Huong Quynh

As Covid-19 has plagued the world for the past two years, photojournalists everywhere have captured moments of pain, hope, and overwhelming emotions. Travel blogger and photojournalist Quy Coc Tu (whose real name is Ngo Tran Hai An) has approached the lives of those affected by tragedies in distinctive ways through his photo collections, deeply touching viewers’ hearts. Heritage Magazine is excited to interview Quy Coc Tu.

Travel blogger Quy Coc Tu

As a travel blogger and travel-focused photojournalist, how did you adapt to the pandemic in terms of your professional and daily life?

The pandemic has changed the world as we know it. In 2019, I spent a whopping 153 days traveling abroad. In the last two years, 90 percent of my overseas plans and projects had to change.

In 2021 the outbreak hit Ho Chi Minh City, where I spent all my working hours keeping up to date with the situation in the epicenters. To me, this was a period of historic significance, and documenting emotional roller coasters through photographs is a photojournalist’s mission.

I worked in field hospitals and facilities treating patients in critical condition and came into direct contact with the virus. I accompanied police officers and the army to the country’s borders, and joined humanitarian trips with local personalities and youth union members.

Distributing aid in Hochiminh City

Those memorable days reshaped my perspective on life and human compassion. In the end, I realized I must embrace what cannot be changed with a calm and level-headed attitude.

Could you please share the circumstances in which you took photos that found their way into the public’s heart?

I shot the “Where breath becomes air” photo collection under the most exceptional circumstances of my professional life. The setting was Thu Duc Hospital for Covid patients, only accessible to a limited number of journalists. At the time, our perception of the novel coronavirus was different, so we were uneasy. Bearing witness to those moments when life crosses over to death, haunted by the beeping of machinery, the hurried footsteps of doctors and nurses, and patients’ heavy coughing, I came to appreciate each second of my ordinary life more than ever.

Each work trip evoked a different air of melancholy within me. Recalling a charity trip with local celebrities to Cu Chi Field Hospital still makes me emotional. On the safe side of the fence were singing voices, and inside the quarantine zone were cheering patients. That moment full of shared compassion undoubtedly fueled their will to survive.

Hochiminh City residents were determined to beat the epidemic

Some photo assignments still weigh heavily on my memories. There’s an image of a child whose mother passed from the virus, and whose devastated father burned himself to death not long after. Though I failed to capture the heartbreaking gaze of that orphan, my camera managed to get a shot of his fingers twisted together behind his back as he tried to cope with the brutal reality.

Those moments had me secretly wiping away tears after the shutter clicked.

Is it true that the US Department of State has invited you to the “Global Moment in Time” exhibition later this year, thanks to these photos? Would you like to share this exciting news with readers of Heritage Magazine?

Yes. I am delighted to be one of two Vietnamese photojournalists to attend this event, among colleagues from 55 other countries. The first phase of this event included seven global online meetings that took place recently. This October, I will go to the United States to attend the photo exhibition. It is an extreme honor to be given a chance to reflect on the pandemic with journalists from around the world and to present Vietnam’s resilience, unity, and strength to the global community.

Sunset over Hon Cau Island in Binh Thuan Province

What are your plans for 2022?

It goes without saying that we will have to live with this pandemic. On the one hand, I will continue to document the shifts our country will make to adapt in 2022. On the other hand, as tourism and air travel reopen, I will carry out various plans to promote tourism across the country. I will continue to “watch Vietnam through the heavens” with photos of our beautiful country taken from above. I will also collaborate with travel agencies abroad to network with the international tourism industry. And as a personal goal, I am hoping for a chance to shoot at the World Cup 2022, the biggest football tournament on the planet.

Nha Trang City - Khanh Hoa Province

You have set foot in all 63 provinces of Vietnam and have become a great influencer in the travel community. What advice do you have for others?

Hit the road the first chance you get. Roam with your eyes to see the beauty of Vietnam, while spending time experiencing the culture and understanding the lifestyle. Try to tap into the essence of your destination so you can feel it. Instead of getting mere snapshots of Tay, Nung, Dao, or H’Mong ethnic people, have conversations with them and you will learn things that change how you see the world. Travel with your eyes and your heart. A favorite quote of mine goes like this: “Make your way to an unfamiliar place, and find yourself welcomed by the locals as if you’re a returning compatriot.”

Thank you very much. I wish you success and hope you will gain new experiences to share with the public.