As anyone who has traveled to Vietnam will tell you, it is a place that is simply unforgettable. With its staggering natural scenery, friendly people, and rich culinary offerings influenced by a French and Chinese colonial past, Vietnam promises a dynamic and enriching cultural experience to all who visit.

When Brazilian travel photographer Dietrich Herlan traveled to Hanoi, the country’s capital, he was stunned and inspired by both the beauty and bustle of the city. In particular, he found that he was most drawn to the Hanoian street vendors.

A street vendor in Hanoi carrying baskets of newspaper

Every day, Dietrich would visit a local coffee shop near one of the busiest roundabouts in the city. He’d spend his mornings there and sometimes stay late into the afternoon. From his seat on the balcony, he’d watch the chaos of the city unfold before him: scooters and cars struggling for right of way, cyclists zipping by, horns blaring, voices shouting. And amid the din of this scene, he’d spot street vendors — a group he came to recognize as a symbol of Vietnam — carrying their goods with poise and verve.

Bearing bamboo frames with two baskets filled with fruit and vegetables, these vendors are a common sight in Vietnam, especially in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Not long after his arrival, Dietrich became entranced by their movements and felt that without their presence, the city would be a very different place. So, he began a series called Streets of Hanoi.

Though the series was inspired by the elevated view and unique angle offered by Dietrich’s frequented café, the photographer later moved on to other nearby locations and started shooting from scouted bridges and other tall structures. where he’d wait for hours in the hot sun to snap the perfect shot of the city’s beloved street vendors below. His vision was to photograph the vendors so that they were alone in the frame, seemingly disjointed from their chaotic city context.

A street vendor in Hanoi walking a bike with a basket of limes

Though, in reality, Hanoian street vendors walk amid the commotion of the capital, Streets of Hanoi depicts their routine as Dietrich experienced it: unperturbed by the pandemonium, anonymous, balanced. From where he stood, they were the bearers and emblems of Vietnamese culture.

After each click of the shutter, Dietrich was reminded where his passion for travel photography came from — scenes, locations, and strangers such as those he was capturing, details that set places apart from other corners of the world. To him, it is a project that conveys his love of travel and encapsulates the side of Vietnam that he became intimately connected to.

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