Saigon Punk Chronicles : Cut Lon, The Dumpies, District 105, 7 Uppercuts, Pick Supplier by Lee starnes


This past weekend, Hanoi’s Cut Lon had their record release here in Saigon at Soma Art Cafe. This was a classic example of hearing a band and then seeing them being a bit…different. Clad in Pikachu costumes, Cut Lon got on stage and absolutely shredded. Think youth crew meets thrash - circle pits, sing alongs, and stage dives. Yeah, a bit of cognitive dissonance with the whole Pikachu shtick, but one of the things I love about the scene here is the complete lack of elitism that plagues so many scenes in the States. Kids having fun and saying something while they do it… how can you not love it? So bring on the Pickachu.

Local anchors District 105 and 7 Uppercuts, as usual, had insanely energetic sets with District 105 bringing the breakdowns and 7 uppercuts the pop punk fun times. Newcomers Pick Supplier had their first show ever opening up the evening and had a guest spot from former singer of Knife Sticking Head covering one of their songs. Circle Pits and rad singalongs ensued. Give these kids a bit of time and everything will tighten up for some fun moshy fingerpointing goodness. American punk outfit, The Dumpies, followed it up with a bit of beer spraying shirtless shenanigans. Think a bit like Jawbreaker, the Pist, and throw in some Frank Black in the mix for good measure. All in all, a really fun night despite the aircon shitting the bed turning the venue into a sauna. That said, it felt a bit nostalgic to sweat your ass off at a show considering every show I’ve been to in Vietnam has been well climate controlled.

District 105

The Dumpies

7 Uppercuts

Cut Lon

Pick Supplier

Catching Up: Dalat over Xmas. by Lee starnes


Over the past few weeks, as you may have noticed, I have been a bit off the radar. Partially voluntary and partially by sheer logistics. The lunar New Year, or Tet as they say here in Vietnam, brought a much needed respite and a bit of digital detox was in order. I’ll have plenty of images up here in the coming days (Indonesia was incredible!) so check back for those. That said, I had such a backlog of images and I wasn’t quite sure where they would live, so I’ve decided to use this space to show some of those.

Over Christmas, we headed up to the highland outpost of Dalat, around 6 hours north of Saigon. Historically, Dalat served as a getaway for French colonialist due to it’s cooler weather and “European” feel. French villas, pine trees, lakes, and crisp evenings made this place a slice of home I suppose. These days, while Dalat is still known for its cooler temps and outdoorsy activities, its also the home of where most of the organic produce is grown in Southern Vietnam. Farms dominate the countryside, and little food stalls seem to be every few meters.

While I love Saigon, it was literally a breath of fresh air getting up into the mountains. Here are just a few shots from the weekend. Those of you who live in Saigon, where is your favorite weekend getaways? We’re always looking for new places to explore, let us know in the comments below!

Seeing Things with New Eyes by Lee starnes


I’ve lived in Saigon for over 5 years now, and unfortunately, I find myself shooting Saigon less and less these days. What was novel is now the norm, shoots go on autopilot, the penny is less shiny. blah blah blah you know how it goes…in a nut shell, I got bored. And boredom is the biggest disease in the world, darling.

So, over the past 6 months, I’ve started working with my friend Quinn, on Saigon Photo Tours. As most of you know, I teach workshops with Pics of Asia in Central Vietnam and in Sri Lanka (hint hint), but I haven’t done more than a few here in Saigon due to a myriad of reasons - too busy with commercial work, watching the back of my eyelids, or countless other excuses. And that’s exactly what they are - excuses. The wonder and excitement of exploration isn’t limited to visiting strange lands. Finding beauty in the mundane and falling in love with photography all over again is something that doesn’t take much - at least for me. Getting off my ass and shooting something in my own backyard while teaching and being an ambassador to the city I live in has given me such a renewed lease on my creativity and photography. These locations aren’t new for me. Most of them I’ve visited over a dozen times. But, there’s always something interesting or unseen - another angle, a different personality, a new texture.

I had one such tour this week and it forced me to look at things with new eyes. I looked at familiar locations with a different perspective. As I suggested to Lukas to slow down and take it all in before shooting, I realized I do the exact same thing when I go back to places I’ve been before. That moment that gave a bit of pause and I chose to follow my own advice. What a difference it made! It allowed me to search out details, textures and let it all sink in before I rushed off clicking happily away.

Teaching photography has forced me to look inward at my own work with blunt, and often brutal, honesty. It has not only improved the quality of my work, but also enabled me to be a better teacher and offer students better insight on telling more compelling stories.

For me, the act of shooting is every bit as amazing as putting the final image out into the world. It’s my ticket to see the world, to interact with amazing people, and to create and share amazing stories. It’s my sense of self therapy, it’s my outlet and is my act of being present. When I get stuck in a rut, sometimes I have to remind myself of these simple things and slow down and let it all sink in.

I’d love to hear back from you about how you get out of those ruts. Drop a comment below and let me know!

Saigon Punk Chronicles : Year End Fest - The E Killer, District 105, 7Uppercuts, Razor Leaf, Stupiz Kiz, Tariot by Lee starnes


With the lunar new year approaching, First and Last Records held their year-end fest showcasing nearly their entire roster as well as the Singaporean melodic hardcore outfit, Tariot. To begin, DIY shows starting more or less on time here in Saigon blows my mind. With everything else here being 'time-flexible', and the habitual lateness of punk shows in general, this punctuality is noteworthy to say the least. High fives for that. That said, maybe I’ve become accustomed to things starting more. whimsically. So, unfortunately, I missed The E-killer. Next time, fellas.

The rest of the line up was a mix of pop punk, moshy breakdowns, melodic hardcore and a rather hilarious pop punk cover of 'I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.' The place was packed with over 200 people. Hats off to Soma Art Cafe for cranking the AC to keep it from turning into the usual sweatbox we’ve all experienced at shows in the past. Stage dives, high fives, and ridiculous sing alongs made for one of the most fun shows I’ve been to in a long time.

If this is your first time visiting the site, documenting the punk scene in Saigon is a part of a long-term project of mine and some of my favorite shots can be seen here. Make sure to keep frequenting the page for updates in the future. You could even subscribe to the RSS feed if you’re feeling fancy. Now on to the images.

District 105


Razor Leaf

Stupiz Kiz


Since you made it this far, feel free to share this to social, comment, send good vibes or gifts and I’ll see you at the next show.

Saigon Punk Chronicles : Koteka is the Reason, District 105, 7 Uppercuts by Lee starnes

Saigon in the past year seems to have really started building a DIY punk scene. As some of you know, back in the States, I was predominantly a music photographer, and when I moved to Saigon 5 years ago, there wasn’t much of a scene, or at least I didn’t see or hear about it. Needless to say, I’m stoked to have the ‘core and punk shows to go now.

Last night, locals District 105 and 7 Uppercuts welcomed Indonesia’s Koteka is the Reason to Saigon. 7 Uppercuts started everything off with their mix of pop punk with District 105’s beatdown hardcore following up. Mosh friendly with Pantera harmonics. Shred. And rounding out was Koteka is the Reason and they destroyed. Street punk - fast, loud and full of circle pits. Make sure you head over to their sites. Give them a listen and go mosh in your living room.

New Year. New Stories. So why not a new site? by Lee starnes


New Site!!

Stories, Ramblings and High Fives

I’ve been debating on changing the way I present my work for some time, and just the same as one photo is never the total story, a simple visual is not sufficient in its presentation. I reckon this area of the site will serve as a behind the scenes or perhaps even a stream of consciousness of stories that may not fit within the other areas of work. Personal projects, random banter, tutorials, tips and tricks, family images, design stuff I love, other artists work - they will all live here. The creative community is so important, so I’d love for this to be a hub for photographers, artists, outcasts, shenanigans peddlers, storytellers. Let’s build something amazing. While you’re here, check out the rest of the site and leave a comment below on what you want to see here.