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Vietnam: Reconciliation at Newton Open Studios, May 14-15

Vietnam: Reconciliation
Images by Dick Simon
Newton Open Studios May 14-15, 2011
Carriage House, 219 Lake Ave., Newton Highlands, MA

The images in Vietnam: Reconciliation explore the kindness, hope, and resiliency of the Vietnamese people that I experienced in northern Vietnam. This series continues my work portraying the untold human stories behind the headlines and sharing personal experiences to help bridge the gap between “us” and “them.”

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They call it the American War, a name that brings to mind a Vietnam filled with pain and hatred for the country that took as many as five million Vietnamese lives forty years ago. Despite a history of conflict with America, during every interaction between our family and the Vietnamese people, I was amazed at their kindness and at the hope and resiliency I observed.

We trekked through the spectacular beauty of the mountains and village markets of a far northern region of Vietnam that until recently was completely closed to foreigners. The compassion and openness the locals demonstrated toward us, virtual strangers in their isolated world, overwhelmed us all.

Visiting local schools and rehabilitation centers for victims of the US Agent Orange defoliation program, which continues to create birth defects and severe disabilities, further confirmed that reconciliation is at the forefront of the country’s collective psyche. This has allowed the people to embrace the changes that invariably stem from long-term redevelopment in the aftermath of an incredible destruction.

My work exploring the amazing capacity of the Vietnamese people to forgive and move on has not only led me to personal and creative insights about this nation, but to explore other conflict-torn regions where in theory both sides “hate” each other so much that they will “never” reconcile.

The Plaza, Chichicastenango, Guatemala image won FIRST PLACE in Newton Camera Club Competition

Last night I went to Newton Camera Club, where I had submitted 3 images to a competition, and Plaza from New Years’ morning in Chichicastenango, Guatemala (below) won First Place with a perfect 30 score, and the judge, Mike McNeill, was incredibly complimentary.  (“I thought I was looking at Henri Cartier-Bresson”.)  WOW!!!!

The timing could not possibly have been better.  I am taking a Street Photography Class at New England School of Photography (NESOP).  Our first shooting assignment was Saturday in the Boston Common, and was definitely NOT my best work.  After viewing ‘the take’, I was massively disappointed – the images were just too static.  So self doubt creeps in, maybe I really love photography, but will never be good, etc.  (Dark Side Demons at work.)  This gives me the energy to get back out there shooting!!  Thanks Mike!!!