My approach

There are 43 million motorbikes, scooters and mopeds in Vietnam, a country of 91 million people. In Ho Chi Minh alone, some 750 new motorcycles are registered every day. Vietnam is the fourth biggest country in the world for motorbikes after China, India and Indonesia.

A recent study by Yale and Columbia universities suggests that Vietnam is one of the 10 worst countries in the world in terms of air pollution. Ho Chi Minh’s pollution levels are among the highest in the country. Motorcycles represent 80 per cent of motorized trips at rush hour while public transit represents just two to three per cent of urban transport.

The Vietnamese have massively forsaken bicycles in favour of motorbikes. Because of the inherent risks of air pollution and with much style, the mask has become part and parcel of the motorcyclists’ gear.

As well as the mask, which covers the lower part of the face, women wear additional protection in order to preserve the whiteness of their skin. In Vietnam, white skin is venerated and represents a defining characteristic of beauty.

Here are portraits of motorcyclists taken during brief photo sessions on street corners of Ho Chi Minh as they waited for a green light.

The photos