Viet Nam - An Alternative View
Photographs by Richard Baker
January 14 through February 21, 2015
Handforth Gallery @ the Main Library
Opening reception & gallery talk by Richard Baker
Wednesday, January 14 @ 5:30 p.m.
Over the last five years I have mostly photographed in Vietnam. I love and respect the people and the country and to me nothing gathers feelings and emotions, or shows more respect like the basic cameras I use.
I use each of my cameras, the Holga, Holga pin- hole panoramic and pinhole Nikkormat, for specific reasons. They are all very simple cameras and require a different knowledge to be used effectively. The unsharp lens (or no lens) the vignetting, the blurry edges, the limited ability regarding light and light leaks and the ability to judge light without a light meter require skill and the ability to transform faults into advantages. The frequent roughness of the photographs emit true personality, a realism not found in more technical cameras.
People always ask me why don't my pictures have captions? These pictures, as used here, are not documentary pictures, although they can be used for documentation in a different context. For me, each picture must stand on its own merit. The viewer may infer many things from them but in the end the photograph is what it is: a two dimensional graphic representation containing form and light that, if successful, will emit wonder and emotion. It stands before the viewer as a question, emotionally empowered-not to tell us something-but to evoke awe, query, belief or doubt. Such photographs should act as a question, not an answer.
What is true is what we think is true and the importance of whatever the image might convey cannot be placed honestly into words. The photographs stand as "potentials" on the verge of being something. But we are not sure what? Is the young woman smiling and why? Are these men fishing? Are they poor and need the food or are they just enjoying an outing with friends. Do they live on the boat or in the distance? Where is the river? What is exactly happening? The viewer's mind is working. Little else is important.
Richard Baker dropped out of high school to join the Army Band. Wounded twice in Vietnam while serving as a point man with the 4th infantry Division Band, he worked as a jazz musician after the war and played with many groups including Mel Tormé and Woody Herman. After his daughter was born he took up photography at the suggestion of his wife (who claimed he took the worst pictures she had ever seen). He is the author of over one hundred articles and 14 books. A winner of the Ernest Hemingway award for short fiction and numerous photography awards, including International Photo Instructor of the Year by Russian Photographic Arts Council, he is the first American to have a book published by Gioi publishing, the oldest publisher in Hanoi. He will spend part of this year teaching photography to Vietnamese orphans.