“With the reopening of Laos in 1988, I found the country I had left thirteen years ago in the din of war. Before me: the Mekong. This is the river along which I was born, in which I waded through one night in 1975 to reach the refugee camps in Thailand and seek asylum in France. Emotions run down on me like the tropical rain, compelling, wholesome, all-powerful.”

“The Mekong: Stories of Man,” is the product of 15 years of labor. Lâm Duc Hiên traveled the Mekong river on a 4,200 km stretch—following its waters from the deltas in Vietnam all the way to the its source in Tibet. In doing so, the photographer returned to the waters that colored and shaped his childhood. By re-exploring his past and confronting the river’s contemporary state, Hiên interweaves his personal story with that of the river’s current inhabitants.

Besides Hiên’s personal, intimate journey, a much broader narrative emerges: the destiny of the river. While his photographic exploration is consistently accomplished on a human scale, his journey simultaneously touches upon international issues of cooperation, environmentalism and modernization. Hiên’s complex photographs manage to dive into the past while also offering glimpses at the future, all the while paying tribute to the people and cultures from which he emerged.

—Alexander Strecker

Editor’s Note: Lâm Duc Hiên’s photographs were shown at the 2014 Angkor Photography Festival in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Hiên’s series was a part of the Greenlight project, an outdoor exhibition on the subject of the environment. The project was generously sponsored by the AIMF, International Association of French-speaking Mayors.