31 Oct Hanoi Street Vendors from Above
Street vendors are part of the everyday fabric of life in Hanoi. When I lived in the city I’d pass dozens of these women every day. They’d be dressed in conical hats to ward off the sun while they tirelessly pushed heavy bicycles laden with colourful fruit and flowers through the city, from dawn till dusk. I didn’t stop to think about just how beautiful these vendors were until our friend Loes launched her Hanoi street Vendors from Above photo project.
Loes, Hanoi and I
Loes was one of the first teachers I met when I moved to Vietnam. After my first disastrous class I bumped into her in the hallway and she offered to email me a list of teaching games. We’ve been friends ever since. I found teaching absorbed all of my energy in Hanoi, so what I admired about Loes was that, in addition to teaching, she always had about five other projects on the go. These included making videos, writing articles, designing clothes and learning languages. Loes’ biggest passion was photography and she spent hours taking pictures of local people in Hanoi. That’s how she hit upon the idea for her Hanoi street Vendors from Above project.
The story behind Hanoi Street Vendors
When I first arrived in Hanoi I visited the Vietnamese Women’s Museum and what I most vividly remember was their exhibition about Hanoi’s iconic street vendors. I learned that most of them are women from poor rural communities who leave their families to work in the capital for weeks at a time because they cannot survive from farming alone. These women live in cramped, shared housing and work from 2am until 7pm each day carrying or cycling baskets of produce for miles around the city.
To Loes, Hanoi’s street vendors carry little pieces of art around in their baskets full of randomly assorted flowers and piles of vividly-coloured fruit and vegetables. So, she decided to capture their beauty on camera from above. This led to hours of hanging around on bridges and café balconies, camera in hand, waiting for vendors to appear. Loes’ patience paid off; she took a collection of stunning photos and launched a Kickstarter campaign to turn these images into a photo book.
Why I love the Hanoi Street Vendor Photos
Several weeks ago, the Hanoi street Vendors from Above project went viral and was featured by Lonely Planet, in online newspapers from around the world and on Vietnamese TV. Loes has now smashed her Kickstarter goal and is well on her way to publishing the first copies of her photo book. I’m so proud of what Loes has achieved and can’t wait to see how the finished book turns out. You can support the project, buy prints of the photos or pre-order the book by checking out her Kickstarter page.
What I love about Loes’ photos is that they transport me back to that crazy period of my life when I lived and worked in Hanoi. They remind me that amongst the traffic jams and churning chaos, the city is full of unique character, colour and beauty. Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia and its culture is rapidly transforming. This is visible in the contrast between Hanoi’s hard-working street vendors and its new wave of young female Uni graduates, who drive scooters to their office jobs while dressed in glittery stilettos.