ON THE ORIGINAL BIKES OF BURDEN SERIES:
When I first set out to photograph Vietnam’s incredible load carrying motorbikes little did I anticipate the exhilarating ride that would follow.
The series of 146 photographs, for the first time published in a hardcover coffee-table book with the same name in 2003, struck a chord with residents of Vietnam and visitors alike. Even people who had never visited the country marveled at the daredevil skills of these intrepid motorbike drivers.
Bikes of Burden went on to sell well over 100,000 copies worldwide (and still counting). Besides the original English edition, a German, a French and a Japanese version were produced. Articles in online publications like Slate, Bored Panda, My Modern Met and many others generated a global fan-base for these amazing bikes.
In 2005 the book was mentioned in a keynote speech on US-Vietnam trade relations by Senator Max Baucus, as “a vision of a country on the go”, a reason to normalize trade relations between the two former adversaries. A photo book as policy maker.
In 2007 Bikes of Burden was part of the Asian Art Biennial held at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, following which the museum acquired 12 large prints for its permanent collection.
Vietnamese restaurants from Hong Kong to Dublin acquired prints to decorate their premises and prints found their way into offices and homes worldwide.
In 2011 an expanded and updated edition of the book was published. The added section aptly called Bikes of Burden – Reloaded. 36 new and more recent images were added to show that the bikes still played a major part in the economy of Vietnam.
In the foreword to the first edition I wrote: “Eventually bikes will disappear as the favorite mode of transport…. Roads will be widened, cars will become more available and the world will appear through a window.” Now, in 2021, much of that has come true, though certainly not to the extend that I feared and a Vietnam without motorbikes is as unthinkable as France without baguettes.
No one is more relieved than I to realize that these Bikes of Burden are a hardy species indeed.