The Storytelling Through Portraits Workshop took place from 20 to 22 November as part of the World Press Photo Exhibition: Best of Three 2018 – 2020 in Hanoi. It is organized by Matca and supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Vietnam.
During three intensive days, 13 participants discussed different aspects of making portraits, worked on their proposed projects, and edited their photos under the mentorship of veteran photographers Binh Dang and Linh Pham. Within the time constraint, the workshop focused on the process instead of the outcome, encouraging participants to experiment and get out of their comfort zone rather than making a fully complete body of work. However, each and everyone put in considerable effort to realize a mini-series that expressed their own idea and perspective.
My parents often went on business trips, so as a kid, I was close with my paternal grandparents. But as I grew up, our relationship began to fade away. I assume that they don’t understand my world, or the selfish nephew that I am isn’t patient enough to explain to them about the changes happening out there. Gradually, visits to my grandparents’ house occurred less often. Once every two weeks, then once a month, until one day, I couldn’t even recall when was the last time I visited my grandma and grandpa.
I used to think that I know everything about this family. But as I worked on this series, I realized that I had never seen pictures from my grandma’s youth kept at the back of her album, nor did I notice the notes of pulse and blood pressure filled in her handbook. And it had been too long since I last saw that smile on grandpa’s face. It was funny that as I study photography, I have taken thousands of photos of strangers, but the ones I took of my grandparents are few and far between.
I make this miniseries with a simple wish: to spend time with my grandparents, to better understand them by listening to their stories. So once again, we can step back into each other’s world.