Ha Noi: Portrait of a City

Lawrence D'Attilio

The city of Ha Noi is poised to celebrate the 1000th year since it’s founding in 1010. The arrival of the millennium will initiate a decade-long celebration of history, art, music, and culture, and the amazing achievements of the people of this great city—the capitol of Vietnam. In the thirty-five years since the end of the Vietnam War, Ha Noi has emerged as an exciting and vibrant city. Ha Noi is a city that has embraced the prosperity of other emerging Asian nations, while remaining true to the guiding principles of the revolution, and the leadership of Ho Chi Minh.

Ha Noi: Portrait of a City is an intimate vision of a city where old and new coexist, interwoven into the fabric of a pluralistic society struggling to define itself in a rapidly evolving world. From the “36 Streets” of old Ha Noi, to Western-style high-rise apartment blocks surrounding the historic city center, Ha Noi is a myriad of contradictions. Ha Noi: Portrait of a City captures the city as it moves toward its place in the developed world.

Ha Noi: Portrait of a City is a richly illustrated photographic essay that captures the daily life of a people. From street-side vendors, shop-keepers, balloon ladies and families working hand-in-hand to improve their lot in life—to entrepreneurs, architects, builders and managers, there is a palpable energy that defines the pace of life in this lakeside capitol of a land of twenty-five million—all the places and people are here.

This book is nothing less than a grand tour of the real Ha Noi: grand avenues, the Opera House, art galleries, cafes, many reflecting the indelible legacy of the French, whose presence is still felt some fifty-five years after abandoning Vietnam to the American. The city is teeming with life—a rapidly growing population, each on with a story to tell—a story of survival and success—vivid portraits from every conceivable walk of life.

This unique collection of photographs spotlights a Ha Noi that still has one foot planted in the past, while awakening to its place among other world powers. Its admiration for all things Western clashes with its respect and allegiance to its history and rituals. These photographs include the people, places, and activities in a city that is at once rural and urban.

The camera catches the people of Ha Noi going about their daily business, living their lives in a colorful and messy pastiche. There is a brilliance of improvisation that appears on every corner, from food drying in the sun to a hastily arranged window dressing, that gives on a sense of a driving spirit. Here also however, is a sense of waiting, being lost in thought, flowing through life, and an acceptance of how things are.

With over 120 arresting and revealing photographs by Lawrence D’Attilio, Ha Noi: Portrait of a City is a richly illustrated photographic essay. To further illuminate the imagery, noted American writer Joe Galloway and Vietnamese writer Nguyen Qui Duc will provide extensive commentary to give a deepened understanding of Ha Noi and its people.