Blog by Vietnam based documentary Photographer Christian Berg
categories: Cambodia, Culture, Journalism, photography

Finally. Since 4 years I wanted to go to the Angkor Photo Festival but for one reason or another I never made it until now. But this year I planned my trip already months ago and put it as a fixed date in my calender. I should have done this in earlier years too. For sure I will do it for the next year. There is for sure no better event in Southeast Asia for anyone seriously interested in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography.

For a bit more than a week the small town of Siem Reap in Cambodia which is usually know as a basecamp for tourists to visit the spectacular temples of Angkor Wat gets flooded with Photojournalists, Photographers, Editors and other media people from all over Asia and the rest of the world. Besides a yearly photo workshop for young Asian photographers there are a lot of things to do. Every evening there are different exhibitions opening all over town and after that there is usually an evening of slideshows in the nice Garden of Siem Reap’s Foreign Correspondent’s Club (or short FCC) followed by beers and talks until early morning @ Laundry Bar which became the late night hang out of the festival. During daytime there are also lots of possibilities to catch up with likeminded people and speak about current projects or do portfolio reviews.

For me it was simply a mind blowing experience to meet so many photographers from all over the world, some I heard of before, some I met in the social media before, some were new to me, some were old hacks who have been in Southeast Asia since the Vietnam War and others just recently came here. But all conversations were great and inspiring. Especially it was a great pleasure to spend a lot of time and silly chats with the Vietnam Expat Photographers Crew (Kevin German, Aaron Joel Santos and Justin Mott) – now I finally know how to master Photography and what these scarfs are for!

categories: Cinema, Culture, Media, Vietnam

When I am in Saigon I usually try to go to Cinema once a week. Most of the films that are screened here are Hollywood Blockbusters or some B-movies that for one reason or another made it into the local cinema. Besides that there is a fair amount of East Asian horror and martial arts movies coming in. The Vietnamese movies (nowadays almost always with English subtitles) are mostly comedies or chickflicks, well produced though with lots of overseas Vietnamese influence, but stay on the rather shallow end of the spectrum. Friends of arthouse cinema have slightly harder time here (which leads to more private screenings). However when I went to cinema this Sunday it was a local Vietnamese movie which totally hit my movie nerve: Hot Boy Noi Loan (or “Lost in Paradise” – which is not a direct translation btw).

Hot Boy Noi Loan tells the story of a young man coming to Saigon in order to find happiness but the very first thing he encounters is betrayal, and so after only being in the big city for a few hours he finds himself naked in an empty apartment, robbed of all his savings. But this is only one of many stories in this movie. It looks at gay love and prostitution in very direct yet not moralistic way. In another story line the film also follows a mentally challenged man who drifts through Saigon’s streets, falling in love with an aging prostitute and finds himself hatching a duck egg. If these story lines sound odd to you, than it is because they are. And this is what makes the film different from other local productions.

Overall the movie is a refreshing surprise for the local film industry.

I love the movie for several reasons:

- It a great change from other Vietnamese movies which either portrait homosexuals in a stereotypical and funny way (De Mai Tinh / Fool for Love) or look at prostitution clearly as a “social evil” (Gai Nhay / Bar Girls).

- Hot Boy Noi loan convinces through deeply poetic cinematography and music (especially following the character of Cuoi and the duck egg)

- personally I always love to watch movies set in Saigon and I always try to spot familiar locations in the Thanh Pho (in this case the movie mainly was set in D4, D2 and Binh Thanh District near the railroads that run close to my friends house)

While I can go on to hail Hot Boy Noi Loan for its creativity, story and cinematography, there where also a few points to critique. One is a technical aspect – quite often the camera focus did not seem to be quite right – this for me does not really matter though, but I guess it shows that it must have been produced with a really low budget that did not allow much space to re-shoot scenes. The other one are the parallel story lines: I wonder why they never cross?

Overall a great movie for everyone slightly interested in contemporary Vietnamese Cinema.

categories: Journalism, photography, Thailand, Travel

I must say I really enjoy working on projects in Bangkok. For various reasons:

1) The city is incredibly photogenic. I have always been attracted to cities that have this kind of dystopian blade-runner feeling. Cities that seem to be build in the sky. Not only the highrises but inner city highways, walkways the skytrain etc. Layer upon layer an urban maze is created, and if it is the magic hour close before or after sunrise or sunset, when the natural light mixes with neon light and steam rises from the food stalls, the city simply blows me away.

2) This place is just full of stories that wait to be told. Happy and sad ones. Loud and quite stories. Small ones and big ones. I just shot a nice smaller story last weekend. Soon to be seen here or at least linked from here.

3) The city is definitely one of the pulsing cores of Southeast Asia. A gateway.

4) And if I am not shooting right now, there are always great people to catch up with.

5) I simply like to have a break from Saigon once in a while. Even though I am deeply in love with the Thanh Pho (Ho Chi Minh City) living in Southeast Asia always meant to me to be in more than one place.. If possible at the same time ;-)

6) I just started learning Thai and of course touching base here helps a lot in terms of motivation

7) ah, and this is of course also not photography related but I can actually buy clothes, books and graphic novels here… hard for me to do so in Saigon.

Here 3 images to get in the mood. More to come soon!


categories: Architecture, Culture, photography, Vietnam

just got a new post on Goethe’s Cityscapes Blog

Check it out if you have time

category: general

I started a series on the Urbanization of Saigon about one and a half years ago. It is a ongoing project.
A part of the series got now published on the award-winning Blog

categories: Architecture, Culture, Laos, photography, Travel

A few images from the Khmer-style ruins of Wat Phu in Champasak, Laos.





categories: general, Journalism, Media, Vietnam

Last year I wrote a blog post about the so called “old hacks” re-union of former Vietnam war correspondents in Saigon.

A few weeks ago I found a few images by photographer Jay Vandevoort posted on flickr. So I had the rare chance to see myself in action: here taking pictures of Pulitzer price winner Nick Ut and here having a chat with Peter Arnett and Eddie Lederer.

categories: Cambodia, Laos, photography, Travel

While the for most of my journey the Mekong was basically slow, and big, and flat and empty lying under the humid sun I still managed to take a couple of more interesting images portraying the life along this river…










categories: Architecture, Culture, Journalism, Media, Vietnam

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about Saigon’s Eden Building.
Saigon based film maker Peter Scheid has some interesting footage of the place, following its last years from 2005 to 2011 – check it out:

PS: these are only some of the 9 episodes available on youtube

categories: Cambodia, photography, Travel

while I am working on new stories and longer posts some more shots from my recent trip along the Mekong. This time a bunch of portraits of kids that I shot in Kratie, Cambodia.