Bikers, punks and metalheads: The secret side of Vietnam

Bikers, punks and metalheads: The secret side of Vietnam

Zine scene — Photographer Neil Massey spent six years living in Vietnam. Now, in his first collection of self-published zines, he captures the hidden corners of the hectic city.

Neil Massey was a teenage punk-rocker. That’s why, when he stumbled into his first metal show in Vietnam 20 years later, he felt compelled to start photographing. “It seemed that anybody who was alternative or different to the rest of society was here at these shows,” the British photographer says of his first experiences in the Saigon scene, back in 2009. “Family is the most important aspect of life in Vietnam – far more tight-knit and interdependent than in the West. In Vietnam your identity is intrinsically linked to the family, so to break away from this unit, ideologically, when coming of age is a big deal.”

Massey became a frequent fixture in the local shows, attending them as often as they happened, digital camera in hand. After a while, Neil switched to heavy contrast black and white film, and by 2014, he had Bloody Chunks – one of the four zines composing his latest work, The Vietnam Collection.

TVC is a comprehensive photographic account of Neil’s time in Vietnam, capturing the beauty in the everyday of Saigon’s bustling streets. Bloody Chunks, Untitled, Sống and MONOBLOC are divided thematically and were shot over different time frames in different cameras, each zine exploring a subculture (metalheads, bikers) or some aspect of the Vietnamese landscape that stood out to the photographer over the course of six years.

For Neil, it was fundamental that the people designing the zines lived in Vietnam. So, once the final edit was through, Neil collaborated with the local Rice Creative for the final formatting.

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The Vietnam Collection is Neil’s first self-published work, but it is definitely not his first encounter with the independent press. That happened in the mid-80s in the shape of Propaganda – a zine founded in 1982 chronicling all about the American goth scene. “In August 1990 when I was in the throws of rave culture I read a story in i-D magazine about this party paradise on an island in Thailand called ‘Ko Pha Ngan. Two months later I was there with a camera, documenting the full moon parties.”

As for recommendations? “Anything out of Cafe Royal Books – The Black Power Black Panthers 1969 to name one. Burma by Sophie Stafford, Made in China by Tripod City and Concrete Sex by Sasha Kurmaz.”

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Neil Massey Untitled #4 (24x16)TVC BOOK PRESS-2 copy

The Vietnam Collection by Neil Massey is out nowYou can see more of Neil’s work on his website.

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