Bikes of Burden by Hans Kemp.
On the shelves for photo books about Vietnam, “Bikes of Burden” by photographer Hans Kemp, published by the Visionary World Ltd. Publication, Hong Kong is always displayed in the best position. Simply, it is the best-seller of its kind. We just need to look at the publishing history of the book to know its attractiveness: printed for the first time in 2003, reprinted twice in 2004, twice in 2005, three times in 2006 and twice in 2007.
This book is considered a meaningful cultural gift for foreign visitors before they leave Vietnam. Yet, some bookstores in HCM City say that they are not allowed to directly import this book.
They have to buy this book from companies in the north. It is the same country, but northern provinces permit the import of that photo book, while southern provinces don’t. Southern management agencies reason that this book of photos of motorbikes carrying big loads of goods ‘vilifies’ Vietnam. Actually, these photos are among foreigners’ interesting experiences in Vietnam.
Hans Kemp, the author of that book, is an independent photographer from the Netherlands. He has travelled to many countries to take photos and write books. He has published three photo books about Vietnam, “Bikes of Burden” being the most successful.
Two other favourite photo books about Vietnam were also written by foreign authors: Vietnam: Land of blue dragon by Martine Aepli, published by the French Copydesk Ocean Insurance Bldg Publishing House; and Vietnam Style by Luca Invernizzi and co-workers.
Vietnam: Land of blue dragon introduces Vietnam, its history, culture and religion with photos and captions, which are Vietnamese verses, folk songs and proverbs. This book has been re-printed once.
Because of problems associated with copyrights, the author had to delete some verses, so the book has lost some of its attractiveness.
Vietnam Style is about Vietnamese architecture from traditional to modern, with new and interesting discoveries.
Why don’t photo books about Vietnam by Vietnamese authors capture foreign visitors’ eyes?
Vietnamese authors often don’t pay proper attention to methodology, to discover the depth of life, and the printing quality of products is often very poor. Photographer Hoang The Nhiem recently printed his book in Singapore to distribute in France.