While conducting research on debt in the lives of sex workers in Hồ Chí Minh City, I stumbled upon an ad a moneylender had glued to a wall. It revealed that financialization was thriving in Vietnam, and more specifically that credit was rapidly expanding and colonizing the urban landscape. Photography became a tool to visually capture this radical financial transformation. This article argues that photography can be an effective inductive research method for moving from the particular to the general and seeing the big picture. I contend that looking at the world through the camera viewfinder with an open mind can help us to uncover hidden patterns and generate a rich and meaningful overall picture of a research problem. This process facilitates the formation of research perspectives and generalizations based on observations. I support this argument by describing the reflexive journey that drove me from photographing debt records in enclosed spaces to wandering in Hồ Chí Minh City’s streets to document a thriving credit boom. This journey radically transformed my research agenda on credit and debt.
Visualizing Debt and Credit in Hồ Chí Minh City: A Photographic Approach
Nicolas Lainez is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He has worked as a photojournalist documenting sex trafficking, irregular migration, sex work, HIV/AIDS, and child labor in Asia for the international media and the development sector. His current research project examines financial transformation underway in Vietnam from the lens of default risk.
- Views Icon Views
- PDF LinkPDF
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Nicolas Lainez; Visualizing Debt and Credit in Hồ Chí Minh City: A Photographic Approach. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1 February 2021; 16 (1): 158–178. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2021.16.1.158
Download citation file: