The moped delivery drivers are one of the most distinctive – and spectacular – sights of Hanoi. From goldfish to footballs and eggs to ice, the drivers carrying vast loads of consumer goods piqued Jon Enoch's curiosity. Here he shares the process behind his series Bikes of Hanoi.
It was then just a case of waiting for great riders to pass by and convince them to pose for their photograph. As we were only shooting at night it meant we had the days to explore the city...
I’d never been to Vietnam before but a friend had recently returned from a holiday there and was showing me her pictures. Among the usual images you would expect – beaches, trips to the markets and temples – I was struck by the shots depicting chaotic street scenes, in particular the oversized and bizarre loads that the locals transported on their motorbikes. So, in a pub in London talking to my friend, that's where the idea for this project was born. I went to Hanoi, Vietnam, specifically to shoot this series, Bikes of Hanoi.
I tend to work things out in my mind before I start a project so I have a pretty good idea of what I’m trying to achieve. To elevate the series above the standard travel images I decided to shoot at night.
There were a number of reasons for this decision. Firstly battling and controlling the midday sun of Hanoi would have taken some serious kit which was going to be hard to fly with or find locally. Secondly I had imagined – and rightly so – that there would be a bit more space at night, it would be quieter. The streets were far less busy, so finding suitable locations was easier. The more interesting parts of the city are incredibly compact so by working at night I just had a bit more room to work and think. Thirdly, I wanted to shoot bikes that would be laden with weird and wonderful objects so a pop of flash was always going to make the images sing.
On the first night in Hanoi I jumped on the back of a scooter and had a whistle stop tour of the town. I had flown out with an assistant from London so the two of us hurtled around the city to do a recce. The balance was finding somewhere with a bit of space, but enough life and background interest to give the image some context. At this stage we only had the location.
I found a local translator who also had a motorbike. We set up our lighting, a pretty simple system of three Profoto B1X lights, and I shot with my Canon 5DS R. I tend to shoot tethered as I like to be able to tweak little details until I’m happy.
It was then just a case of waiting for great riders to pass by and convince them to pose for their photograph. As we were only shooting at night it meant we had the days to explore the city and find potential subjects. We’d spotted this guy [see image featured] during the day and he’d agreed to meet us at a specific time and location. His bike is carrying children’s toy footballs from a wholesaler.
One of the main reasons I wanted to shoot this series is simply because scenes like this are becoming less common. Everyone I spoke to said, ‘You should have seen what it was like five years ago.’ The country's rapid economic growth means goods are not transported like this as much as they used to be. The minivan is slowly but surely taking over.