Making people smile is an achievement: British photographer

August 17, 2023 - 09:57
Looking at mesmerising photos of landscapes and people in Hà Nội by British photographer Marcus Lacey, people may think he has been living here for many years.

By Lê Hương

Looking at mesmerising photos of landscapes and people in Hà Nội by British photographer Marcus Lacey, people may think he has been living here for many years.

Yet Lacey had spent just 16 months in Hà Nội before he published his first photo books on Hà Nội, something he had not done when living in New Zealand, Thailand, or Cambodia.

He was able to travel a lot at a young age as his father is a pilot, which made him like travel and photography.

Marcus Lacey takes a photo at a local garden. Photo Trao Gourmet & Gifts Facebook

First arriving in Hà Nội at the end of 2016, Lacey remembers the day very well.

“It was very hot,” he told Việt Nam News. “I fell in love with the area around the west lake called Quảng An, the Hồ Tây temple here is very busy, really interesting.”

He then spent much time wandering around the area.

“I love the people and the history, history has always interested me, and photographing Hanoi gives me an opportunity to study this,” he said. “The people are very friendly and I am very excited to taste the delicious food as well.”

After the years, his photo collection gets bigger and bigger, and the number of people following him on social networks has multiplied.

Lacey said he found special things in Hà Nội that he had never seen anywhere like huge gardens of kumquat or chickens wandering the streets.

A photo of Marcus Lacey of a train on Long Biên Bridge.

Hà Nội has a thing much like in the UK, especially in rural areas – a church every two miles, he said.

The similarity attracted him to learn more and take more photos of the city, he said.

Lacey likes taking photos of old buildings in Hà Nội, old living quarters, French-time villas, and old stores, all of which seem to keep a part of the memory of a Hà Nội 100 years ago.

“Marcus is a photographer who has spent much time and energy to record images of Hà Nội,” said architect Lê Trương. “I was born and grew up in Hà Nội. As an architect, I’m really moved to see images revealing a Hà Nội of the past with a fresh angle, something positive and vivid.”

His first photo book titled Hanoi Photographic contains 200 photos describing the soul of Hà Nội through 12 chapters.

His second book was published at the end of 2019 with 14 chapters exploring ancient Hà Nội, museums, monuments, the Hồng (Red) River, and Ba Vì Mountain.

He has just published another photo book on local food and is researching other topics.

“Maybe I will focus on another city or country or another book about the food of all of Việt Nam,” he said. “It will probably be a number of these.”

“I'm always working on improving, I'm never really satisfied,” he said. “But occasionally I do take a picture that makes me happy. I feel like I've done something that will preserve a memory somehow I hope. If I can put a smile on someone's face that is an immense achievement I think.”

Marcus Lacey with his photos. Photo Courtesy of Marcus Lacey

In order to find inspiration, Lacey is always taking time to travel and document Việt Nam.

“Because it is changing so quickly, it is very important,” he said.

Born in England and raised in Sweden for his first five years, he then grew up in the East of England in a county called Suffolk.

“It is very picturesque with beautiful villages and rivers and coastline,” he said. “I remember spending almost all my childhood walking in the fields and forests of the countryside and fishing and swimming in the rivers.”

Lacey then studied photography in college.

He owned a cafe for several years and worked in hospitality for English companies such as Claridge's Hotel and Harvey Nichols.

Then he lived in New Zealand and worked for Fujifilm. He managed the Fujifilm franchise and spent all his time traveling around New Zealand.

“This is when I really devoted all my spare time to learning how to take better photographs and edit videos,” he said.

He turned professional in 2010.

Lacey said he came to Việt Nam as his brother was here building a power station.

Lacey said when he was 16 his father took him to see the Berlin Wall on New Year’s Eve in 1989. German had just reunified and the wall was being taken down.

“Hundreds of thousands of people climbed on the wall,” he said. “An incredible event in history.” VNS

A photo of a market in Hà Nội. Photo from Marcus Lacey Facebook