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Kevin Dyer
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Two-toothed Grin
There are two distinct types of images in travel photography; those that you plan for, usually in the form of beautiful landscape photographs, and those which come about serendipitously as you wander the streets with your camera and a keen eye. This is a great example of the latter. I made this portrait in the charming town of Hoi An which is draped with the influence of all the seafaring cultures of both Asia and Europe that have been trading here for over four centuries. I was actually walking back to the old French part of town to photograph some of the buildings and architecture I had seen the day before when the lighting wasn't ideal. I took a shortcut through the main market, figuring Asian markets are always a good source of those afore mentioned serendipitous moments. Wait a minute, can you plan for serendipitous moments? Ah yes, the middle path, Buddha would be proud! Anyway, as I came out the other side of the market I saw this old woman walking towards the market on the other side of the street. I knew instantly, I had to take her portrait. I approached her with a smile and my best attempt at hello in Vietnamese. I quickly found out that we weren't going to understand a single syllable of what each other was saying. Given her age in Vietnam, it very likely she actually speaks three or more languages as many of the older generations can speak, French, Chinese or even Russian. Unfortunately, I am no more familiar with those languages than I am with Vietnamese. Fortunately however, I also found out that it really didn't matter. She was one of the sweetest people I met during my two months in Vietnam. We must have had a twenty minute conversation on that sidewalk. A conversation of meaningless words, yet an incredible amount of understanding and laughter. I was definitely intrigued by her. After all, she has lived through several wars, been colonized, seen governments come and go and probably walked to this market everyday for the past sixty or seventy years. Certainly a tough life by many standards, yet she was every bit as jovial and full of pride as this photograph would indicate. If only those wrinkles could speak, I'm sure there is an amazing story for each one of them. If only I could understand them if they could!
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