Monday, September 24, 2012

The Portraitist Of Hang Ngang Street

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy
Little excites me more than walking the streets of a crowded and vibrant city like Hanoi, and meeting people with stories, history and talent in whatever craft they exercise. Nguyen Bao Nguyen is one of those.

Walking down Hang Ngang Street in old Hanoi, I stopped at Nguyen's storefront/atelier...drawn by his very realistic portraits of French and American actors, and other luminaries as well as other common folk. His store's walls covered with his work, showing erstwhile French actors such as Jean Gabin, Yves Montand and even Alain Delon...Gary Cooper and John Wayne represented the United States.

Nguyen's craft is in drawing/copying old (or damaged) photographs in exquisite details; a painstaking task that can take him many days. Very cheerful, he announced that his English wasn't too fluent, and his French was somewhat limited.

Notwithstanding, we got along well...and he immediately grasped I wanted to make a short story of him and his work. He was very proud I had come into his "atelier" as he described it, and it took no effort whatsoever to have him speak of his work, his youth and his work. Normally, I have to goad the person I'm interviewing to talk more, but Nguyen needed no encouragement whatsoever.

Returning to my hotel, I listened to the audio I had captured during my couple of hours with him, and it was fine and perfectly suited to what I hope to produce.  Depending on what I find in the couple of days to come, I may well return for another photo shoot at Nguyen's storefront.

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