Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers

Simone Sapienza

2015 - 2017


Fascinated by the contradictions of post-war Vietnam, a country somewhat in limbo between free-market capitalism and the strict rules of the Communist party, Italian photographer Simone Sapienza embarked on a journey to explore the country beyond its perfect travel photographs. Almost 40 years after the victory of the Viet Cong troops against the USA, modern Vietnam has radically changed its ambitions and dreams. Populated by a young and energetic new generation, the country is likely to become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, behind this illusive economic freedom, the Communist government still holds absolute political power. Departing from the conventional photojournalistic approach, Sapienza crafted Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers as a sequence of metaphorical responses to notions of power, economy, energy, exoticism and politics that characterise the current Vietnamese society. Like its national flower – the Lotus – Vietnam is going to rise above the surface of its recent muddy-water past to blossom with remarkable beauty. Allusive and ambiguous, Sapienza’s images prompt the viewer to question their presumptions about a country that is still ruled with order and control, yet eager to ride the wave of economic freedom.

This submitted series (2015-2017) has been awarded as "Best Rising Talent" by GOMMA Grant 2017 as well as selected for the festival "Fotografia Europea 2018" (Reggio Emilia, Italy); the first and previous part of "Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers" (2015-2016) has been instead the winner of "PDNEdu 2017" by PDN - Photo District News and "BJP Breakthrough 2016" by The British Journal of Photography.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • Wedding photographer's assistant during a shooting at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum.

  • A businessman in HCMC.

  • During a wedding party happening in a restaurant outside HCMC.

  • A view on HCMC from a luxurious skyscraper mostly peopled by foreigners and Vietnamese expats.

  • Two Vietnamese discuss about the next urban developments of Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Inside the Independence Palace of HCMC, now one of the many touristic sites of the city.

  • A touristic guide inside the Cu Chi Tunnel museum outside Ho Chi Minh City. In those tunnel the Vietcongs used to live during the war.

  • A model is posing in the backstage of the International Vietnam Fashion Week 2017. She holds a poodle with dyed ears and tails, an ever more common practice in Vietnam.

  • Two workmen working over night in the streets of Hanoi, capital of Vietnam.

  • Conference room inside the Independence Palace of HCMC, conquered by Vietcongs on April 25th, 1975, day of the fall of Saigon.

  • A touristic guide dressed like a Vietcong, inside a tunnel at Cu Chi site, where Vietcongs used to live during the war.

  • Birds on sale in the outskirt of HCMC.

  • Mother and daughter during the fireworks show on the New Lunar Year's Eve 2017 at Ho Cho Minh City.

  • An official of the Vietnamese Communist Party interviewed during the celebration of the 86th anniversary of the Vietnamese Communist Party at HCMC.

  • Inside the iKem shop in Ho Chi Minh City, where liquid nitrogen is used to make ice-cream.

  • A Vietnamese officer, managing a scooter-parking in HCMC, pick up a dead bird for the street.

  • Wrapped cardboard cutouts of a Vietnamese airline left in a travel agency.

  • A owl on sale on the streets of HCMC.

  • A Vietnamese lady during a fashion shooting on the streets of HCMC.

  • The statue of Ho Chi Minh, in the city with his same name, HCMC.