What a Picture! What a Photograph

(No.11, Vol.3, Dec 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

After months of strenuous preparation from the staff of this magazine, in co-ordination with fifty-four sponsoring organisations and governmental departments, with the hard efforts of three hundred and thirty nine photographers, and with the long deliberation of the panel of judges who had the unenviable task of selecting winners from a field of very high standards and the huge number of six thousand and sixteen works, the Vietnam Heritage Photo Awards 2013 ceremony finally took place at the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City on 21 November.
Prior to the actual day of the awards, the main contending photographs had been on display, circling the large roundel in front of the palace. Naturally, I had picked out my favourites. Needless to say, I had not predicted many of the winners, but I did guess the winner of the Special Prize as odds on to get some sort of an award. The awards ceremony itself came in four parts. First up was a performance of traditional music. Then came speech from the organiser about the exhibitions and the awards. Next was the speech of President of Canon Marketing Vietnam, whose company is the diamond sponsor and funded the printing of nearly one thousand large-sized photos for the exhibitions. The President from the Union of Literatura and Arts of Ho Chi Minh City also shared his appreciations and congratulations on the works of the photographers and the organisers . Finally came the moments for which we had all been waiting: the presentation of the prizes. Ironically, here the photographers were besieged by throngs of camera-wielding paparazzi. To set us all in good spirits, Vietnam's most accomplished saxophonist, Mr Tran Manh Tuan, sent us on our way with one of his rousing performances.
Allow me to give you the big picture of the contesting offerings. Vietnam has no shortage of interesting topics for the camera man or woman. This is no Saudi Arabia where only yellow and beige meet the eye. Vietnam has every colour, shade and hue. Inspiration for this competition came from all aspects of Vietnam heritage, spanning Mother Nature herself, scenes of this country's action-packed street life, aspects of the antiquity of the nation and scenes from the nation's colourful festivals and traditions.
In the individual class, the well-deserved special prize went to a photo of Nguyen Xuan Huu Tam, depicting the launch of boat into a heavy sea with water swirling and spraying all around-a fine composition! Nguyen Van Dong won first prize with a snap of Hmong women climbing some steps, one with a baby on her back and another looking like a beetle with what looked to me like a coracle but is in fact a huge frying pan [chao] over her head and back. Second prize, which went to Nguyen Luong, was also of a street scene: two elderly people peddling food over a steamy oven on what appears to be a cold Hoi An morning. Third prize was warmer; a rural domestic scene of a black sow with her piglets and women weaving and children looking on. This was by Nguyen Tien Dung.

Men and The Sea. Hue 2012.
Photo by Nguyen Xuan Huu Tam
Special Prize
Vietnam Heritage Photo Awards 2013

In the series category, first prize went to Hoang The Nhiem for a documentation of the Dong Ky Fire Cracker Festival in Bac Ninh province near Hanoi. Nguyen Viet Rung had second prize for depictions of another festival-the Do Son Buffalo Fights at Hai Phong, also near Hanoi. Bronze went to Doan Thi Tho, who proved black and white photography can still win awards, with photos of the making and selling of mats in Dinh Yen, Dong Thap in the Mekong Delta.
All well merited, but there were also bright stars among those with lesser prizes. Even I would go as far to say that there were some surprising non-winners. I should like to point out one incredible photographer by the name of Huynh Cong Nghia. His picture of a young female potter in a bright crimson shawl, leaning over her work with her dark brown hand mixing into her pot itself left both me and my artistic-minded daughter in awe. The best of photos I have noticed have the qualities of paintings. This one reminded me very much of El Greco. You can not win them all, they say, and Cong Nghia will get his chance for the limelight another time.
The exhibition of these finalist photographs has been steadily making its way around the country since October. I am pleased to inform you that if you are in Hue (from the 11th to the 17th of December at the Best Western Premier Indochine Palace Hotel), Dalat (from 16 to 30 December at the Lam Dong Museum. 04 Hung Vuong Street. Dalat) or in Dong Hoi City (from the 24th of December to the 2nd of January at The Sun Spa Resort), or in Quang Ninh ( from 21st December at Yen Tu Mountain ‘s Cable Car Station) you will still have time to enjoy the show. If you do not and still are interested, you may find them on the Vietnam Heritage Magazine website: www.vietnamheritage.com.vn.
Our magazine has, from the start, promoted top quality photography in every edition. We are proud to organise this annual competition. Many thanks indeed to all who have made this happen and we look forward to meeting as many of you as possible next year and to more beautiful snaps of this highly
photogenic land and her heritage.

By Ritch Pickens
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