A sepia-toned foreigners’ perspective on 19th century Vietnam

By Tam Giao   June 24, 2021 | 02:00 pm GMT+7
The particular beauty and charm of Vietnamese people in the 19th century is presented in a new photography book called "Early Photography in Vietnam."
Young Saigon Woman by photographer John Thomson is one of the first photos taken in Vietnam, around 1867-1868.  In the photo, the woman wears a ao nam than (five-part dress). The four parts represent the parents of married couples, with the fifth symbolizing the wearer themselves. The outfit always had five buttons, representing Five Constant Virtues in Confucianism, including Kindness, Decorum, Uprightness, Wisdom and Faithfulness.  The photo is introduced in the Early Photography in Vietnam book by Terry Bennett, published in Vietnam earlier this month.

"Young Saigon Woman" by photographer John Thomson is one of the first photos taken in Vietnam, around 1867-1868.
In the photo, the woman wears a ao nam than (five-part dress). It is said that the four parts represented the parents of married couples and the fifth symbolizes the wearer. The outfit always had five buttons, representing Five Constant Virtues in Confucianism: Kindness, Decorum, Uprightness, Wisdom and Faithfulness.
The photo is introduced in the book by Terry Bennett that was published in Vietnam earlier this month.

A woman of the Man ethnic group in northern Son La Province. The photo was taken in 1925, by an anonymous lensman.Early Photography in Vietnam is a pictorial record of photography in Vietnam during the century of French rule. In more than 500 photographs, many published here for the first time, the volume records Vietnams capture and occupation by the French, the wide-ranging ethnicities and cultures of Vietnam.

A woman of the Man ethnic minority group in the northern province of Son La.
The photo was taken in 1925 by an anonymous lensman. "Early Photography in Vietnam" is a pictorial record of photography in Vietnam during the century of French colonial rule. In more than 500 photographs, many published here for the first time, the volume records Vietnam's capture and occupation by the French, and the diverse ethnicities and cultures of Vietnam.

A woman whose husband is from the Man ethnic group in northern Lao Cai Province.

A woman whose husband is from the Man ethnic minority group in the northern province of Lao Cai Province.

This photo of an old couple was taken by Aurélien Pestel in the 1890s.In six chronologically organized chapters, the book sketches the colonial context: the work of prominent photographers, mostly French, who traveled to Asia, as either adventurers or colonial soldiers or both at once. It also introduces some Vietnamese lensmen in the early day of photography in the country.

This photo of an old couple was taken by Aurélien Pestel in the 1890s.
In six chronologically organized chapters, the book sketches its colonial context: the work of prominent photographers, mostly French, who traveled to Asia as either adventurers or colonial soldiers or both at the same time. It also introduces some Vietnamese lensmen in the early day of photography in the country.

Vietnamese children in the 19th century under the lens of Aurélien Pestel.

Vietnamese children in the 19th century captured by Aurélien Pestel.

The Vietnamese Family photo, taken in the 1890s by Aurélien Pestel.

The "Vietnamese Family" photo, taken in the 1890s by Aurélien Pestel.

The Child in a Cradle was taken in around 1922, by a photo store named Namky-Photo in northern Bac Ninh Province.

The "Child in a Cradle" was taken around 1922 by a photo store named "Namky-Photo" in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

Empress Tu Cung visited central Thanh Hoa Province in 1935, taken by Vietnamese lensman Nghiem Xuan Thuc.

Empress Tu Cung visited central Thanh Hoa Province in 1935, taken by Vietnamese Nghiem Xuan Thuc.

The book also features photos of Vietnam’s nature. In this photo, French lensman Fernand Nadal captured the moment of residents living near Saigon going fishing in the 1920s.

The book also features photos of Vietnam’s nature. In this photo, French Fernand Nadal captured the moment of residents living near Saigon going fishing in the 1920s.

The northern province of Bac Ninh around 1884-1885, taken by Charles-Édouard Hocquard, a Frech doctor and explorer. The book is not a complete history of photography in Vietnam. However, it can provide initial outlines, a preliminary map, recording routes where many footprints have been traversed, Terry Bennett said about his book.

The northern province of Bac Ninh around 1884-1885, taken by Charles-Édouard Hocquard, a French doctor and explorer.
"The book is not a complete history of photography in Vietnam. However, it can provide initial outlines, a preliminary map, recording routes where many footprints have been traversed," Terry Bennett said about his book.

Photos courtesy of Phuong Nam Book

 
 
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