Phong Quyen, 16, takes a break from scraping salt and stares up at the night sky. Farmers harvest salt cultivated in rice paddy-like fields in Ben Tre, a village in southern Vietnam. (Kevin German)

Military police march in a parade celebrating the 1,000th birthday of Hanoi. (Kevin German)

Photographer Kevin German has started a crowdfunding campaign to publish an unusual book about Vietnam. German spoke to In Sight about the book:

“I lived in Vietnam for five years, but photographed the country for 10. While tourists littered the coastline and donned conical hats for selfies, I sought a time long past.  I came to see Vietnam as a bit of a dark fairy tale or a film noir where I romanticize the nostalgia that I never knew. I was drawn to the bizarre and the juxtaposition between the poor and the rich.  I lived on both sides of that divide all the while integrating into society and taking part of a changing landscape.

I sometimes felt like an uncomfortable witness to Vietnam’s growth. Toeing the line between my loyalty to those who left after the war and my fascination with the architects who are designing a new Vietnam.  But over time, Vietnam became less of a place and more of an idea.  A veiled dystopia constantly moving forward to the detriment of everything left behind.

But the sun rises just like any other place.  And you remember what first brought you to this intoxicating country.  The kindness and sheer resilience of a people who had been fighting invaders for more than 100 years.  A people still fractured from a devastating civil war backed by foreign interests. A people who embrace capitalism over communism.  A beauty of a country and its people strewn throughout the world that is now within me.

As an American, Vietnam always felt like a dirty secret the U.S. didn’t want to talk about. A scarlet letter the military wished it could strike from the record.  I was born four years after the fall of Saigon and what I mostly knew about Vietnam, I learned from the likes of Kubrick and Coppola.  A corrupt war that led to the destruction of America’s morals.

But I didn’t want this book to be about war. At the same time, I could never get it out of my mind.  Vietnam means very different things to different people.  This book is designed in a way to simply challenge what you know about the country.  The reader can experience the book frontward or backward.  Each side offers a different perspective about Vietnam with a simple message: Forget what you remember and remember what you forgot.”


Early morning fishing trip in central Vietnam. (Kevin German)

Sisters pose for a photograph in traditional Tet dresses in the park in Saigon. (Kevin German)

A Vietnamese bodybuilder gets ready for a competition backstage outside Saigon. (Kevin German)

Ngan Nguyen is reflected in a mirror fragment she found in an abandoned lot in Saigon. (Kevin German)

Ron, left, and Chris swim in the pool at their parents apartment in Saigon. (Kevin German)

A girl poses for photos next to flowers at the Diamond Plaza mall during the Tet holiday. (Kevin German)

Schoolgirls ride their bicycles home in the early evening in central Vietnam. (Kevin German)

American-Vietnamese actress Kathy Uyen prepares to host a variety show in Saigon. (Kevin German)

Linh, 21, an Agent Orange victim who was born without arms, eats rice with her foot in her mother’s home in Saigon. (Kevin German)

Brothers pose with Winnie the Pooh balloons at a park in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (Kevin German)

Models descend a staircase backstage at a hair show at the Saigon Opera House. (Kevin German)

Vo Anh Ninh, considered to be the father of photography in Vietnam, slowly wastes away after being hit by a motorbike in the street a few years earlier. Vo Anh Ninh photographed every foreign invader of the 20th century and followed Ho Chi Minh closely. He published one book during his life, but sold every copy to make ends meet. He died at 101 still looking for a copy of his book. (Kevin German)

For more information about German’s book, go here.

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