I went to the Gallery of Photography tonight for the opening of a new exhibition, Souvenirs of Vietnam by Liza Nguyen. The main photographs are of samples of soil that Liza brought back from a visit to Vietnam.
Nguyen traveled to Vietnam, the home country of her father, for the first time in 2000. As a sort of ritual, she began methodically collecting handfuls of earth from historically significant locations all over Vietnam, mostly places that have become synonymous with battles or atrocities from the war years. She brought the soil samples back to Europe and photographed them in a clinical, almost forensic manner, enlarging her prints to reveal the subtle textures and colors of the earth.
It sounds strange but the photographs are very novel because they have been blown up so large and they all look physically similar from a distance, apart from color, but close up the textures and shapes are totally different. The fact that they are all samples from the main battle sites of the Vietnam War adds to the interest as I found myself examining the photographs to see if I could find any residue of war.
On the second level there are some smaller photographs printed like books of postcards. These are photographs of the structures and weapons of war that still remain, mostly in museums. There are also several photographs of the victims of Agent Orange, a topic that could be worth an exhibit of it's own.
As with all exhibits in the gallery admission is free so its always worth a visit.