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[Photos] 'Living Hanoi' Series Delves Into the Capital's Eccentricities

Is there a photographic format more suitable for capturing Hanoi's abundantly complex and alluring culture than the crystalline clarity of medium format film?

For many of us, images of rice paddies and conical hats have grown insipid as a consequence of overuse. Yet in the following collection, French photographer Joseph Gobin trains his lens on what's often unobserved — an artist, caked in plaster, creates a mold of himself just as Gobin forms his own image of the young man; a couple watch a film in the shade of their umbrella, the most intimate of theaters; in a school playground, onlookers appear like film directors while enjoying the subtle tension of a volleyball tournament. 

As Ansel Adams once said, even in a landscape photo "there are always two people: the photographer and the viewer." In Gobin's images, his gaze focuses on endearing or touching aspects of Vietnamese culture with affection, a caring antithesis to the likes of Vietnamese Cursed Image.

Stripped of visual clichés and taken on an atypical camera, the images gain a tender vitality and quirky appreciation for contemporary Vietnam. Not all were taken in the capital, but all cherish the earnestness of Vietnam. And yes, that includes the swan boats in Vinhomes Riverside. 

Take a look below:

A couple watches a laptop video on the street, beneath an umbrella. 

Butchering a pig while it's still drooped over a Honda Dream. Also known as "slow-smoking meat."

A contemporary artist makes a mold of his body for an upcoming exhibition. 

Motorbike traffic couples in the French Quarter. 

Ladies dressed in áo dài stay in the shade. 

An archetypal Hanoian street ninja with long-sleeved top, sunglasses and mask for camouflage. 

For these discarded fans, an occasional breeze gently spinning their blades is the only reminder of their former life. 

Spectators watch a volleyball tournament in Vu Yen village in a scene reminiscent of a film set. 

The worst-ever attempt at hiding a motorbike? Photo taken in Hoa Binh Province. 

Waiting to catch a train back to Hanoi from Da Nang. 

A gang of brothers in the far north. 

Traditional style meets modernism at Pa Co Market.


Boris Zuliani creating images using 50x50 wet plates between Da Nang and Hoi An. 

A swan boat lingers beside the grandiloquence of a Vinhomes Riverside villa. 

A portrait from Gobin's face mask series. 

A contemporary dancer poses for a photoshoot. 

It's never too late to get fit. 

Guess who won the most games?

Contemporary Hanoi in disco hues. 

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