The original, outdoor projected exhibition of The Long Bien Picture Show took place in the Long Bien neighborhood in December 2010. A short clip of that can be seen at youtube.com/watch?v=4bbL4GfBg3E .
This collection of over 140 photographs and 4 films came to exist out of a notion that was really more of a non-idea. The purpose was to produce a number of bodies of work in the same place – the Long Bien neighborhood in Hanoi, Vietnam – during the same period of time which had necessarily no apparent relationship to one another except the fact of where they were made. The four photographers – Barnaby Churchill Steele, Boris Zuliani, Tran Xiu Thuy Khanh and Jamie Maxtone-Graham - and four filmmakers – Tran Thi Anh Phuong, Pham Thu Hang, Do Van Hoang and Tran Thanh Hien - each made a record of the things that they responded to and in the ways they wanted. There was no effort to create a theme or to impose any meaning, the thought being that the confusion of ideas and perspectives might better reflect the place.
Sponsored by the British Council and with the generous support of Hanoi DocLab, The Long Bien Picture Show // Buoi Chieu Bong Long Bien is based partly on a simple observation of the way people make use of a neighborhood. In Long Bien, like anywhere else, there are as many reasons for people’s lives and livelihoods as there are residents. And all the things that happen in big cities happen here – good things and less good.
This is, in fact, what people do – they use where they live and work in very unique and specialized and personal ways without any sort of overarching idea of what the meaning of that is. The place simply is and the people are simply there. It is enough to try and show that. How these things are shown – in the same way people find themselves in this place - is the purview of each of the individuals making the record.
Like many places in the world, in Long Bien there are streets with houses and businesses, there are markets, there are families, there are small alleys, there are cars, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles. There are men and there are women. There are children. There are old people and young people too. Here, in the morning the sun comes up and in the evening it gets dark.
Some, or all, of these things showed up in the images and films made over the course of the three months that these eight people worked in Long Bien. And then there was always the possibility that the completely unexpected showed up in the frame. This has always been the risk in photography and filmmaking.
Jamie Maxtone-Graham Hanoi December 2010