Children in rural poverty

Vietnam Heritage, August-September 2011 -- If there is such a literary genre as visual poetry, then Ba Han is surely a master of it. He is a well seasoned photographer and a recipient of many an award both national and international. He has exhibited in The United States, Italy, Japan, France and Switzerland. This is a collection of around seventy photographs of Vietnamese children in settings of rural poverty. In its second edition the title and commentary is in Vietnamese, English, French and Japanese. In Vietnamese it is called Thoi Tho Au and the French translation L'Age Tendre gives a good idea of the author’s intent.
Most of the pictures were taken in full colour but a few are in black and white which adds to the variety of the ensemble. For example, there is a black-and-white double-page spread of two dark brothers close together, one of them munching on a ball of sticky white rice on a wooden skewer. Those of us lucky enough to have travelled through the beautiful Vietnamese countryside will find this book a memento of their travels with the ever-smiling Vietnamese child central to each scene. Home, family play, relationship to farm animals and splashing around in rivers and rice paddies are but some of the topics.
Of course, as in viewing pictures in an art gallery, just what an individual gets from each picture or from the ensemble is in the eye of the beholder. However, for me the message is simple. The smiles captured on camera of these children teach us that happiness is not dependent on money but springs from relationships and harmonising with our environment. The sheer exuberance of young spirits conquers all. Underneath it though I feel there is an appeal to do something to improve living conditions and lift children out of deprivation. There. I have said it in words but Ba Han does it much more succinctly and graphically in pictures.
This ‘coffee table’ book is available at the Saigon Central Post Office and at leading tourist hotels. Should you have trouble finding it you can also buy it directly from the author, whose contact details are below. Incidentally, Ba Han is responsible also for many of the wonderful picture postcards of Vietnamese scenes on sale in the above-mentioned places. He furthermore produces calendars. The book is priced at between VND400,000 and VND60,000($20 to $30). Ten per cent of the revenue from the book is donated to children in need.
Thoi Tho Au, Childhood, L'Age Tendre is published in hardback, with accompanying cardboard protective casing, by Saigon Cultural Publishing House. Author - Nguyen Ba Han, of Ba Han Image Gallery, www. bahanphoto.com, tel (08) 3843-7269, cell 0913 808 408.

Childhood. Photographs by Ba Han; Reviewed by Pip de Rouvray
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