Water is the spirit that you can only understand by being immersed in its essence. – Duy Phuong Le Nguyen
Vietnamese photographer Duy Phuong’s first encounter with Tri An Lake was wholy by chance. Overwhelmed at first by the landscape, he decided to start documenting the communities that inhabited the lake and whose daily activities revolved around the rise and ebb of the tide.
Duy Phuong gained the intimate access he needed to begin a photo project, after building a close friendship with one of the local people. “I immersed myself in the waters,” says the photographer, “carried away by its currents, the way a stranger immerses himself in the life of the local people, carried away by the intimacy and confidence they shared with me.” It was not only the beauty of the lake that interested Duy Phuong, but also the unsettling feelings that surfaced within.
The body of water he focuses on in this project is home to one of the largest hydroelectric dams in South Vietnam. Here water determines the fate of the people – “It is their dreams, hopes, and hopelessness,” remarks Duy Phuong. Because of the rising water levels, their lives are heavily affected by the dams. More than anything in these images, what really shows is the placidity of life on the water. While at first glance the images appear idyllic, with their soft colors, sun-blushed blue skies, and sweeping horizons, also highlighted are these people’s vulnerability in the face of the dam network and indeed the water itself, which envelops them on all sides. As well as illustrating their connection to the water which has deepened throughout the generations, there lurks a darker and more serious element that forewarns of the damage these dams might inflict on these communities in the very near-future.
Duy Phuong is currently preparing for his series Holding Water to be exhibited at Oberlin College, Ohio in February 2016. This will be his first solo show.
All images © Duy Phuong Le Nguyen