On the morning of August 2, the opening ceremony of Vietnam Heritage Magazine's Photo Awards 2016 took place at the Eastin Grand Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. It was an excellent opportunity to meet Mr Hiroshi Yokota, President and C.E.O. of Canon Marketing (Vietnam) Ltd, the chief sponsor. The relaxed and affable Mr Yokota told me he hails from Osaka, a city I have visited and admire.
I asked Mr Yokota how he felt living and working in Vietnam. He said he has settled well and is happy to be here. So far, he has only visited Danang and Hanoi, but he would like to see more of the country. Regarding the food, he says it is quite like Japanese food.
I next asked Mr Yokota if he was a keen photographer himself. He replied he certainly enjoys taking snaps like the average person, but no more than that. He went on to say that his background is in printing. We are surrounded by mounted photo prints of some of the most amazing photographs taken in previous editions of our Photo Awards. This exhibition is due to the generosity of Canon. They are just a sample of the wider exhibition which is taken around the country to many cities and provinces.
One of the questions asked at this meeting was if there were there any plans to take the Photo Awards exhibition outside of Vietnam. Our editor-in-chief answered to the affirmative. There are a number of countries that have expressed interest, but nothing has been agreed yet. Mr Yokota commented warmly on this idea. ‘We all know that Vietnam is a beautiful country but there are many abroad who are not familiar with this and this would be an excellent way to introduce her to them’, he said.
It is five years now that Canon and Vietnam have been natural partners in this competition. I asked Mr Yokota in what other areas does Canon engage with the local community. A major fund raising event by Canon is held each October. This is the Photo Marathon. It lasts a whole day and is held simultaneously in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It takes place in stadiums. Teams are given a topic and sent out at various times of the day for three hours to take photos anywhere they like. At seven in the evening, the results are announced and presentations made. Last year, eight thousand people registered with five thousand actively participating. From the fees collected, enough money was raised to build a school in a remote mountainous area. This school building activity Canon calls ‘Help with Love’. ‘Canon Image Bridge’ is another programme aiming to help disadvantaged children by teaching them photography skills. In his speech, Mr Yokota summed up Canon's community activities as following the Japanese philosophy of ‘Kyosei’, which is living and working for the common good.
Canon has been with us right from the beginning providing valuable prizes, photo prints of finalist contributions, much moral support and the cachet of its name. We like to think there is a special relationship between our magazine and Canon as the Photo Awards are no longer in their infancy. We hope to see some of you at the Award Presentation ceremony or at one of the fifty four exhibitions around the country. And good luck to all of you who are participating.