Photos, stilt hut homestays and Metropole phoPosted: October 12, 2012
One of the relaxing things I find about staying in Hoi An is being a tourist rather than an expat.
I can do touristy activities without my brain tsking at the cliched banality of it all. That includes taking photos.
On the last but one day on our recent stay with my Mum and Dad we hired a boat for a river trip. We set off with cameras at the ready. We soon spied the boat above, slowly pulling in closer as the fisherman cast and recast his net. There’s already a nagging though at the back of my mind – won’t we be scaring off the fish?
He continues to cast his net and by this stage there’s hardly room between us for a more expansive throw. He doesn’t seem to mind us taking photos. After a couple of minutes he pulls up closer and tries to sell fish to our boat. Of course we don’t want fish but for interrupting his fishing we bung him a few thousand dong.
A few days after our return I saw another picture of what looks like the same fisherman and wife combo. Then another and another. Obviously they bring in more from posing than from fishing. They are a photo op – a mid river museum of local life.
I’m slightly uneasy about people posing for me. But I also don’t want to take photos without consent. Earlier I’d spent the morning getting angry with a group of Chinese guests at our hotel who repeatedly and inexplicably took photos of myself and my wife via long lenses. It was infuriating.
I can’t imagine much photography is truly authentic. A picture with consent is a lie. A picture without is insensitive.
For the most part like pho at the Metropole, a rebuilt paddle steamer in Ha Long Bay, stilt hut homestays etc – it’s an acceptable and accessible tourist approximation. Just a flavour, offering more of a keepsake memory than any real insight.
Introduce yourself and a camera to the authentic and the authenticity has already gone.