Loes Heerink

A Dutch photographer highlights the beauty of local commerce.

After she moved to Hanoi from the Netherlands a few years ago, the photographer Loes Heerink began spending a lot of time hanging out on bridges, waiting for a vendor to pass on the street below, pulling a cart of colorful wares.

Heerink has been photographing Hanoi’s street vendors from above for over a year, capturing their beauty without the background noise of the bustling street. Heerink is raising funds through Kickstarter to publish her colorful collection of aerial images in a book, Vendors.

(Loes Heerink)

In Hanoi, most of the approximately 5,000 street vendors are women who travel to the city from the countryside a few times a week to earn money for their families. An online gallery from the Vietnamese Women’s Museum delves into the personal lives of these women, many of whom work from 2 a.m. until 7 p.m., sleeping in crowded shared housing with other vendors and earning just around $2 per day. Heerink spoke to one woman who, well into her seventies, still ventures out to sell bananas off the back of her bicycle each day. The fruit is too heavy for her to transport all at once; she’ll store a supply at a friend’s house and make several trips back during the day to restock.

(Loes Heerink)

Even though vendors are integral to the visual fabric of Hanoi, their political status is tenuous. Since 2008, in an effort to “modernize” the city, the Hanoi government has implemented a partial ban on street vending.

However, many vendors are their families’ primary breadwinners, with no other work training they could fall back on should the vendor ban extend to all of Hanoi. The Women’s Museum exhibit includes interviews with economists who advocate for limiting the ban and allowing vendors to continue working. For her book, Heerink hopes to include more interviews with the women she photographs to lend depth to the images she captures. People know so little about the migrants who travel Hanoi to work, Heerink says; much like the museum exhibit, her work could provide insights into the lives of people who are often ignored or brushed past in the street. Also, Heerink hopes to reinvigorate an appreciation for the color and humanity the vendors bring to Hanoi. “They have no idea how beautiful their bicycles are,” Heerink writes on her Kickstarter page. “No idea that they create little pieces of art every day.”

(Loes Heerink)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A city overpass with parked cars and sparse trees
    Civic Life

    How 'Temporary Urbanism' Can Transform Struggling Industrial Towns

    Matchmaking empty spaces with local businesses and the tiny house movement are innovative solutions that can help post-industrial cities across Europe and North America adapt to the future.

  2. Environment

    Visualize the Path of the Eclipse With Live Traffic Data

    On Google Maps, a mass migration in progress.

  3. A woman sits reading on a rooftop garden, with the dense city of Tokyo surrounding her.
    Solutions

    Designing a Megacity for Mental Health

    A new report assesses how Tokyo’s infrastructure affects residents’ emotional well-being, offering lessons for other cities.

  4. POV

    Grenfell Was No Ordinary Accident

    The catastrophic fire that killed at least 80 in London was the inevitable byproduct of an ideology that vilified the poor.

  5. Transportation

    The Diverging Diamond Interchange Is Coming to a Road Near You

    Drivers may be baffled by these newfangled intersections, but they’re safer than traditional four-way stops.