In 1972, I was born Đỗ Văn Hùng in Saigon, Vietnam. In the closing days of the war, as part of Operation Babylift, I was evacuated on a Pan American Airways 747, adopted in western New York, and renamed Mark F. Erickson. Growing up, I knew and thought nothing of Vietnam and only passively learned about it from the stories America was telling itself about the war, mainly through the movies of the 1980s.
As a student at Harvard College, I made my first Vietnamese-American friends, studied Vietnamese history from a Vietnamese perspective with Hue-Tam Ho Tai, and learned documentary photography with Chris Killip and David Goldblatt. From Killip and Goldblatt, I learned how powerful photo essays challenged the national narratives of the English (In Flagrante), the South Africans (In Boksburg), and the Americans (Robert Frank’s The Americans).
In 1993, I returned to Vietnam with my manual 35mm film camera to see my birth country with my own eyes. Through these images of ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary places, I had a glimpse into a life I never had the opportunity to live. And twenty-five years later, it is also a glimpse into a Vietnam—now transformed by rapid economic growth—that no longer exists.
Mark F. Erickson (Đỗ Văn Hùng) is the author of the photobook Other Streets: Scenes from a Life in Vietnam not Lived.