Scene I - Escape from Vietnam


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Scene I - Escape from Vietnam

111 BC



The scene in the poem: Escaping the invading Chinese forces, Mother Anh and Master Quyen run towards the river Sông Má in Thanh Hóa Province in northern Vietnam, located about 170 kilometres south of present-day Hanoi. They find a Chinese junk moored at the river and set sail, beginning their epic voyage southward and westward along the Asian and Indian coastlines, ultimately reaching the Persian Gulf. 


The image: The story setting is near the river Sông Má in northern Vietnam, adjacent to rice fields but in the brushy area on the banks of the river. It’s symbolic in the image that Master Quyen and Mother Anh have a physical connection, symbolizing a genuine bond that’s unusual between slave and master. Why do they have such a bond?  


The making of the photograph: We shot at a location on the banks of the River Po in the Emilia-Romagna Region of Italy. On the evening we shot this scene, we drove down from our accommodation at the Castle of Tassara (in the Province of Piacenza, in the Emilia-Romagna region near the border of Lombardia), to a spot beside the river near the town of Castel San Giovanni. It was a warm evening in late September and would have been a perfect shooting environment had the flies and mosquitoes not been out in force! Models Ysabel Loh (“Mother Anh”) and her father Richard Loh (“Master Quyen”) are originally from Malaysia, but had travelled from London for the photo sessions and were staying at the castle. Ysabel is an accomplished theatre actress. Richard had no acting or modelling experience, and this action shot was a certain baptism by fire! I think he enjoyed his first gig but was surprised at how tedious modelling work can be – we took more than 400 shots over a two hour period just before sunset as we worked with the continually changing natural light. In addition to that exhaustive repetition, Ysabel and Richard withstood a lot of foot pain caused by the “authentic” straw sandals that are more for display than wearing!

ML Sund