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Thread: Maison Centrale

  1. #1
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Maison Centrale



    Sometimes I think I should stop taking photos for a year and just sort through the ones I've already taken. I spent six days in Hanoi some time back and took 4,000 photos. This was one from the Maison Centrale, better known as the Hanoi Hilton.

    I'd forgotten about this image entirely until I ran across it tonight. It's as wide a view as I could get (nearly all at 28mm) of the memorial wall built inside the prison compound. To the right is a plaque... to the left is a guillotine. The figures are carved into the stone wall and the figures at the top end at the top, just the way you see them here... an inch or two above them is sky.

    This was taken with a Pro 1 and I'm posting it to share with you and to remind myself that I really need to complete my Hanoi gallery.

    Don

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    Subscriber Member Streetshooter's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Thanks Don,
    I'm showing this to a few friends of mine who actually lived there for a few years....

    Don

  3. #3
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by Streetshooter View Post
    Thanks Don,
    I'm showing this to a few friends of mine who actually lived there for a few years....
    Don
    It is unfortunate that we cause ourselves and others such misery. I hope they have recovered from their experience.

    I don't normally repeat posts from other forums, but it's been about 18 months since I posted the photos below on DPreview -- and since you have friends who were there...

    Hanoi Short Story

    I land in Hanoi on April Fool's Day, 40 years and a few days after wading ashore in Danang in true Marine amphibious fashion, a fish out of water. Once ashore, I am separated from the herd, driven to an airfield and choppered out to a tiny triangle of sand in the midst of dense green jungle. When I ask the door gunner why the chopper instead of a truck, he says, "Because you're surrounded."

    In Hanoi in 2006, I am surrounded again, this time by friendly people, many of whom weren’t even born in 1966. In six days, I take 4000 photos, most of them quaint, interesting, happy. But when I begin processing my images, I find that some of the more striking ones relate to the war. Here are six, plus a poster…

    You still see a surprising number of green pith helmets and aviator sunglasses. Some styles stay in fashion…



    In a pond in a small village near my hotel are the remains of a B-52 shot down during Richard Nixon’s bombing raids during Christmas of 1972. The Vietnamese have left it where it fell…



    The Maison Centrale, often called the Hanoi Hilton. John McCain’s flight suit is in a glass case inside. I can just imagine all flight suits being cleaned, packed and stored, waiting for someone to get famous before his is taken out and put on display…



    Downed American pilots were only the latest guests at the Maison Centrale. Before that, the French jailed, shackled and often beheaded Vietnamese who didn’t want to be colonized. . This is the memorial wall built in the courtyard…







    Uncle Ho never wanted to be buried in a mausoleum but heroes of the people lose their options. He’s still inside, dressed in white, under glass and every day hundreds of people file by to pay their respects, in silence and without cameras…



    In the Old Quarter, I see a shop specializing in original war posters. One of the most striking is by Duong Ngoc Canh, hand-painted just a few months before I arrive in Vietnam. The words in the painting are translated at the top of the frame, a universal sentiment. I admire the beauty of the young girl’s face as I note her impassive expression and the strength of her hands. She holds war and peace, your choice. I take her home with me…


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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Thanks for sharing that with us Don. The Memorial Wall---esp. the closeup--and the downed B-52 were quite affecting--I don't know how else to put it.

    Diane

  5. #5
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by Diane B View Post
    Thanks for sharing that with us Don. The Memorial Wall---esp. the closeup--and the downed B-52 were quite affecting--I don't know how else to put it.
    Diane
    Hi Diane... yes, words seem to fail us all. But here's someone I'd like you to meet. He's a bright spot in this story and these are photos I just processed this morning.

    This is another Minh, my cyclo driver.

    After pedalling me around the French Old Quarter, he asked if I would like to see something else and drove me to the B-52 Museum. It was getting late, so the museum was closed but we walked around the reassembled B-52 parts, with bonsai adding some life and colour to the scene. He was 12 when Richard Nixon authorized Christmas bombing raids on Hanoi in 1972. His father was killed and he was wounded by one of the bombs. When I said I was sorry it had happened, he waved it off, saying in his own way, That’s life...



    When I met him a few days later, I asked if he would show me his home. There are no telephones, so we surprised his wife and children and mother – and they were extremely gracious. This photo is of their ground-floor living area, about 100 square feet. Climb the ladder and you reach the second floor, slightly smaller, with kitchen. And another ladder takes you to a small sleeping loft for the parents. You’re also seeing all their furniture, except for a cupboard along the left wall. They’re a happy family and concerned about the usual things, the kids’ education being at the top of the list...



    This is my last shot of Minh. He leaves his cyclo on the roadway every night with a chain through the spokes. And it’s always there the next morning…

    Last edited by Don Ellis; 15th June 2009 at 20:21.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    On a lighter note...

    Sometimes you’re not the only cyclo on the road…



    When the Vietnamese ran the French out in 1954, they kept their baguette recipe…



    And with a bicycle and beret, it looks even more Parisian…



    Their baguettes are so lightweight, it’s like they’re made out of tasty air. They look large, but you can eat one of those as easily as a piece of toast.

    Don

  7. #7
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Ok, it's not a beret... but then it's not Paris. It's still charming.

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    Senior Member otumay's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Don,
    Your photographs reminded me of my college days, when we protested the Vietnam War and felt the agony in our hearts. Your cyclo driver friend sums it all up in one sincere smile. Thank you for sharing these highly emotional photographs with us.
    Best regards,
    Osman

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    Senior Member helenhill's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    just an OUTSTANDING set...one moment your Crying & the next Moment Uplifted...

    Thanx for Posting
    Best- H

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Great, great, great photos from a fantastic city. It's a place that can be re-discovered on every visit.

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    Senior Member kweide's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Strong, massiv impressive....
    __________________________________________________
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    see more ( NSFW ) on : http://www.klaweide.de

  12. #12
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by otumay View Post
    Don,
    Your photographs reminded me of my college days, when we protested the Vietnam War and felt the agony in our hearts. Your cyclo driver friend sums it all up in one sincere smile. Thank you for sharing these highly emotional photographs with us.
    Best regards,
    Osman
    Hi Osman,

    You're either younger or wiser than me. I enlisted in 1965, thinking in my nationalistic naivete that if we were over there, it was for a good reason. Perhaps if I'd studied history rather than English...

    But I have studied a bit since my return and it was a foolish war... I'm sorry for those who lost their lives, on both sides of the line (and much more on their side), and I'm glad to have made it back to share a few photos and memories with new friends.

    Thanks for your comments... I was away in Macau for five days, or I would have responded sooner.

    Don

  13. #13
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by helenhill View Post
    just an OUTSTANDING set...one moment your Crying & the next Moment Uplifted...

    Thanx for Posting
    Best- H
    Thank you, Helen... that's very kind.

    Here's another person I liked... a blind broom seller who carries a staff with a bell on it to announce her presence. I walked along with her and took a few more photos, but none I liked as much as the first one. When a lady finally stopped her to buy a broom, I gave the woman HK$100 (US$13) to give to her.



    I can be a little slow sometimes... I was so concentrated on taking her photo that I neglected to buy a broom, or ten. They were the finest quality I've ever seen in that style of broom. Makes me want to go back and find her.

    Don

  14. #14
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by Jorgen Udvang View Post
    Great, great, great photos from a fantastic city. It's a place that can be re-discovered on every visit.
    It's talk like that that might actually get me moving on photo processing.

    Thank you, Jorgen... and you're right, it is a great city and so safe you can explore it at your leisure. Lovely people.

    Don

  15. #15
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by kweide View Post
    Strong, massiv impressive....
    Thank you... Don

  16. #16
    wbrandsma
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    So many thanks for sharing your work Don. It is very emotional and personal and I am pleased with the thought that people move on, make friends again, and rechallenge their believes and ideas for the sake of peace, love and understanding.

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    Senior Member otumay's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Ellis View Post
    Hi Osman,

    You're either younger or wiser than me. I enlisted in 1965, thinking in my nationalistic naivete that if we were over there, it was for a good reason. Perhaps if I'd studied history rather than English...

    But I have studied a bit since my return and it was a foolish war... I'm sorry for those who lost their lives, on both sides of the line (and much more on their side), and I'm glad to have made it back to share a few photos and memories with new friends.

    Thanks for your comments... I was away in Macau for five days, or I would have responded sooner.

    Don
    Don, thank you for your kind reply. I apologize if what I wrote sounded like Vietnam War bashing. I completely share your emotions on this subject. What I tried to express was that I was overwhelmed by your very powerful images.
    As for youth and wisdom, I feel younger now although none the wiser

    Thanks and kind regards,

    Osman

  18. #18
    Senior Member Don Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Maison Centrale

    Quote Originally Posted by otumay View Post
    Don, thank you for your kind reply. I apologize if what I wrote sounded like Vietnam War bashing. I completely share your emotions on this subject. What I tried to express was that I was overwhelmed by your very powerful images.
    As for youth and wisdom, I feel younger now although none the wiser

    Thanks and kind regards,
    Osman
    Hi Osman... I guess I was too obtuse. What I meant was that had I known a bit more history, I would have been out there with you, instead of over there in a country I'd never heard of at the time. (By younger, I meant that you would have been looking at the war in maybe 1968 or 1970 or 1972 -- in 1965, there were no protests, no dissenting voices. Too bad.)

    As far as I was concerned, I was fighting for people's freedom... over there and at home. And that includes the freedom to protest the war... which what probably the more intelligent approach to that war. I'm just glad I only lost a little sanity, instead of anything more visible.

    I probably should have protested when I returned, but after two years over there, and the reception we got on our return, I took the easy way out -- camouflage -- and blended back into society.

    Thanks for your thoughts... they were welcome.

    Don

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