Get Featured: Jesse Roberts
Jesse shares with us his personal project from a trip that he took to Vietnam. Jesse looks at the importance the motorcycle plays in daily life throughout SE Asia. Check it out.
My name is Jesse, I live in Fremantle, Australia, and am currently working as an editor for a crowdsource, freelance and citizen reporting news agency for my day job. I come across some really great photos and photographers in this role, and from time to time get out of the office to take photos or video of something happening around Perth.
I also have a one-year-old son, which keeps me pretty busy when I’m not working, so time for personal projects and freelancing is limited these days. I did recently get some zines printed for a market however, one of which is a series of pictures of motorcycles and motorcyclists I took while travelling in Vietnam in 2011.
This three week trip was the first time I’d been to South-East Asia. I didn’t have this project in mind at the time, but took a lot of photos in general from as far south as My Tho and as far north as Sa Pa. I really enjoyed the experience of travelling in Vietnam, it’s well set up for tourists, but still has something of a grungy charm. People will rip you off until you know the ropes, and are not always overly nice to you just because you’re holidaying in their town or city (we did meet a lot of really friendly people, it just seemed like a pretty honest and realistic mix).
Motorcycles were hard to miss across the country. We would arrive at a train or bus station, and negotiate a price with one of the waiting motorcyclists to take us to some affordable accommodation (usually of their choice). Individuals, families and people running errands and deliveries for work all travelled by bike. Motorcycles could also be hired very cheaply (without a driver’s license), and were the best way to get around and see some sights out of town without having to take a guided tour. The saturation of everyday life by motorcycles, combined with my interest in general bike culture meant that I got plenty of material to put together a collection of photos showing motorbikes and their place in peoples’ lives.
The aesthetic of many of the older bikes we came across really appealed to me, as did the practicality of this mode of transport, both themes that I think come through in the zine. Both the style of bikes and especially their practical nature interested me in contrast with the motorcycles I would see regularly in Australia. We have in general much larger bikes here, and they are often ridden by enthusiasts who probably own a car as well, for the most part. A small, scooter-style motorcycle seemed to do whatever was needed in Vietnam, functioning as both a road and dirt bike, as well as being useful in transporting all manner of goods. Traffic moves slower, so there is no need for excessive cruisers or over-powered sports bikes that are popular here. I’m hoping one day to try and import an old Honda from Vietnam, but really not sure how difficult that would be or if I could license it locally.
The photos were taken either with a Pentax K1000 which I was using at the time, along with some great film that I had ordered from a guy with an ebay store in Thailand (I can’t remember exactly what film it was, but some variety of inexpensive Fuji that I haven’t seen in Australia), or my Pentax K7, which I’m still using. From memory I was carrying a 35mm F2, 50mm F2 and the 18-55mm kit zoom, and maybe a 70mm F2.8 as well.
Thanks for checking out some of my work, feel free to get in touch via any of the links if you want to say hi, or if you’re coming to Australia and want to hang out and shoot some photos and drink some beers or coffee or even tea.
(Slightly neglected) Website – www.jesseroberts.com.au
tumblr – www.jesse-roberts.tumblr.com
zine available here – http://jesseroberts.bigcartel.com/product/motorcycles-of-vietnam-photo-zine
video of zine flick-through – https://vimeo.com/125366870
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