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Community photography projects cherish dreams in Vietnam

Monday, April 21, 2014, 17:26 GMT+7

Several community photography projects initiated by Vietnamese organizations or youths have brought happiness to their beneficiaries and possibly made changes to their future.

One of such projects is “My Day,” the brainchild of young freelance photographer Vu Thi Bich Hong.

In the project, which was launched in the fourth quarter of last year and warmly embraced by both its beneficiaries and the public, Hong once presented some seven used cameras to kids in poor rural areas.

The kids took photos of the rustic landscape, their family members, neighbors, and even strangers who they meet in their everyday life.

Hong, 28, did all the tasks herself, from idea initiation, organization to financing her project.

There were times when she could sleep only two hours a night.

Though faced with financial difficulties in running her project, she has been reluctant to seek sponsorship, as she modestly dismisses her efforts as not worthy of attention.

Her tremendous efforts finally paid off, as her first exhibit went without a glitch when it took place earlier this month in her hometown, northern Thanh Hoa Province's Tho Xuan District.

Unlike most exhibits, this event featured the local kids' 150 photos, which were hung on tree branches, hedges and in schools.

Their grandparents, parents, and neighbors flocked to the venues to take a look at the photos and were greatly surprised and delighted at recognizing themselves in the photos.

A graduate in anthropology from a university in Ho Chi Minh City, in 2012 Hong joined ForestClim, an EU-funded environmental project addressing forests and climate change.

The project gave her the opportunity to travel to Germany, the UK, France, Spain, and South Africa and made many like-minded friends.

Back in Vietnam, she took part in a project to raise awareness of protecting the environment and wildlife of Nam Cat Tien National Park in southern Dong Nai Province, before kick-starting her “My Day” project.

Photos taken by the kids to whom Hong gave the cameras will be on display, as part of a series of “My Day” exhibits, at Nguoi Sai Gon (Saigonnese) Café, 71/4 Mac Thi Buoi Street, District 1, HCMC from now to May 5.  

In Hanoi, the exhibit including 100 photos by the kids is also ongoing at Mac Café, (number 2 alley 597 Nguyen Trai Street, Thanh Xuan District) until April 25.

It will also take place at Ambient Café (89 Ly Nam De Street, Hoan Kiem District) from April 26 to May 14 and at Café Quang (498 Nguyen Trai Street, Thanh Xuan District) from May 5 to June 6.

The exhibit will be taken to Germany and France late next month by Hong's friends, who she got to know during her time working for the ForestClim project.

The exhibited photos will be for sale to raise funds for local students' associations.

“My intention is to introduce the kids' photos to other cities and provinces in Vietnam as well as other countries, and tell a real story about Vietnam's rural areas. For disadvantaged rural kids, taking photos and having them exhibited abroad is a miracle indeed. I strongly believe this would cherish their dreams and may make a difference to their future,” Hong shared.

Other projects

In another community photography project called “Humans of Hanoi,” a group of Hanoi twenty-somethings took photos on their own budget to depict Hanoians and recount their stories with their camera lens.

In “Photovoice,” a program held by the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE), the institute has handed out cameras to ethnic kids and physically-challenged youths, including visually impaired ones, to capture the best moments of their daily life in the most vivid way, which is difficult for professional photographers.

In 2012 and 2013, iSEE organized several Photovoice exhibitions in Hanoi and HCMC, which boasted photos reflecting cultural practices, livelihoods, beliefs, spirituality and recent changes in daily life taken by ethnic and physically challenged young people.

The exhibits created remarkable resonance in improving ethnic and disabled people’s mental lives and skills.

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