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'Saigon' A Photographic Collection

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It took Hoang Trung Thuy an entire year to take thephotographs of the city he has called home since 1975. It is simply entitled'Saigon' with the telling subtitle of 'Reflection’. It is quite a hefty tomeand deals with iconic Saigon-the kind of Saigon a visitor will usually come toknow over a stay of a few days or a week or two. Whilst there are pictures ofpagodas and historical places, this collection mainly pays homage to the moderncity of high-rise buildings that has arisen over the past quarter of a century.Thuy has not only photographed buildings, but also their reflections in thepanes of other glass buildings in the water of nearby canals and rivers, in theglass windows of tourist buses and even in the rear view mirrors of cars andmotorbikes.

The first half of the book treats the established landmarksof this city. First, there is a normal snap of each building and an interestingparagraph of cultural and historic introduction. I did not know, for example,that the Saigon Opera House served as The Lower House of Assembly of theSouthern Vietnamese Government from 1955 until 1975. The other iconic buildingsin this section include: The People's Committee Hall, The Independence Palace,The Central Post Office, The Notre Dame Cathedral, Ben Thanh Market, TheCaravelle and Continental Hotels and the Chinese Thien Hau Temple.


The next part treats post-1975 Saigon with mainly newdevelopments such as the up-market Phu My Hung urban satellite area, the lotusflower-shaped Bitexco Tower, the French colonial style Park Hyatt Hotel, andthe Vietcombank Tower, which has only just recently opened its doors. Thephotographer is clearly proud of the architectural advances in his life timewhich have made his city so modern and world class.


The final section concentrates not so much on the buildings,but the other factors that give this city its soul and distinctive character.The hard-working people are depicted enjoying colourful festivals that givethem their breaks and musicians are captured with their costumes andinstruments. Then there is a very human touch of a mother sitting on a chairwhile his children are practicing classical dance inside a hall. There arehigh-speed snaps of athletes. One is of runners splashing through a water-loggedtrack nearing the finishing line with their energy, concentration and sweatreflected in the puddles beneath their feet. Also, there are scenes of dailylife-the famous Saigon rumble tumble of motorbikes and buses, folk enjoying thenew promenade along Nguyen Hue Street, scenes from a day at an amusement parkand finally, Tet street celebrations. The last page is a double spread nightscene of the downtown high rise skyline with fireworks illuminating districttwo and reflected in the waters of the Saigon River below.

The text is bi-lingual Vietnamese and English. The Englishlanguage translations, whilst fully intelligible throughout, would benefit fromediting by a native speaker. But all in all, it is an excellent picture book ofthe city you have visited or sojourned or even lived in and the photos areworks of art with their clever use of reflections in natural objects aroundeach subject.

‘Saigon’ by photo artist Hoang Trung Thuy subtitled‘Reflections’ is published by Vietnam News Agency Publishing House (Nha XuatBan Thong Tan); www.saigoniadinh.photo. Price 500.000 VND, you can order Mr Duc090 333 9009.

By Ritch Pickens
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