Last week, I shared with you the touching story behind the photo portrait of a gentleman I met by chance on a side street near Lake Hoan Kiem in Hanoi.
This week, I’ll tell you another beautiful story about an encounter, once again it took place by chance, in a side street in the Vietnamese capital.
Once again, it was during my lunch break, and I was wandering around with my camera in hand looking for somewhere new in this quarter of the Vietnamese capital that had become so well known to me.
I saw a small alleyway where I had never set foot, so off I went!
With my gaze turned upward, first I took a photograph of a green window on a decrepit wall (this is just the type of detail I find beautiful since I have been doing photography, but that I would never have even looked at before).
Is that laundry drying on the wall?
As I’m observing the scene, I am smiling to myself, and that’s when I realize that someone is watching me.
At first, I think that the lady is angry with me for taking a picture of her neighbor’s laundry drying out in the street…
But in fact, no, she tells me to come closer, she wants to show me her shop: an express dry cleaning service.
I imagine she wants me to write down the address and give it to foreign friends who need an express dry cleaning referral. I politely acquiesce and take a picture.
I go on my way, and this time what draws my attention is another old wall with those infamous telephone numbers in every color.
Click-click, another Hanoi wall to add to my collection!
I turn around, and the lady is still there. She asks me what I’m photographing, so I show her. The expression on her face tells me that she thinks my pictures are totally uninteresting, and I find that really amusing. Then she asks me where I’m from.
When I tell her I’m from France, she asks me to come inside to show me something: her son also lives in France, in the South she thinks, so maybe I know him?!
I tell her that France is a big place and that I don’t think I know him. We chat for a while, and she asks what I’m doing here, whether I’m married, if I have children (those mandatory questions of course). She wants to pose for me too. First of all “alone” and then with a copy of her son’s passport (I hid the details of his identity in the photo below).
The first photo I saw, the photo of her “alone” on the screen was a little disappointing, I thought: I didn’t think it illustrated clearly enough the exchange that we had had. There was kind of a distance in this image. I told myself that I should have moved closer and done a close-up portrait and taken away the “useless” details around her.
With greater objectivity, today I think I made the right choice: placing the subject in a corner and including her environment within the shot. The television with its cathode-ray tube, the giant pot of artificial flowers, the refrigerator and the objects in the background (…), in fact these things are what make this photo charming. So, yes, the shot is “posed”, but it still reveals the truth about “who” this woman is.
Do you see what I mean? Do you share my opinion about the impact the environment has in making this an interesting photo?
And what about you? When you take a portrait photograph, do you prefer a close-up of just your subject? Or do you always include elements that will allow you to tell “who your subject is”?
Maïeva Voyage is a passionate photographer who discovered photography completely by chance 5 years ago when someone gave her a camera, and it changed her life: it was a reflex camera. It was especially in Vietnam at the Photo Club of Hanoi that she developed her photographic technique.
For more than 2 years she has been sharing her photography tips on Photo-tuto.fr, a fun and relaxed feminine photo tutorial blog.
Visit Maïeva Voyage on her blog Photo-tuto.fr but also at https://www.twitter.com/Photo_tuto_fr or at https://www.facebook.com/Blog.Photo.Tuto.Fr
Maïeva Voyage is our guest contributor for the month of July, 2014.