Photos

These Photos Capture the Eerie Quiet of Hanoi’s Empty Streets

Belgian photographer Wouter Vanhees started photographing Hanoi’s streets in 2018. Then, the coronavirus pandemic happened.

by VICE Asia Staff; photos by Wouter Vanhees
28 April 2020, 5:07am

Photo from Hanoi Isolation by Wouter Vanhees

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

Belgian photographer Wouter Vanhees has been documenting Vietnam’s capital Hanoi since November 2018, through a series of nocturnal cityscapes.

He initially set out to capture the rapid changes in the city — the juxtaposition between old and new, the bright neon lights and the dark night sky — but it was the stillness in construction projects and residential areas that caught his attention.

“I basically fell in love with the stillness these areas bathe in at night. The atmosphere in these parts of the city is far removed from the usual chaotic hustle and bustle during daytime,” Vanhees told VICE.

Eventually, “emptiness” became the theme of his work, as seen in the photo series Hanoi Reflection. Photos of empty streets, alleys, and plots of land bear a meaningful use of negative space, while bright lights offer a glimpse of the bustling city center.

hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Reflection
hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Reflection
hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Reflection
hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Reflection
hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Reflection

Then in January, the coronavirus hit Vietnam. Vietnam was one of the first countries to report a coronavirus case outside China and authorities immediately took action by putting social distancing measures in place.

With empty streets now the norm, Vanhees once again roamed the city’s streets. The result was Hanoi Isolation, an extension of his earlier work, but with a darker, more eerie ambiance.

hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Isolation
hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Isolation
hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Isolation
hanoi streets photo series
Photo from Hanoi Isolation

“In a way, these latest images are my most personal ones,” the photographer said. “It’s really an exploration of the place where my family has lived for the past five years.”

“This is our home. While we know we will eventually move to another city and country, Hanoi will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

hanoi streets photo series
Photo by Wouter Vanhees
hanoi streets photo series
Photo by Wouter Vanhees
hanoi streets photo series
Photo by Wouter Vanhees

Find more photos from Hanoi Reflection and Hanoi Isolation on Vanhees’ website, Facebook, and Instagram.