The 13-year-old boy took pictures of Tet for the whole village

NGHE AN – On the night of the 30th Tet, Mao Meo fully charged the battery, inserted the memory card into the camera so that 5am on the 1st of the first day, starting the free “traditional photo tour” for families in the group.

Mao “Cat” was startled awake in the morning and started to sweat, and was prepared well. He dreams of getting up late, not taking pictures for relatives, but looking at his watch after 4:00 in the morning, the 34-year-old boy sighs.

He picked up the phone and called to the youths in the block: “Wake up and take pictures, but only sleep.” After the call, dozens of young men, both boys and girls, well-dressed, arrived at the house. At 8am, someone holding a tripod, someone wearing a camera, someone holding a bunch of photos taken from last New Year’s Eve, headed to the first family in block 1, Tan Ky town (Tan Ky district). For more than ten years now, young people, when coming to take photos of the new year, will distribute photos of the previous year.

Mr. Mao arranges a standing position for a family in the Block on the first day of Tet.  The landlord will stand in the center of the photo, outside is a young man.  Photo: Character provided.
Mr. Mao arranges a standing position for a family in the Block on the first day of Tet. The landlord will stand in the center of the photo, outside is a young man. Photo: Character provided.

“The voice is townspeople, but we live together like villages. The New Year’s day photography routine is to let people look back at us after a year. There are so many things to say, many things to compare.” Mr. Mao said.

The owner of the head of the block is congratulating the neighbor’s New Year, seeing the young people coming to his house, hurrying home. He adjusted his suit, frantically called his wife and children to stand in line to take pictures. Young men and women also rushed into the picture. Pictures of every family they want to be present. Finished shooting, the host sister presents the deck, inviting guests to sit on the tray. Mao Meo draws in a stack of photos of Tet 2020, and gives it to the owner. He was given a red red envelope.

“The stork was still pregnant last year, Tet nun was running hard,” the landlord pointed to the second son standing in front of him, chuckling, then put the photo in the glass on the reception desk. The photos taken from 2008 were arranged close to the table by the landlord, since he was not married, now has two children.

For decades, people in grade 1 have had a custom to wish Tet in groups. Young people gathered in a team starting from the beginning of the block. The elderly gather in a group from the end of the block to. In 2008, a young man in the group had a new phone, Mao Meo took the photo. After that, at any house, he also exhorted the members of that house to line up in front of the gate, taking a photo as a souvenir. In the photo, the landlord stands in the middle, surrounded by young people.

“In the countryside, people work a lot away so Tet is an opportunity to reunite, neighbors meet each other. Every time we meet, people often talk about the past, so I replace them to keep memories”, Mr. Mao said. .

Almost every “photo tour” has a story “as happy as Tet”. One year, the person holding the phone has finished arranging the standing position, the young people have prepared their clothes, but the landlord still cannot crawl out of bed because he is drunk. There was also a time when the landlord was too big, dancing and dancing in front of the camera, making the worker struggling forever and still unable to take a picture as he wanted. The following year, that house was given a photo of the owner “dancing” in front of the camera.

Old people rarely take pictures, so they take great care of their appearance. Seeing that the young people bring cameras to their house, they will change into new clothes, brush their hair, tie their heads properly. Finished shooting with children and grandchildren, the elderly “demand” to shoot alone. Sometimes, Mao Meo keeps moments of everyday life that the elderly do not know, and will bring it to see next New Year. Like taking photos of Tet, so on the last day of the year, many elderly come to Mao’s house to “register” first.

Looking back at the photos of ten years ago, the people of Grade 1 saw the face of the village change. The wooden houses gradually gave way to brick houses, the bushes made fences, making room for cement walls. The people have also changed, the 4-5-year-old children have gone to university, the elderly have disappeared from the mountain, the young get married, many girls left the block to get married.

A photo of young people in block I during the 2009 Lunar New Year at Mao Meo's house.  Young men in the current picture are married with children, only Mao Meo (bottom row, middle) is single.  Photo: Character provided.
A photo of young people in block I during the 2009 Lunar New Year at Mao Meo’s house. Young men in the current picture are married with children, only Mao Meo (bottom row, middle) is single. This is also the last photo taken of the old house. Photo: Character provided.
Now his family has a spacious house.  The siblings get married, give birth to children and grandchildren.  Photo: Character provided.
Now his family has a spacious house. The siblings get married, give birth to “a herd and a grandchild”. Photo: Character provided.

“I have been taking photos with the Meo-Cat group since I was a teenager, now married, with two children. Thanks to the ‘tradition’ of photography, I have the opportunity to preserve my youth, become closer to children younger than me. “, said Tran Anh Dung, 38 years old.

Doing business, Mao is away from his hometown all year, on the occasion of the Lunar New Year still has to spend time for work and relationships, so taking photos for villagers, Mao is only limited to the first day of the year. In another year, he was blamed for 28 households, only took photos of more than 20 households that ended the day. Families who cannot be photographed this year or next year will be compensated.

As Secretary of Block 1, Mr. Nguyen Tien Long is very proud of the “Tet photography practice” that young people have maintained for 13 years. In Tan Ky, he has not seen any place where there is a Tet photography activity for families like in his own year. “Thanks to that, the neighbors understand each other better, the feelings are more attached. In particular, the memories of families are kept through each year, so that a new spring can be re-reflected in the old year. “, Mr. Long said.

Mr. Xuyen, a resident of zone I, took an annual commemorative photo with his nephew from 2009-2012 to feel the change of time with people.  Photo: Character provided.
Mr. Xuyen, a resident of grade 1, took annual commemorative photo with his nephew from 2009-2012 to feel the change of time with people. Photo: Character provided.

Seeing that people in the group were excited about Tet photos, in 2013, Mao enrolled in a photography course in Hanoi. “The mechanic” wants to know how to choose a shooting angle, how to use a professional camera to get beautiful photos for her relatives.

By the end of 2020, Mao Meo invests more than ten million dong to buy new lenses. He also bought two more hard drives to store photos. Buying a new computer, he will back up the photos to, in case the computer fails, the photos are lost. “If my work is busy later, when Tet I cannot go back to my hometown, I will still remind young people in this group to keep this tradition”, Mr. Mao said.

Over the past 10 years, compared to the 2008 photo with the 2021 photo, Mao Meo has matured. From a sophomore in college, he became a businessman and a bamboo flute artist who knew the name.

“However, there is one thing in me that never changes, is the love for the village and the homeland”, the young man confided, when the spring Tan Suu was knocking on the doorstep.

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