Changes in the environment and the factors that affect them are interesting subjects to photograph given their impact globally and the dire consequences attached to them. Vietnamese photojournalist Linh Pham’s No Mud, No Lotus offers an intriguing view at how the Vietnamese, especially the youth, are shaping the social and cultural landscapes of their country.
Titled after a well-known Buddhist proverb, Linh’s photo series “is about a country emerging from the consequences of war and the collapse of the socialist model.” Like the lotus flower growing in mud, Vietnam has gradually transformed to become one of the economic players in Southeast Asia despite its history of violent wars against their colonizers and the nation’s relatively recent reunification under the Socialist Republic.
“The proverb speaks of how happiness and suffering go hand in hand. It could be understood that both suffering and happiness are transient, everything is always in a state of flux. Or it could be read on a more ‘positive’ note, which I prefer, that happiness can stem from hardship and dark places,” Linh said.
No Mud, No Lotus mostly consists of images of youth that are now vaguely familiar with the horrors of war. Yet the memories are commemorated through visits to the cemetery and the remnants of war displayed in museums. The youth can freely express themselves through selfies or dancing in a club, families and children bonding happily in the park, a couple kissing for a pre-wedding photo by the lake, and locals visiting historical places, among others.
Like other neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam strives to live up to the fast-paced, technological world. Despite growing tensions within its own government and the media clampdown, a shift in political views paved the way for the dramatic changes in the country’s society and culture.
“A lot of young people including myself now have the opportunity see the world by traveling or on the Internet. They are exposed to new ideas and are shaping a society buzzing with youthful energies while at the same time making efforts to retain its traditions. As a results, these youngsters starts actively forming subcultures and collectives in many aspect of culture including art & education,” Linh Pham revealed.