Photographing the Ethnic Minorities of Northern Vietnam

I recently spent two weeks photographing the ethnic minorities of northern Vietnam. I had been to Sapa, Vietnam a few years ago. It was a bit too touristy to be a good place for photography. However, I loved the beautiful landscapes of northern Vietnam and the wonderful people so I decided to go back but to smaller more isolated communities where fewer westerners are seen.

I left Hanoi and headed north with a driver and guide. The distances between stops were not great but driving time was long because the roads were dangerous. At spots there were drop-offs of hundreds of feet. The roads for the most part were one lane with an occasional near head on collision. At the time I was thinking how there were no trauma centers in that part of the world.

We made stops in Tu Le, Mu Cang Chai, Bac Ha, Ha Giang, Yen Minh, and Meo Vac. I slept in these cities and made day hikes into the mountains.

The people of northern Vietnam were extremely friendly. During hikes we were often invited into their homes for green tea and rice wine.

<strong>This woman is a member of the Tay ethnic group. She is boiling water to make green tea.  All cooking is done on a ope
This woman is a member of the Tay ethnic group. She is boiling water to make green tea. All cooking is done on a open fire.

The homes are simple, surprising large, and had little for wall decorations. However, every home had a prominently displayed wedding picture and a picture of Ho Chi Minh. A diffuse light entered through open doorways creating a soft light for photography.

<strong>We were invited into this home for homemade rice wine being poured out of an old Fanta bottle.  The husband here had
We were invited into this home for homemade rice wine being poured out of an old Fanta bottle. The husband here had started the drinking long before we arrived.
<strong>This brother and sister are members of the Dao ethnic minority in northern Vietnam.  They were walking home from scho
This brother and sister are members of the Dao ethnic minority in northern Vietnam. They were walking home from school near Mu Cang Chai.
<strong>This Tay boy is throwing a top he carved from a block of wood.</strong>
This Tay boy is throwing a top he carved from a block of wood.
This man is a member of the Hmong ethnic group.  He is carrying a heavy load up a mountain   .
This man is a member of the Hmong ethnic group. He is carrying a heavy load up a mountain .
<strong>Member of the Black Dao Ethnic Group.</strong>
Member of the Black Dao Ethnic Group.
Hmong Girl near Tu Le, Vietnam.
Hmong Girl near Tu Le, Vietnam.
<strong>This man is holding a flute that he played for us while he danced.  </strong>
This man is holding a flute that he played for us while he danced.
<em><strong>Two Hmong girls near Bac Ha.</strong></em>
Two Hmong girls near Bac Ha.

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