While this is true of all street photography, those from this trip have a special poignancy, knowing with the benefit of hindsight that their world, all our worlds, would never be quite the same again.
Disclaimer: many of these photos have appeared in previous posts about that trip. I’ve included links to a few of them should you wish to explore further.
Food vendor’s son by the Tonle Sap in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Selling fried insects in Skun, Cambodia
Young monks visiting Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Traditional dancers taking a break at the Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
In a village near Siem Reap, Cambodia
Grandmother and granddaughter grinding rice to make a sort of milk in a family home near Siem Reap, Cambodia
In a monastery near Siem Reap, Cambodia
Vendor at the morning market in Luang Prabang, Laos
Weaver with her son in the small village of Sopchem, Laos
[My feature photo was also taken here, at the village primary school]
Mother and children crossing the river near Muang La in northern Laos
In the minority village of Ban Xong Ja, northern Laos
In the minority village of Phoe Taen Akha, northern Laos
Passing our hotel in old Hanoi, Vietnam
Growing rice near Halong Bay, Vietnam
In the Central Market, Hoi An, Vietnam
Making masks at the Traditional Art Performance House in Hoi An, Vietnam
Taking a selfie in Hoi An, Vietnam
Tourists by the Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An, Vietnam
Children in Binh Tay Market, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Bridal shoot at the HCMC History Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
I travelled to Indochina in February 2020, just before the Covid pandemic took hold
Wonderful people pictures. I don’t normally pick up favourites, but the young “apsaras” in Angkor Thom did catch my eye.
I’d be interested to have your opinion on my Ancient Indochina series. (did I already mention that?)
I am always taken aback by your immense talent in photographing people, Sarah! (I wish I had your photographer’s eye!) Your photos are always exceptional, and I love that you term this selection as being those of “fleeting moments” — your close or a bit farther away interaction with your subjects! Inspiring!
Thank you so much Sylvia 😊 I’m blushing! If I have any talent it lies in part at least in knowing which photos to discard and which to share. I only pick those I’m especially happy with to include in my posts! I’m very glad you liked them.
Those colorful dresses of the tourists were gorgeous. Great opportunity for photos!
Yes, it seemed to be a custom for Vietnamese nationals visiting Hoi An, especially young girls, to wear traditional dress, and it’s so beautiful!
Gift N. T.
This is an excellent response to the theme of fleeting moments, the fleeting encounters with people on the streets as well as the times before COVID-19. The new normal, although I appreciate that we get some aspects of our old lives back, is not the same as our normal. Still, what has been happening these past few years makes me think that we should try to treasure the new normal. As bleak as this may sound, things can go wrong again one day and we won’t know when.
You’re absolutely right, I think that’s something most of us have realised over the last few years. It’s been a useful reminder as you say to treasure what we have.
Love these photos Sarah, you’ve really captured the essence of all these people
Thank you Alison, I’m really glad you like them!
My favourite, the grandmother and granddaughter … it’s a beautiful picture and I suppose old traditions are passed on to the younger generation here. For me, there is a palpable emotion present in this photo.
I’m so glad you liked that one 🙂 Yes, that’s very much the case, at least in rural areas. I suspect in the cities, especially Phnom Penh, traditions are changing but not much in a place like this.
colorful, beautiful, and always speaks to emotion. I loved the one of the grandmother and granddaughter. Such and important moment for both of them.
Fried insects? Did you try them? Travel sometimes tempts the soul because it might be the only chance you will get.
Thank you Donna 😊 I know what you mean about that particular shot. It was lovely to see how the girl enjoyed helping her grandmother demonstrate the technique to us.
We didn’t try the insects in that market (we were advised against it due to poor hygiene standards) but we had some on a street food tour a few days before that, in Phnom Penh – I wrote about the experience here: https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/exploring-the-street-food-of-phnom-penh/
Aletta - nowathome
Thank you very much Aletta 🙂
A fine selection, Sarah. I love the thrill of trying to grab fleeting moments. You don’t know if it’s going to come out well, you’re not sure if you’re going to be seen and how the person might react. Sometimes it’s awkward, on occasion it’s a bust and from time to time you strike gold. Plenty of gold here.
Thanks so much Leighton 😊 Of course all the ones that didn’t come off, and there were plenty of them, will never see the light of day!
beautiful moments like this are all the better because they are so fleeting
That’s very true 🙂
Fabulously characterful portraits. As ever, I admire your courage in taking these. With or without their consent?
Thanks so much Margaret 😊 I don’t see this as being brave – cheeky sometimes, but not brave! In fact I often don’t have the nerve to ask and rely on my husband doing so 😉 Of these shots, I had permission for some but by no means all. The ones I asked if I could take include the toddler in Phnom Penh (we bought prawn crackers from his mother), the grandmother and young girl near Siem Reap, the ones in Sopchem and in the minority villages. For some others there was implicit permission, such as the guy waving in Hanoi who had clearly seen my camera, likewise the dancers at the Bayon. Many of the others were taken with a zoom so the people were completely unaware, such as the monks at Angkor Wat and the monastery, and the lading crossing the river. Only a couple were sneaky ‘shot from the hip’ ones – the lady at the market in Hoi An and the same for the kids in HCMC.
All that is still pretty accomplished!
Why, thank you again 😊😘
Another wonderful tour of real people in real towns. I had to smile at the ubiquitous cell phones! Your photo essays take me to many places in the world that I never was able to visit in person. Thank you for that! 🙂
Thank you, so glad you liked this 🙂 Yes, those phones are everywhere now!
What an exceptional set of images Sarah. Nothing more to be said really 🙂
Thank you Malcolm, I appreciate the compliment 😊
Excellent post in words and pictures Sarah! Your amazing street photography shows their souls while grabbing a fleeting moment in time. Your post is even more poignant as you describe the calm before the Covid storm.
Thank you so much Anne 😊 I’m pleased that sense of ‘calm before the storm’ came through
You will maybe recall that this is pretty much the trip we were in the middle of at the very time that COVID struck. We really are starting to think that we can pick up where we left off, next year. Hope so, because these photos are really strong reminders of our lovely times in that part of the world.
I remember that well – I’ll never forget your tale of finding yourselves thrown out of your Halong Bay hotel! In fact, I’ve recounted it to friends several times 😀 I do hope you manage to pick it up again, and I’ll be jealous following along as I know there’s much more to see in Vietnam in particular than we managed to fit in!
Terri Webster Schrandt
You are one of the best photographers of people on the street that I know of, Sarah. How poignant that you describe these encounters as fleeting moments, because they truly are but caught forever still as your quote depicts. And even more so that you caught these moments before our entire world changed forever. You have to look at each pic and ask how fundamentally these folks lives were changed. Excellent perspective for this theme!
Thanks so much Terri, I really appreciate the compliment 😊 As soon as I read the title of your theme I knew I wanted to feature street photography. Whenever I review my photos of people seen on our travels I wonder about their lives and how they are now, and rarely more so than those from this particular trip.
Planning to do Vietnam soon. So the pictures added more inspiration!!
You’ll love Vietnam! Let me know if you have any questions about our experiences there 🙂