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The Salt Fields

Just north of Nha Trang there is a special place, one that French photographer Thiery Beyne discovered on his motorbike. Words by Nick Ross

 

If you’ve spent enough time travelling Vietnam, you will know what to expect from the country’s landscape: emerald green paddy fields, jungle-covered mountains, yellow-sand beaches, small farms, fishing villages. The list is endless. Yet like every country on this planet, Vietnam has its own unique look, one that you gradually come to recognise.

 

But occasionally you come across something that surprises you. That’s exactly what happened to Paris-born photographer, Thiery Beyne, when he stumbled across the salt fields in Doc Let, just north of Nha Trang.

 

 

Taken over a number of visits, the imagery captured through his lens is in part typical of Vietnam — the conical hats, the facemasks, the women carrying bamboo poles with baskets. Yet the setting is so unique that his photos take on a whole new resonance. As Beyne points out, “Nobody knows about the salt fields except the inhabitants of this region and some photographers. I wanted to show that there are other businesses in Vietnam, trades that we can not imagine.”

 

Working in extreme heat — the temperatures here often rise to 40oC — the salt workers arrive at sunrise to mine and collect salt. Conditions are harsh and, says Beyne, “working for months on end, feet and hands in salt, can’t be very good for them.”

 

 

And yet the women are “always smiling, always telling jokes. They approach you with kindness, and are happy to be photographed. The people of this region are very poor — working in the salt fields is women’s work. The men do the fishing.”

 

Based in Nha Trang for five years, Beyne has been photographing Vietnam for well over a decade. His images are presently being put together in a trilogy of works called Spirit of Vietnam. The first in the series, Femmes Women, which contains striking photos of Vietnamese women in a range of guises and locations, was published at the end of last year.

 

For more information on Femmes Women, message Thiery Beyne on facebook.com/thiery.beyne. Beyne’s images were provided by the Vietnam-based photo agency, NOI pictures. For more information or to see their stock images of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, click on images.noipictures.com

 

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