47 years is a long time. No wonder I can’t remember the situations and how they unfolded as I photographed people and things that interested me, and attracted my eye while wandering around Saigon back in 1966.
How I managed to take this photo with a normal lens (50 mm lens on a 35 mm SLR) without disturbing these two men puzzles me. I had to be close and from the evidence of the image, they had no idea I took their picture.
What were they doing at the time? Who were they? A vendor and a customer? Two vendors taking a break? A good story leaves much unsaid and a richness of meaning between the lines for the reader to discover for themselves. This image tells stories. Which story is up to you, the viewer, to imagine and discover for yourself.
This image is from a group of negatives that I believe were from the last roll of B&W film that I used before leaving Vietnam during January 1967. I suspect I took this picture in December 1966. I had several cameras during my stay in Vietnam. I would have used my then new Yashica SLR that came with a 50 mm lens (why didn’t I buy a Nikon?) [shakes head after banging head on desk].
Did I publish this image before? I can’t remember. I dug through my archives and found a few more photos from my time in Vietnam that I’ll post over the next few weeks. I’m enjoying revisiting the surviving photos I took during that year.
We had a strange work schedule. Our normal duty (meaning no bad things happening) schedule was either 4:00 AM to Noon or Noon to 8:00 PM. This is time on post which means that guard-mount (checking out weapons, loading them, falling in for inspection) and the ride to and from our posts tacked on extra time on both ends of our shift.
We shifted from one schedule to the other on a regular basis but I cannot remember how long on each shift. The guys who worked all night 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM never changed shifts. They also had a lot more manpower because they worked the dangerous night shift, but they didn’t have to deal with big red, the tropical sun that baked our buns for us every day during the dry season.
Then along comes the monsoon season when it’s a bit cooler and orders of magnitude wetter. You have never seen real rain until you’ve been out in a monsoon rain. I’d rather face the heat of the sun than the monsoon. You could find ways to keep a bit cooler but there is no way to escape getting soaked when you are outside during a monsoon rain.
The reason I mentioned our duty schedule is because we could go into Saigon after work and kick around for a few hours. We also had one day off each week (again when nothing bad was happening). It was nice to be able to walk the streets with a camera in the afternoon. Remember that the war hadn’t come to Saigon yet in 1966. Tet was in early 1968 and as I said in an earlier post, I was so glad to be safe in the US when Tet happened because the VC attacked in force where I had been a year earlier.
Speaking of heat and brutal sun, I haven’t gotten out to take any pictures because it’s way too hot and humid here. The temps have been in the high 90s for days, the humidity is oppressive and the heat index has been over one hundred. I could take that kind of heat back in 1966 when I was a young man but not any more.
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