Well then. Previously I thought I'd write this in the airport while waiting for the flight that was going to take me away from Vietnam. That, I thought, would be the right thing, the poetic thing to do. But, as it happened, it took a very long time to check in given the amount of luggage we had. So before boarding there was only time enough to sit down briefly, eat a bowl of overpriced pho, let the blood flow back into our faces, dry the tears flowing out of our pockets, and get on the plane. And, after that, there was champagne to be quaffed as we taxied to the runway (courtesy of a very nice man who, seeing our pale, distressed faces as it dawned on us how much our excess baggage was going to cost us, bumped us up to business class). Then there was a short-term apartment to move into and out of, and another apartment to be moved into, and bureaucratic things to sort out, and new things to discover, and suddenly a couple of months had passed.

As this is mainly a blog about photos and work and working with photos as a photographer, and that kind of thing, I'd like to say thank-you to a few people who supported me during my time in Hanoi, and who continue to support me. It's not easy to make a living with photography, not at all - and it's still not - but having people around you who help and encourage you makes all the difference.

When I came back to Hanoi from a trip to India, having decided there to try to work doing something I love, I naively thought that it was really just a matter of taking pictures. Not so. There are business practices to be learned, there's some kind of self-belief to be discovered, self-doubt to be taken outside and beaten up from time to time, developments to kept up with (technological and otherwise), negotiations to fret over and many many other things to take care of besides actually taking photographs. And if you don't have people to ask for advice, or who'll give you a push in the right direction, it would be easy to get confused and overwhelmed, flounder around and maybe, eventually, just give up. So...

...first of all I'd like to thank Francois at Noi Pictures who gave me a lot of his time and advice at a point when he was opening his own business, kicked open the door to the rather ugly yet realistic room of keywording, metadata and that sort of thing, and made sure I started off correctly like. To Seb at Noi Pictures for encouraging me, and harassing me very gently for a nice, steady feed of stock. To the incomparable Aidan Dockery, who took me along on a number of great jobs, and without whose constant stream of referrals and endorsements I feel like I would possibly have lived in half a house, eaten sandwiches with only a top and no bottom slice, and worn only one shoe. To all the lovely folk at The Word, past and present, especially Ian Paynton, who is the most encouraging Editor Man I've ever worked with. To Dan Dockery for supporting my work in his role at Highway 4 and Son Tinh, and to him and the rest of the CAMA crew for their events, and for having me along to photograph them.

Thanks to the lovely people at WedinStyle, to Vincent Baumont, Isaak Le, Raphael Olivier, David Buglar, Ehrin Macksey, Boris Zuliani, Francis Roux, Aaron Joel Santos, and Julian Wainwright (for this plug here which probably got me some work and which I only discovered a couple of days ago), all the people and organizations of people who hired me and made sure I didn't starve, and the couples who trusted me to photograph their weddings - surely one of the most important and challenging jobs for a photographer.

For anyone who stumbles across this blog while hunting for a photographer in Southeast Asia or thereabouts, just click on any of those clickable names up there or higher up and you'll find a good'un. And for anyone who stumbles across this blog post while thinking of working as a photographer, click on those names too and have a look at what they're doing. And try to meet some photographers in your area. They're nice people. You'll like them.

On a personal note, even after having spent eight years in Vietnam, I'm still at a loss as to how to describe it. It's a place of breakneck-speed change and absolute stillness. Of the endlessly ancient, and fresh-out-of-the-bag-newness. It's a land of contrasts. A place where the people are among the kindest, warmest, most welcoming on Earth, yet who hang up on you rather than say 'goodbye' at the end of a phonecall. A place which has, hands-down, some of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural scenery on the planet, yet areas of pollution which literally take your breath away. How do you describe the spaces in between? I'm not really sure. Perhaps fill them up with pictures.

But what I am sure of is that I loved all of it, even at times when I wasn't sure if I did. I'm also sure that although I grew up in a totally different culture, it's a place that I considered to be my home from the moment I arrived. It's a great place to live and, as much as the culture, and the food, and the chaos, and natural charm are a huge part of it, it's the people that make the place, so I'd like to say a massive thank-you to all the great friends old and new who I met there, who made it such a fun and special place to live in, and who are the reason I decided to stay there way way way longer than the two week trip I'd originally intended. Cam on nhe, and I raise a glass of potent German wheat beer in your direction. Chuc suc khoe!

So, goodbye Vietnam. I leave with only one regret - that I never won the slow race at the Minsk Oympics, for which I practiced at every red light for eight years. But nevermind, this sadness at thwarted sporting glory, at unfulfilled athletic potential is tempered somewhat by keeping in mind the fact that this regret is relatively small and that Hanoi will always be there even if the Minsk Olympics is not. And to think that Hanoi will always be there, in Vietnam, and Vietnam will always be there, in Hanoi - that's a comforting thought. That no matter how many changes are wrought on the place, from inside and out, there is something about the place that remains constant, and that is it's 'Hanoi-ness', its 'Vietnam-ness'. That sometimes inexplicable thing. That thing - like stencils reappearing on the walls over their whitewashed bretheren - which keeps on coming back. The thing which makes the people who call it home live there and love it so, even when they're not sure of it. The thing that will always be there - visible or invisible, depending on the day, depending on what it decides.

So thank-you Vietnam for all that you contained and contain. Thanks for the changes, and the things that don't change. Thanks for the good times, thanks for the all kinds of times. Dankeschon, schonen dank, and see you around. 


  1. Dominic - well said...your sentiments touched a nerve in me, even though I have no immediate plans to leave Hanoi.
    Good luck in Berlin - no doubt you're already experiencing the rewards and challenges of life there.
    Take care.
    Mark (aka @stickyinhanoi)

  2. Beautifully put - good luck. Captured it perfectly.

  3. Dominic, lovely post that moved me enough to write something this morning. Best to you and Cat and keep the posts and pics coming...cc

  4. Thank-you Mark, I appreciate it. One of the main challenges is the German food! But it's ok, I will eat vicariously through your blog.

    Take care and enjoy Hanoi,


  5. Thanks a lot Steve, I'm happy you liked the post.

    Take care,


  6. Cam on nhieu Colin! I really appreciate you reading and your lovely words on your blog. I hope you and the family are enjoying your UK holiday.

    Take care mon,