Small things

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Documentary Photography: There is a house by the sea 120km from Hanoi called Thien Giao. In this house, the occupant’s heartbeat beats in unison for one hope: they will all be able to love and be loved.

I visited this house one year ago, and it did not leave me with any lasting impressions or feelings. I was there again recently; something has changed in the place; something has sparked and moved me to look into, to delve deeper into the bonds of the occupants in this house and the bonds between them and me.

Founded by Mrs. Huong, this home cares for 10 Agent Orange victims. The occupants are all Agent Orange victims who have been abandoned and given up hope by their families. It is more than a care center; it is a home where everyone is a family member, caring for and loving each other.

The victims are taught basic farming, cleaning, caring for younger ones, and basic labor skills. These gave the victims more interaction with each other and also helped them to be independent. All these reduce their tendency to become aggressive and the frequency of spasms.

Apart from that, I am also surprised and touched by the idea of two occupants, Hanh and Them, getting married and forming a new family. Hanh and Them, through their time spent together in the home, shows signs of emotional bondage between each other.

Miracles do happen thru time and love. They have displayed significant improvements physically and emotionally in their daily life. Less aggression, less personal attention needed, more independent, more loving, more positive.

I have seen many documentary photography projects about the victims of Agent Orange and am often touched by their melancholy, despair, and pain. There are small and elusive moments that are rarely seen. I wanted to capture the victims’ positive interactions and happiness in this series of photos.

***Agent Orange is the common name used for one of the herbicides by the US military as part of the herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War from 1961-1971.

It is later discovered that Agent Orange contains a highly toxic dioxin compound. The idea of the US Military is to destroy the forest, rural land, and food crops, thus depriving the guerrillas of cover, support, and food supply.

Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children were born with severe congenital disabilities.