Hanoi Photographs - Looking for the "Spirit of Place"

photographer Sir John Ramsden
written by Sir John Ramsden, Damir Fabijanić


These photographs were taken in Hanoi and surrounding villages over a three-year period in the early 1980s. At that time, Vietnam was still isolated and impoverished after decades of war. There were few other westerners there and very little was known about it in the outside world. Even the guide books dated back to the 1940s. All this gave the place an extra fascination. I was fairly free to explore it and took every advantage to do so.


The climate was damp and very hot for much of the year. There were few conventional entertainments, like swimming pools. So I used to go for long walks around the city, early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the heat. This is also when the light is best and I soon started to take a camera with me.