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DON'T WITHER AWAY

Photography and text by Vinh Tran

Introduction by Melanie Meggs

Vinh Tran

Vinh Tran is a documentary and street photographer currently based in Vietnam. Vinh allows his photography to become his vocabulary, allowing the visual to become his words. For Vinh photography has become part of his daily practice, carrying a camera all the time, taking images of everything and everyone. Photography has become an integral part of his life.


In April 2021, Vinh visited a nursing home in Hanoi, illustrating his imaginary fear. One of his biggest fears is living a life without any objectives. He imagined if he was old already, a life he was too old he could not accomplish a list of goals and not being able to achieve them. There were many times he asked himself: "How is it like living in a nursing home? Especially when you are an introvert who needs a personal space like 24/7? Would it be ok to live in a nursing home when you are a person with countless objectives and expectations?". These questions led Vinh to this project, "Don't Wither Away."



For most of my existence, I have been fighting with my parents to achieve freedom for myself. The priceless space that offers me the right to make my own decisions in any circumstances, to freely follow my dreams, and to live as a young man with countless ambitions independently. Asian parents are well-known for being invariably overprotective of their children, which triggered my curiosity about what it is like to be a child raised by non-Asian parents.


Is it necessarily true that Western parents are more liberal as they seemingly give the decisions and feelings of their children more consideration?


Back in April 2017, when I had a conversation with a Canadian friend and his mother, I asked a question that had always been deeply hidden in my memory related to my curiosity of the Parent-Child relationship in Western society:


"Would you move to an elderly care center or live with your son when you are old?"


She held her son's hand and said: "Of course I would live with my son. Therefore M, please don't leave me alone when I'm old, honey." I felt shocked and, at the same time, immensely emotional by her answer. It fractured my bright imaginary perception of aging in Western countries.


This series of images was taken in a nursing home in Hanoi throughout April 2021. I talked to the elders here, listened to them, sympathized with them, and witnessed different emotional nuances from numerous stories. My approach illustrates the imaginary fear of loneliness at old age, the feeling of pointlessness and emptiness. The definition of time becomes vague. Life turning upside down in a loop of boredom as there are no more objectives and expectations.



B:"Can I borrow your phone to make a quick call to my family? They should take me home."
B:"Can I borrow your phone to make a quick call to my family? They should take me home."

B. Former pharmacist. "I hope my grandchildren are qualified to enter higher education. I hope they will succeed, so life will be much easier for their kids. There are no differences between my life five years ago and my life now; at the time my husband passed away, so I had to live alone. I don't have any expectations of life anymore."



Vinh Tran
Clothing tag. This ID Tag helps keep track of valuable clothes and belongings in order to reduce the risk of loss.
Clothing tag. This ID Tag helps keep track of valuable clothes and belongings in order to reduce the risk of loss.
Vinh Tran
Vinh Tran
Vinh Tran
"I have to go outside tomorrow; I will go home." V suffers from dementia and is almost unable to converse naturally. He sleeps very little and always looks out the windows saying that it is time to go home.
"I have to go outside tomorrow; I will go home." V suffers from dementia and is almost unable to converse naturally. He sleeps very little and always looks out the windows saying that it is time to go home.
Vinh Tran
KP. Poet. “Five years ago, I worked without a day off. I wrote a ton. I studied everywhere I had been to. I did not even have time for sorrow. But now I am all depressed. I am down in the dumps because I cannot go to the pagoda. It does not make sense to me - as a poet; living in a nursing home means that I am blind to what is happening out there. I wish I could keep exploring so I can complete unfinished poems as soon as possible. I want to go to China; I want to see The Great Wall.”
KP. Poet. “Five years ago, I worked without a day off. I wrote a ton. I studied everywhere I had been to. I did not even have time for sorrow. But now I am all depressed. I am down in the dumps because I cannot go to the pagoda. It does not make sense to me - as a poet; living in a nursing home means that I am blind to what is happening out there. I wish I could keep exploring so I can complete unfinished poems as soon as possible. I want to go to China; I want to see The Great Wall.”
Two poems that KP had written during Lunar New Year 2021.
Two poems that KP had written during Lunar New Year 2021.
Vinh Tran

All photos © Vinh Tran

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You can also read an interview with Vinh here on the website where he discusses more about his passion for documentary photography and about his inspirations.