Gallery displays teen's images of Vietnam

February 11, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

HAGERSTOWN - If the pictures Nathan Hesse took of Vietnamese people could talk, they'd probably say, "We may not have a lot of material wealth, but we're still very happy with life," Hesse said.

An aspiring professional photographer, Hesse captured more than 550 images of Vietnamese life during a trip last March with Saint James School, where he's a sophomore.

Armed with his lens, he photographed interesting scenes like that of an older gray-haired Vietnamese woman sitting in Vietnam's Cao Dai Temple and a little boy named Bong peering over a rail at his home.


Hesse said he wanted to capture images of people who reflect everyday life in Vietnam.

"One photograph is of a woman sitting on the street with her foot shaking," he said.

In that photograph, the woman seems to be writing something down. Behind her a motorcycle goes by and in the background people are eating.

Hesse has assembled an impressive portfolio of photographs that offer a small glimpse into a culture he said left him a lot wiser about life.

"So much of the culture represents their life around water, and although the people are impoverished they're very hospitable. They'll take you in," he said.

During his two-week stay, Hesse visited children at an orphanage in Da Nang. His group also spent two days at the home of a Vietnamese family, where he met the little boy named Bong. The family's home was just off the banks of the Mekong Delta.

In addition to taking photographs, Hesse got a firsthand opportunity to observe Vietnam's social customs, he said.

"The communist government has allowed them to become very commercialized. The young people travel with a veil over their face because they want to have "lighter" skin like Americans," he said.

The 15-year-old Hagerstown youth said he found that to be a little puzzling.

"I think they're beautiful the way they are, it's just an example of how they've been influenced by our society," he said.

Hesse plans to attend college and pursue a career in photography and music. His photographs, which are for sale, are on display at the Contemporary Art Gallery and School of the Arts on West Franklin Street.

Hesse's parents, Scott D. Hesse and Sharon "Sherry" Hesse, said Nathan's sensitivity and maturity are rooted in his upbringing.

If he can raise the money, Nathan Hesse said he hopes to return to Vietnam in 2006 to do humanitarian work and teach conversational English to Vietnamese adults.

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