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This April, we sent our Vietnam-based Creative Associate Linh Pham to work on two assignments for The World Bank. As an experienced photojournalist, Linh is used to being behind the camera, so we’ve decided it’s time to sharpen the focus on him himself for once, and get to know the backstory to his excellent work for one of Communication for Development Ltd’s most high profile clients.
How Linh Found his Lens
"I was so inspired by watching one documentary movie; it changed my life!"
A native of the city of Hanoi, Linh originally trained as a graphic designer. But one night, he sat down to watch a documentary about acclaimed photojournalist James Nachtwey, unaware that it would not only change his life direction completely, but also transform his future work ethic. “I was so inspired by this guy,” he recalls. “He is not just a photographer: he fights for people and their causes through his images”.
It was this insight into visual activism that has led to the consistent advocacy ethos underscoring Linh’s work. His aim is simply to give a voice to those who would not usually be heard. In his own words, his images create “visual narratives that portray and explore the human condition at a personal level”. His work has delved into a diverse spectrum of lives, documenting the stories that he believes need to be told, from the cultural identity of Cuban migrants in Eastern Europe to the plight of displaced communities along the Burma-China border. Closer to home, he has followed his personal interest in Vietnam’s ethnic minority groups and captured stories on how industrialisation and social change have affected their communities. More recently, Linh has turned his skilful hand to videography, enabling him to add a whole new dimension to his work with oral narratives.
‘On Set’ with The World Bank
When we were asked to produce a short video to assist The World Bank in launching and promoting its valuable and insightful report on Vietnam’s elderly population, Live Long and Proper: Aging in Vietnam, we knew that Linh would be the perfect man for the job. Within just three days of meeting the Bank’s representatives, he had recorded and edited footage to accompany a script written by one of our writers, including scenes in streets, paddy fields and a hospital (for which he obtained special permission from the authorities), and narrated sequences working with The World Bank’s lead economist and report author, Phillip O’Keefe.
So how was all this pulled together so quickly? Linh explains that it was down to a mixture of good forward planning, effective cooperation with the Bank and, well, some luck. After receiving the video script, he began to imagine what footage he could complement it with. “We worked together to devise a tripartite video, then set about filming,” he says. “Before we went to gather interviews in the streets of downtown Hanoi, we decided on the profiles of those we wanted, like the ideal age, gender and social status of the interviewees”, he explains. “Then it was just thanks to luck that we found the right people quickly, and that they were willing to speak on camera!”
You can watch the final product here:
Filming Women in Remote Areas: “Definitely an eye-opener”
For Linh’s second assignment with The World Bank, he was tasked with showcasing the organisation’s vital work in financing the construction and maintenance of Vietnam’s rural roads. In wealthier countries, it is all too easy to take roads for granted, but this project was a reminder of the essential role of road networks in economic prosperity. Roads help to facilitate social integration and provide access to healthcare, education and markets for trading. Here, Linh tells us the story behind this image:
“The World Bank took me to a remote village and asked me to get footage of this particular woman. To start with, I kept the camera in my bag and just spent time with her. We had a long chat and drank tea together. This part is really important because it’s about gaining trust and making the person feel comfortable with me. Then, I did not even have to orchestrate the shot; she just came outside naturally and started working. I followed and then… magic! I got my footage”.
Linh was really struck by how much a basic, narrow road has changed this woman’s life and those of others in her area. “It used to take her half a day to get to the nearest market, and now she can walk there in just one hour; her children can also get to school more easily”, he explains. The local villagers are paid a small fee for carrying out road maintenance, but the road itself presents a much larger benefit than this additional income.
This video is what resulted: