Founder of Studio MadsMonsen

Walkabouts. I miss living in London as Saigon does not appreciate pedestrians in the same manner. I walked a lot more before. These days, a regular gym routine is needed to stay in shape.

However, there are few moments of bliss to be enjoyed on the streets of Saigon and Tet is one of them. The streets are deserted and at noontime there are even less movement as people enjoy their lunch and being Tet, their games.

Despite the reduced number of motorbikes, people still manage to have bike accidents.The statistics are shocking.

Motorbike accident
Abandoned motorbike on the road

Ask any ex-pat living here for more than a few years, and they all have their traffic tales from hell to tell. I once was told about a friend of a friend that went down only to be run over by the bike that came behind. He was wearing a helmet and survived as the wheel went over his head.

At least he was wearing a helmet and had it secured. There is a reason why the traffic police asked for better clarification in the laws regarding wearing a helmet and to specifically add the part of securing the strap. To see adults riding their bikes at full speed, suddenly slamming their brakes after going over a small bump as their helmet is now rolling on the street behind them, turning their bikes and going the wrong way only to place the helmet back on again without securing it.

What kind of logic is this? Probably the same that is applied at night when motorbikes are coming at full speed down unlit alleyways without their headlights on. I am being told they are saving the light bulb as their main reason. I changed my lightbulb once or twice in 7 years on my bike and that cost me less than 10.000 Vietnamese Dong each time (1 US$=18.500 VND). A life can be really cheap these days.

No entry road sign
No entry road sign in front of a wooden wall.

Back to the walkabout. Light at noontime is often avoided by photographers as it is too harsh, but sometimes it can create interesting opportunities. It is refreshing to walk around, only camera and lens, no other light modifiers and work with what you got. It is all out there, the only difference is how you see it. Different photographer, different vision. That’s what I love about photography, part technique and craft, part the way you see, the art of composition. As they say, know the rules and when to break them.

The text and numbers on the image below belongs to various concrete suppliers. This is how they advertise themselves around the city. Almost any wall will have one or more of these tags. They must employ a team of taggers as every new rise will have them plastered on within a week.

Wall with lettering
Wall tagged by local concrete providers.

Another common sign that you can easily spot around is the mobile petrol station, see image below.

Mobile petrol station
A mobile petrol station.

The second version have a bit of Josef Muller-Brockmann influence.

Mobile petrol station alternate version
Mobile petrol station alternate version.

Another street sign is this repair shop. The stack of tires signals the presence of a repair station/garage. Functional design.

Motorbike repair station
Stacked tires indicate a motorbike repair shop.

A walk like this was much needed break from the routine. I have a charity project running with the same principle, only camera and lens, work with what you got. Maybe I bring a reflector. It is good to go back to basic, you often end up being more creative when on a shoe string budget so to speak.

I think of it as duality and balance. With my work I do commercial (advertising) and editorial work. I go from corporate boardrooms to restaurants photographing food. I will be in studio doing products and still life to be on location photographing models. I am blessed to be able to have variety in my assignments and that variety I truly enjoy.

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