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Apr 30, 2023 / 08:28

Old Hanoi through the lens of American photographer

The photographic pieces offer a singular glimpse into the history of Hanoi and its people.

An ongoing photo exhibition in the heart of Hanoi features a glimpse of the city's past.

 A man (in the central) orders a cup of tea while chatting to tea shop owners and another client in Hanoi’s Old Quarter in 1988. Photos: William Crawford

A photo exhibition on Hanoi entitled "Hanoi 1985 - 2015 in the Years of Forgetting" is on display at Manzi Art Space, Hanoi until May 20.

William Crawford was one of the first photographers to gain access to post-war Vietnam in 1985, and he has returned periodically for over 30 years.

As an American who witnessed the destruction and agony of war, he felt compelled to show how humanity can coexist with extreme pain. Sensitive to the subtle nuances of daily life and the customs of the people of this exotic land, he documented the daily lives of the Vietnamese as they evolved over three decades.

According to the photographer, since the introduction of the economic liberalization policy known in Vietnam as "Doi Moi" in 1986, Hanoi has made significant economic gains. People live much better than they did when I first visited, but it has lost some of its charms along the way.

“I wasn’t interested in hearing about the ‘lessons of Vietnam,’ which always struck me as dangerously oversimplified, at best,” Crawford, now 74, wrote in his photo book titled “Hanoi Streets 1985-2015.”

 Fan repair - popular in Hanoi in the 1990s. This electrical repair shop was located at No. 103 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District.

The “Hanoi 1985 - 2015 in the Years of Forgetting” exhibition features 18 street life photos taken from 1985-2015 by William Crawford. This unfolding of 18 street life photos will be exhibited as a journal of time passing in the art space.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see how the country has evolved from a collective subsidized economy of scarce goods and services to one of the most successful economies in ASEAN.

The exhibition is an event of the International Photography Biennale Photo Hanoi'23.

 The A1 Giang Vo residential block in 1988. On the right side of the photo, you can see Volga, a Soviet car, which was considered a high-class means of transportation at that time.
Daily life at Ta Hien Street in 1999.
 The funky image of Hanoi in the 1990s: a power pole in Hang Gai Street.

A Peugeot bicycle was parked on the side of a shoe repair shop at No.132 Hang Bac Street in 1986. At that time, a bicycle was worth a fortune.

 Women vendors were chatting in front of No.26 Ngoc Ha Street in 1986.
 The Hang Chi Lane in 1991.
Ma May Street in 1994.
A tea shop (on the left) and a lighter gas pump shop (on the right) on Ly Thai To Street in 1988.
 Photoshop was located at 128 Hang Bac Street in 1986.
 The same, but different: William Crawford took the photo of the facade of houses numbered 22 to 26 on Hang Bong Street in 2000 (left), while Vietnamese photographer Nguyen The Son took another photo of the site in 2015.