Home Photography Fabrice Wittner – Rồng Di Sản, Dragon Legacy

Fabrice Wittner – Rồng Di Sản, Dragon Legacy

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© Copyright Fabrice Wittner

Photography is the best way I found to communicate.

When I frame the image I ask myself if another angle would have been better.

A camera is another tool.

I’m a French artist (mostly photographer), father of two, nature enthusiast and adrenaline lover. Self-taught in almost everything I do. I might be hyperactive, but I’m not sure yet. During teenage-hood, I went through drawing, painting, tattooing… to finally find my way to photography.

I bought a Nikon Coolpix 5000 to shoot my work back when I was tattooing. I quickly felt better with a camera in hands than a tattoo gun. We don’t realize how stressing it can be to ink someone for life. So I decided to sell my tattoo gears to my best friend to buy a better camera.

From there, I started to learn photography and never stopped learning. Never stop shooting either. Once I felt good enough with that new tool I decided I could try to make a living in photography. I shot a lot of outdoor sports like snowboard, free ski, mountain bike or slackline. I had a great time doing that because I was myself a big outdoor sports enthusiast.

Most of my works include photography, although I love to try new stuff. Lately, I spent some time designing and screen printing tees.

At the same time, I was working on other projects, mainly portraits and light painting. Most of my works include photography, although I love to try new stuff. Lately, I spent some time designing and screen printing tees. I must be a kind of Swiss army knife artist.

Several ongoing projects are based on other mediums than photography. I work on a book with an illustrator friend. It is about tales and legends from Alsace, our homeland.

I’m also about to start a collaboration with a sailboat expedition named ATKA. I’ll be working with kids on Arctic endangered animals and light painting.

Besides, I have a full-time job at Slack.fr where I’m a designer, illustrator and photographer. No chance I get bored before a while…

This project is called  “Rồng Di Sản, Dragon Legacy”. I wasn’t looking for that kind of ethnologic project when I started. But I met a young tour guide in Sapa who pushed me in. We were drinking together every evening for almost a week.

We became friends as we gave English lessons to the kids from some nearby villages. He invited me to visit his home in Ha Giang Province to meet different minorities and take some portraits. I was staying in Hanoi and wasn’t really busy so decided to follow him.

And that trip was actually epic. We were both riding a single bike all around the mountains of Ha Giang. We weren’t travelling light as I was carrying a lot of gears. I knew how I wanted to picture these people with their traditional costumes, no matter the logistic…

We drove around the province for a week, met a dozen of different ethnic groups, drank more riu than we should, we were invited to a wedding, twice, ate dog, also twice, we drank even more riu to finally end at the jumping fire festival in Tân Bắc, Quang Bình, surrounded by more people than I could count. It was a very special experience for me. I met numerous people within that week and portrayed thirty of them.

It was a great week and a wonderful time. Although it was sometimes tough. It was the first time I shot total strangers with such a difference of culture. I mean not in “holiday travel” way. If I never had the feeling of having a lack of respect while I was shooting, I mostly felt uncomfortable to “buy” the pictures I was taking.

I first thought it would be an exchange, but I didn’t realize I had nothing to give. But money… Once back in Hanoi, I decided to print the pictures of every “model” and send them to my friend in Ha Giang, he would be the postman from there. Unfortunately, the pictures never arrived at him.

I felt bad about that and realized I was not quite prepared to do these photos the way I wanted. Understand in an ethically correct way. But the photos were good, the experience was however enriching. I also had an encouraging feedback from the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi that pushed me to continue the project.

Two years later I was once again on a motorbike with my friend’s cousin and all my gears, going on an adventure across Loa Cai, Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Son Là and other provinces of the northern region of Vietnam. I brought my Hasselblad 500cm with a Polaroid back to make some pictures I could give to the models.

The Polaroids were quite successful, what makes me happy too because I finally had something to share. In 2014, I realized I had more to share and to learn. Thanks to Mr Vinh. Vinh is a tour guide in his 60’s I met in 2014 in KonTum. We only spent two days together but we quickly liked each other.

Vinh is from the Bah Nar minority and a well of knowledge about the minorities of Central Highlands and the southern region of Vietnam. He proposed to help me plan my last journey across the southern part of the country and I met him again in 2015 for the last part of my project.

During the long talks that we were used to having, I understood the meaning of that project. It seems obvious that these photos are some still memories of Vietnamese traditions. People from the minorities wear more and more western clothes, keeping the traditional costumes only for ceremonies or special occasions.

I grew up in Alsace, a part of France were traditions were strong. In one hand, it remains a fantastic architectural heritage, but in the other hand my generation is not speaking our dialect anymore, the last traditional costumes were worn a century from now.

Most of our culture is now to be found in museums. The strong and living heritage in Vietnam probably helped me realized how much we lost in Europe. It’s without any nostalgia that I went through that project. It rather made me realized and appreciate how rich and fragile was the culture I was witnessing.

 

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