Photographer Adam Birkan’s series of Hanoi, Vietnam captures the contrasting moments that occur within the city. “It examines both ends of the social spectrum, individually and as juxtapositions to each other,” says Adam.
Its long-established history sits at odds with the recent globalisation the city has seen, setting it up to be one of the fastest growing cities in the world. This boom is reflected in its population which has jumped from nearly three million in 2009, to seven million in 2015. In this series Adam aims to capture this battle between past and present and its “development into an uncertain future”.
The decision to capture Hanoi was a convenient one at first: “I live in Bangkok, so every so often I have to leave the country to renew my visa. I chose Hanoi because the airfare is cheap and I’d not been before,” explains Adam. “However after my first trip I became deeply interested in pursuing a long term project in the city and have been back six or seven times.”
Adam sees Hanoi as a city of growing extremes, politically, culturally and visually. “It is an ancient city and its history is easily seen on the surface, but can also be explored well beyond that surface. I focus a lot of my attention on juxtapositions that are both metaphorical and literal,” Adam explains. Searching for these contrasts means the photographer’s images are full of references across the “historical, economic and visual spectrum”. In one shot for instance a stacked, illuminated building with western shops and bar names in English glows red in the street, and another captures a man reading a newspaper surrounded by towers of new, unused bricks.
His colour palette has been completely informed by Hanoi, with a mix of murky grey shades with the odd burst of colour felt throughout. “When I sit down to make my selections for a project I look for trends that I’m naturally drawn to – in the case of Hanoi it was a dark pastel palette.”
Ultimately Adam’s series acts as a visual essay for the the chaotic city. “Photos that are a microcosm of Hanoi were the goal. I’m interested in the transformations brought on by globalisation and Hanoi is a case study.”
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