Shadow Followers

Shadow Followers: Journal entries.

Together with interpreter Le Ngoc Son I invited 15 local people in Bao Loc (Lam Dong, Vietnam) to take photographs every day of things they found noteworthy and important, using single-use cameras.

We asked our participants to record notes in a provided small notebook whenever they took a photograph. This to provide an outlet for thoughts and experiences. Most of our Shadow Followers were simply too busy to keep up writing journal entries. But some endorsed each photograph with descriptive comments, some even wrote a threads of poetry. Here are two samples.

An introduction to my life
pressby K'Li Ang Va, Bao Loc, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Translation: Nguyen Tan Dat & Ngo Thi

City Canal Tour

The fourteen year old dropped out of school to help his family in the tea and coffee plantations. Encouraged by his sisters he joined the project.

I am K'li Any Va and I am really happy to meet you and become one of the participants in your project "Shadow Followers".

I just want to describe the life of the farmers in my area. I am living in Town 16, Loc Thanh ward, Bao Loc district, Lam Dong province. Lam Dong is known as a place of mountains and leaves good impressions and memories in everybody who comes here. I hope you will have that feeling too. You know, my hometown has basically only coffee and tea plantations. So I simply documented what some farmers and I considered as the most beautiful and important. Moreover, I want to share my feeling to you via my writing in this notebook.

29 October 2007
Morning: Waking up at 7 pm, I used the camera to document the Durian garden that positioned behind my house. Because the durian season ended soon, so I can only take photos of the trees and not the fruits yet.
After that, I went to work at 9 am. My job is taking care of the coffee trees so I shoot some photos of them, the coffee fruits are ripe, has the color of light yellow and going to be ready for the harvest.
11 am: While I was taking the pictures of tha Taiwan tea trees, the students just reach the lunch break, then I take one photo of one girl in AoDai coming home from school... Hmm, you know, in my hometown, the school regulations are quite strict. Primary and secondary students have to wear white shirt and blue trousers. For high school students, girls have the traditional costume AoDai, and they have to be in white color, but boys keep the same white shirt and blue trousers as usual.
1 pm: I shoot the eucalyptus. Looking at their green leaves, it makes my imagination about the hope which is related to the color green.
3 pm: taking some shoots of the hills. Because I live in between the two mountains so the hills are on both left and right sides.
5 pm: Picturing the tea trees which branches are growing up, very strong and beautiful.

City Canal Tour

Le Thi Phuc is a college student whose mother we encountered does street first (catering food on her shoulder). Phuc wants to become a diplomat and tried hard to converse with us in English.

30 October 2007
A new day begins, I take my photo camera and notebook with me, go out and continue my journey.
7 am: I get into the industry where I work to take some pictures of the machines taking rest.
9 am: Shooting the tea packets that are in the store room and used for exportation to not only within the country but also to everywhere around the world.
11 am: lunch time, I picture the machine taking break.
1 pm: picturing the machines filtering the tea.
3 pm: shots of my colleagues.
5 pm: shots of the machines starting boiling trees, because I am far from the workplace, so I can only have the photos of them rotating.

31 October 2007
A beautiful restart of life, I pick up my camera to get some pics of the star - apple trees near my house at about 7 am.
9 am: I picture the huts and fish ponds.
11 am: I shoot some scenes of the workers harvesting the coffee, color of yellow and red mix up around...
1 pm: taking photos of the coffee fruits that are still young, green, and not mature.
3 pm: picturing the yellow coffee that will be matured soon.
5 pm: shots of the mountains.

1st November 2007
Everyone knows when the cock cooing, it means a new day begins or a new life starts.
7 am: I take the camera for the curry trees getting mature.
9 am: Shooting the eucalyptus from distance.
11 am: On the bus going to Bao Loc market, I shoot some pix of the lake in the town.
1 pm: documenting the coffee that are already grinded, dried, then grinded and dried again. The seeds then are taking out, After all, they are sold when the price is reasonable.
3 pm: scenes of the coffee and tea.
5 pm: taking picture of the workers harvesting the coffee.

2nd November 2007
7 am: my camera has the film finished. What a pity that I can not take the photos of the rivers of my hometown. So, I have no choice but to stop here.

3rd/4th November 2007
Hello Markuz! We have a meeting again. I am happy to be your your companion. You know, at the beginning, I bring the camera with me when I go to work. I feel uncomfortable with the camera, it is like an obstacle. However, I am used to it now. I am getting like it, because when I was young, I wished I had a camera to photograph landscapes and life of my people. Standing in the high hill which is belonged to my family, the landscape is as a picture when it is viewed from a far distance. Now my wish came true. Markuz, I am very happy!

I think that you cannot understand my happiness, Markuz! You know, I don't take picture of my people's lives any more. Now I focus on the scenery of my hometown. Wherever we go, we have to know the direction and the street's name don't you? My hometown is on a three-way crossroads named Dai Binh, it is named based on the name of the river nearby — Dai Binh river. If you pass the Dai Binh Bridge, you will know the river. However, there is also beautiful scenery such as the water fall. Because of that, I only took picture of landscape of my homeland in this time.

When I was younger — about 10 years from ago (I am 17 years old in this year), my homeland was full of tea and coffee trees. There were hills and even forest. However, factories replace them now. I see a great new change of my hometown.

5th November 2007, Monday
I went to work at 7 am. I stood on my hill and took picture of my homeland's dawn with full of fog. Fog covered houses; I could not see anything but could. It was like a Heaven scene in a Chinese movies "Journey to the west".

9 am: I photograph Dai Binh River. From a far view, the river is beautifully flowing and the mountain and forest are beautiful too. At 11 am, I took picture of factories which are line up to each other. It looks very modern, because I think that modern day is coming, the obsolescence is changed to improve people life and reduce poverty and hungry.

1 pm: I stood on the hill and re took pictures of Dai Binh water fall's scenery. The water fall is not beauty but to me it is a gift of nature. I am very appreciating it, because my homeland has all of things I like. I need nothing and claim nothing form my hometown.

3 pm: I photographed moments of mountain and forest of Loc Thanh. Because, there are few forests remained in near my hill, I took photos to memory them and give it to you as a souvenir. I just tell you but not show you, so I want those pictures to show how my hometown is. by that way, you can understand more about my place.

5 pm: I took photos of my homeland's afternoon when it was getting foggy. Landscapes such as houses, gardens that are covered by fog.

6th November 2007, Tuesday
I continue my every day work at 7 am. Any one does it right? It is how human live. It is a circle: get up at 7 am, go to work, go home and rest. ThatŐs it! I went to my field and took pictures of the factory covered by fog.

9 am: I photographed the clear blue sky, it was so beautiful. 1 pm, I took photos of ripe coffee trees which are reddish as beautiful and eye catching grapes. 3 pm i took pictures of a flower that looks very life loving. At 5 pm i photographed scenery of fish pools of my neighbors. The landscapes was very remote town-like.

7th November 2007, Wednesday
7 am: i continued my trip and took images of a boat rower. 9 am, I photographed my town from a far distance. I saw buildings next to each other like a small city. I believe that my town will become a city — Bao Loc City. I have come to Saigon and seen a lot of crowded houses there, no spacey yards, not comfortable and so dense. I don't like it. It is different from my town — with spacious areas and fewer people.

11 am: I took pictures of a corn field on an island. I used island because there is a small island in the middle of Dai Binh river. People feed cows and plant corns there. The corn field is very beautiful. 1 pm, I photograph a wild land, because on rainy season, the river level cover the surface of this area so no one use this land. 3 pm, I photographed houses made from bamboo leaves in my town. 5Pm, i took pictures of a boy riding bicycle to his home after a tired school day.

8th November 2007, Thursday
Exactly 7 am: i begins my daily work. I photographed a person harvesting tea leaves. It is an iconic image for my hometown. 9 am, i took image of the same person again, but this time this one carrying a heavy tea bag of about 30-40 kg. What a poor one! I wish there are cart on the tea hill to help people harvesting tea. They are poor people including me!

11 am: i took images of a young boy cleaning a toilet. The boy is very lovely and work like an adult. 1 pm, i photographed a rice-grinder which is a very common tool of Tay Nguyen people. 3 pm, i took pictures of a person grinding rice, it is an activity that feed and raised me. 5 pm, i photographed an one arranging wood logs.

9th November 2007, Friday
A new day has begun. I went to work at 7 am and took images of a farmer taking care of his coffee plants. At 9 am, i took images of coconut tree which only grow in Southwest Vietnam. But in my town, people can plant this kind of tree. However, there are only some not as many as in the Southwest of Vietnam. At 11 am, i photographed people coming home with their baskets and bladders. At 1 pm, i took pictures of a woman cutting wood logs. It reminds me an old saying "only a woman can do a good job" and i think it is right. At 3 pm, i took image of cows eating grass. At 5 pm, i took images of a bridge where i have to pass to go to my work place and it is also a part of my life.

12th November 2007, Monday
Hello both of you, an old week passed and a new week begins. When i saw pictures that you gave me, i thought i have ability in photography. But those images are quite boring because, they are just coffee, tea, hills and mountains. But it is an lesson for me to learn and research for mastering the camera. At 7 am, i took images of my family. 9 am, i photographed my nephew riding motorbike in the coffee farm. At 11 am, i photographed a person climbing a grubby tree, 1 pm — i took images of children playing. At 3 pm, i took pictures of my friend cleaning his motorbike near the well in my yard. At 5 pm, i photographed my friends. When they came to my house, they liked the ideas of taking pictures and want to take some as souvenirs.

13th November 2007, Tuesday
At 7 am, i woke up after an exhausted working day. When i was ready to work, i realized that lives around me were busy and hurry. I looked out and saw a man drying coffee beans. His hard working make me feel strange and thought that: hard working but optimizing is not boring. Thought like that i feel better and want to keep that moment so i took those pictures. 9 am, for this photo — i took an image of a tea trading point near my house. It used to my working place. Although this work place is small, it is very familiar to me. 11 am, this is the end of my morning work and i went home for lunch. When i came home, i accidentally looked at my children washing dishes. They are very naive and pure. I quickly took pictures of them.

At 1 pm, i began my afternoon work and the tea trading point began packing tea into bags. I took photos of that scene. 3 pm, i came home, then i visited my neighbor with my camera. I saw them cleaning up their house. So i took two pictures of them. 5 pm, this is the time when every one come home after work. It is also an image of coffee harvesting workers. On their face, there are crow food signs and dark brown skin due to hard working days.

14th November 2007, Wednesday
New day begins. I see my life is so long when i look at people getting busy with their new life. At 7 am, i have to go to work and start my trip. I saw a man who always cleaning his house every morning. I respect him and took pictures of him to memorize. At 9 am i took photos of a person playing with children. At 11 am it is break time of workers, i photographed every one when they resting after a hard working day. At 1 pm i like children playing scene, so i took three pictures of them. At 3 pm, i opened my cupboard and found out that my elder brother took my camera. Those late image were not memorized images of my brother but his photos of interest. He said that the camera was empty, so he took some images to fill in. At 5pm, i was at home and look at my yard. I saw a truck of tea trading company, so i photographed people loading tea to the truck.

15th November 2007, Thursday
At 7 am, a new day has come. I went to work at 7 am as usual. I took all my tool and not forget the camera. I think the camera become my habit now. So at 7 am i took picture of what i like. Today, i took images of my family having breakfast. At 9 am, i visited neighbor. Sometime i stay at home because i was ill on that day. I took photos of the basket which used to catch fish and carrying crabs. It is very convenient. You may not know it, because you don't have a chance to use it. But to me, the basket is a part of my life. At 11 am, i took images of my nephew running. He is cute and look like me when i was young. I wished i could turn back to that time. It would be great to me! So i took pictures of him. 1 pm, i stand by the river and took photos about it. The river is like a human life, time pass like the river flowing cannot turn back and it is a circle of life, isn't it?

At 3 pm, i took pictures of a woman washing her bucket near the well. It is a daily activity of people in my town. At 5 pm i was watching movie, my friends came. They saw the camera and borrowed it to take some photos of them and me.

16th November 2007, Friday
When i woke up, i saw new life begin. I went to work at 7 am with the camera. I photographed my brother, sister in law and my nephew. They are my family. 9 am, i had a break time and saw the beautiful landscape of my town and took images of it. 11 am, i photographed children playing. I love them! 1 pm i took pictures of my house and my sister after she visiting the church. She was interested in talking at that time and did not notice i was taking her photos. I did that because my sister do not like taking photos. I took two images of her. 3 pm, i photographed me nephew practicing hip hop dancing. He learn from school and want to show his aunt and uncle. It look funny! So i took pictures of him.

At 5 pm i visited my friend with my camera. I photographed his sister after her dancing competition. She was beautiful so i want to take some picture to memorize her.

* * *

My notebook entries for the Shadow Followers project
pressby K'Boi, Chauvel Village, Bao Loc, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Translation: Chi Mai Phan

City Canal Tour

K'Boi belongs to an ethnic minority and is a young artist who facilitates an English and homework tutoring program in his home which is a social hub.

On Monday, 29th October 2007
[1] 7.00: Threading whool. In the morning, my elder sister was threading whool at home. It is her daily work
[2] 9.00: Knit the cottons for a brocade of minority ethnic people in the highlands. Embroidered silk which is very popular among ethnic minority communities.
[3] 11.00: Read the boole (one nephew reads, and one niece plays in activity at home.
[4] 13.00: Baths (it's late for school activity...).
[5] 15.00: Drink wine alone (Rahnom, this is a wine of minority ethnic people in high lands in Lam Dong province and some other provinces in Vietnam). At home, that is my father, he drinks in Chauvel village.
[6] 17.00: Go home (after school, in the afternoon, they have to go home...). At home, that is my father, he drinks in Chauvel village.

On Tuesday, 30th October 2007
[7] 7.00: A silent space (after ate, my father has to do this work and it is hard life for him).
[8] 9.00: Behind (in behind my father has to do so much, everyday, he has to do that, cuts the woods, wood of fire...)
[9] 11.00: Grind the coffees (they have to grind that so much, grind to grind).
[10] 13.00: Weave the webs (she weaves a web, a brocade of minority ethnic people).
[11] 15.00: Silent (two nieces, they are good, I think so all of two sit beside the door).
[12] 17.00: In front of my door of house. everything is move, activity and lifestyle.

City Canal Tour

Mr. Nguyen Duc Hanh is a father of two girls, works as in the coffee refinery and farms vegetables, coffee and tea.

On Wednesday, 31st October 2007
[13] 7.00: In the morning, fog, weak sunshine in front of the house.
[14] 9.00: Bring the woods go home (nest who stands and sits blue sky, it's beautiful.
[15] 11.00: Road (road goes to home and a lonely road...).
[16] 13.00: Down the roads (roads that she has to go school, blue sky and good sunshine).
[17] 15.00:Cleave the woods (in the afternoon my mother cleaves the woods) behind the house.
[18] 17.00 Mount (in the afternoon a lovely day, aton may I see a blue sky).

On Thursday, 1st November 2007
[19] 7.00: A space (my sister and tools in family).
[20] 9.00: Eat (activity, everyday, they always to do that lifestyle of people).
[21] 11.00: A child (children, happy and smile everyday as that).
[22] 13.00: Tea (everyday she has to do that, it's hard life for her and that is her life).
[23] 15.00: Two sisters (activity, a lifestyle, a happy space, it's beautiful).
[24] 17.00: Mother and daughter (silent, everything is good for you, everyday).

On Friday, 2nd November 2007
[25] 7.00: A new day (she weaves the web next for a new day, lifestyle and homework is hers).
[26] 9.00: Two old (it's so hard life for them, lifestyle of people here activity).
[27] 11.00: Lunch (she and her dog eat together, she feeds. A lifestyle is beautiful).
[28] 13.00: A Chauvel village road (everyday, you must to have to go, go home and you do what you like to do).
[29] 13.00: A sky corner (look at, after and before it's raining, life is good as everyday, I think so!).
[30] 17.00: Watch TV (activity in family, a lifestyle is always next to next to time, everything in your family).

City Canal Tour

Mr. Tran Van Dong is a security guard for a major coffee refinery and as a coffee farmer and shows us both worlds.

On Saturday at 13.00, 3rd November 2007
Aunt and nephew (in front of the gate) they're funny, beautifull, all of the things are good, I think. The second to the twelfth photo are about the activity family activities in our lifestyle. For example: members in the family, activity, work, everyday, what do they do where and when? All of my photos are beautiful.

On Monday, 5th November 2007 from 9.00 to 21.00
[13] Baby goes to school, lifestyle, listen to mobile, standing, natural and single-minded.
[14] Reads (a book, takes her hands, read to read, light is good.

On Tuesday, 6th November 2007
[15] 7.00: Morning, everyone works, activity, life as that.
[16] 15:00: Baby - (she plays game, with a cotton bear, takes a book on her hands she's all smile.
[17] A small class room (four members, but all of five, be quiet).
[18] Myself (photo in front of mirror) this is a mirror image of yours).
[19] Activity. A blind woman (my sister).
[20] A sky corner. (full in green trees).
[21] and [22] next - a sky corner (a green line a long the sky).
[23] A bridge.
[24] The bulls.
[25] Coffee.
[26] Life and lives at night (lifestyle activity, grand parents, aunt, niece, works, plays game, read).
[27] Lives at night. Light of electricity. An electric road.
[28] Internet-activity at night.