jamie maxtone graham – when evening comes

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Jamie Maxtone Graham

When Evening Comes: Night Market Portraits



The photographs in this body of work came to be out of a couple of different but complimentary impulses. The first was a simple curiosity of what the Long Bien night market in Hanoi, Vietnam – where I have lived since 2007 – actually looked like at night. I have often been past the market during the day when it is closed and very little, if anything, is ever happening. It is, in fact, asleep. I found it is an entirely different place after night falls.

The second, more personal, challenge for myself was to make photographs in a different mode – both technically and aesthetically – and to engage the subjects, the people who work and even live in the night market, in a manner that required collaboration and ultimately a trust. I wanted to bring some of the aesthetic of the studio into the street and to do this at night in this venue – a rough wholesale fruit and vegetable market in a tough section of the city near the Red River – seemed both absurd and entirely logical. I like that kind of friction.

On a separate note, there are a couple of other ideas at work here for me. In the West, ‘Vietnam’ continually connotes a war long over and other socio-political issues which often seem to sublimate the very “everydayness” of the place. With as little prejudice as I am capable of, in this series I wanted to just look and be looked back at by people with no more overt agenda than just that.  These people photographed and I developed some relationship both in the moment we made the image and in the weeks I regularly returned, always with their portrait as a gift. I also had in mind to embrace some tone of a 19th or early 20th colonial portraitist (in Indochina they were typically French and I admire a lot of that work) and so I tried to adopt a somewhat neutral distance and attitude with the camera while looking for something that expressed the nuance of this time, these people, this place.



I have been a cinematographer working originally in New York and then in Los Angeles on feature films, commercials and episodic television but also with strong exposure to documentary and independent films as well. I began coming to Vietnam in 1990 to shoot a documentary and have returned many times in the two decades since on other non-fiction and narrative films and for personal work too.

In 2007-08 I became a Fulbright Research Fellow after receiving a grant funding my proposal to photograph contemporary youth culture in Vietnam. My wife, our young daughter and I continue to live in Hanoi and I have made several other portfolios of photographs in that time (When Evening Comes is the most recent) while pursuing commercial and narrative film work in the region. A selection of this body of work exhibited at The Bui Gallery in Hanoi in February and March, 2010.


56 Responses to “jamie maxtone graham – when evening comes”

  • Hi Jamie! :))

    thank you so much for your reply. It is ALWAYS these kinds of details that make the experience of work so so important, the sharing and the discussing of work so critical. I remember a time when there was a discussion at Burn of whether or not to even have comments (since most magazine’s neither allow nor encourage discussion/argument/back-and-forth), and many of us vociferously argued that what differentiates BURN from so many other magazines (online and off) is that: the CONVERSATION! :))…these remarkable and small details that a photographer can share with his audience about work is not only important for the reader/author but also for the subjects…it helps us humanize and remove the natural objectification that the work we do creates….your description of this young woman is a perfect example…which is why when i published Bones of Time here, i tried to provide as much personal information and background stuff during the ensuing discussion….thank you so much for that Jamie! :))

    Her face is filled with heartbreak…when i first clicked on burn on thursday night, i was arrested…part of it is that deeply forlorn and thoughtful expression and the averted eyes and the child’s toes…and she really embodied a deep loneliness that i see in the films of the filmakers i mentioned and that’s it, as you pointed out…i’ve often spoken about this with my friend Oli pin-fat (based in BKK) and it’s sometimes the rich heartbreak…in many ways, most of my favorite asian filmmakers (Hou hsio-hsien, tsai ming-lai, wong kar-wei, Tran Anh Hung, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Lou Ye, Edward Yang, Jia Zhangke, etc) deal with that mysterious space between the appearance of things and the deep chasm of sadness that underlies it……and that is what i felt here…and that, like Kar-wei’s mute boy in Fallen Angels selling pigs or icecream at night, is experssed here in the night market….a resonant truth that is for me the power….

    and yes, i did see 3 seasons…that’s wonderful that you shot it…it is very beautiful film…though, of course, i’m partial to Anh Hung’s films :)))))))))…cyclo, by far my favorite too…

    thanks so much…i have to run…

    more later

  • ps. i have seen the first 3 films (scent of green papaya, cyclo, vertical rays) and waiting to see his latest…and i hear he’s making Murakami’s Norweigan Woods….could talk asian films all day :))))….ok, gotta fly….:)))

  • N0 quarrel on romanized language, Jamie. It is just the only thing that indicates we can be in Vietnam(with maybe the women in light “Pajama’ linen, though we come acroos the outfit in Cambodia) in these pictures.

    Hey,Nothing is troubling me, we are just talking, exchanging impressions. To construct your essay as you did is perfectly valid, I just said I saw more style than substance. BUT:

    Photos are a funny thing. They sometimes have plenty of truth in them that reveal itself after a while, sometimes many years. It is quite possible that I will prove myself wrong, looking at them in 5, or 10 motnhs/years, and see much meaningfulness in them that escapes me now.

    I opened your FlickR page with pleasure. Vietnam, not vietnam, context, not context, little matters as long as you succeed in having us wondering, question our perceptions, while enjoying good photography.

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Bob – love to sit down someday and talk Asian films with you. I’m sure I’d learn a lot.

    Herve – thank you for the continued exchange; I think one thing I was truly interested in this work was NOT indicating too much (or at all). I dont need to say ‘these are Vietnamese people’. It is plenty for me to say ‘these are people’. A lot of non-Vietnamese photographers I see working here focus on the adjective and not the noun and I think the work is weaker for it. Your final sentence does it all for me. Thank you again. And I enjoyed looking through your website as well – my flickr pages are a mess (I use it as a sort-of first edit) and I need to do something a bit more focused. All best. Jamie

  • Very good techinque and postproduction

  • I love portrait photography. I appreciated you frame and lighting.
    I would love talk to you if you visit Cambodia.

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