Mui Ne, Vietnam
PHOTOGRAPHER MASSIMO CASAL • INTERVIEWED BY RICHARD HERMES
“I’ve always been fascinated by how the particular environmental conditions and wind around Mui Ne have created this surreal landscape. It’s amazing and incongruous because it feels like you’re looking at Vietnamese vendors in the middle of the Sahara desert. I took this shot in the morning, when the light was low and gave each dune a different hue. The sky was actually a little cloudy that day, but the blue was still bright enough to make a striking contrast with the yellow-orange of the sand. I think that contrast is what I like most about this picture.
I tend to take close-up portraits of people, but I wasn’t mounting a wide lens when I took this shot, so the effect is that the people become part of the landscape. I lived in Hanoi for six years, so I know Vietnam well, and I love it for its contradictions—the way that simple ways of living are mixed so closely with modern luxury. I admire the Vietnamese, they’re tough people. The vendors exemplify this, and most of them are women. Morning on the dunes isn’t so bad but later in the day it gets hot, and when I look back at this photograph my feelings are contradictory—I appreciate the beauty even as I feel empathy for the reality it portrays.”