Ly Ta May is the oldest of three sisters. She is twenty-four years old and has been married for six years. She is the mother of one child. Her mother Cheo was kind enough to help Ly demonstrate putting on her wedding dress that was handed down from mother to daughter. The photography session took place on a cool and rainy afternoon in the village of Ta Phin, Sapa. Because of its isolation, there aren't many ways to reach the village itself. Trekking through the rice paddies in the pouring rain was how I arrived here. The Red Dao living here still keep strong customs, and the price of arranged marriages is extremely high. Inside their dirt floor home is complete darkness with a small fire in the middle. There was not enough light to photograph inside. They stood under the eaves of the home while I positioned myself in the downpour under an available tree branch. The Red Dao wedding dress is seen as the summit of success in a women’s sewing accomplishments. Mother and daughter are known to spend up to a year making nothing else but a brand-new ceremonial outfit in preparation for the big day. For the Dao people, marriage is mostly arranged by the parents. After the girl’s family accepts the proposal, the young man’s family has to prepare a lot of wedding presents which shall be brought to the girl’s family for the bride-taking ritual. Usually, the girl shall stay in her husband’s home. But in cases where the family has only one or no son, the bridegroom can stay with his in-laws’. If so, he has to change his family name to his wife’s; and his children have also to bear the family name of his wife.
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved