Cultural portrait of the week: Morgan Ommer, photographer

By Xavier Bourgois   October 26, 2016 | 11:59 pm PT
Meet Morgan Ommer, a Vietnamese-German-French photographer based in Saigon.

This week, Morgan Ommer presents selections from a body of work that has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Time, Vogue and Monocle. Ommer grew up in Paris. His father was born in Germany and his mother was born in Hai Phong. He began his career in Hong Kong, working as a fashion and film set photographer.

Your work meanders from fashion to tourism. How does Vietnam inspire you?

Vietnam is a stunningly beautiful country, and very accessible which makes it easier to go out and take pictures. So I try to mix the best of both worlds. Pretty people in a beautiful landscape.


Your work allows us to discover the country from a very particular point of view that consistently plays with light and composition. Some may say you shoot from a nostalgic Vietnam straight out of romantic cinema. What do you think?

My inspiration is Chris Doyle who worked as the director of photography Wong Kar Wai’s early movies like Chunking Express or Happy Together. I enjoy reflections in darkness lit by neon lights in lively and decaying backgrounds

You also work a lot in urban spaces. Can you talk to us about Hanoi ?

Hanoi is the first place I visited in Vietnam back in 1993, and I immediately fell in love with it. Vietnam has changed a lot since the mid 90s but the spirit of the people is the same. I live in HCMC but I love Hanoi. I actually enjoy traveling around the country tremendously.

Which photographers or artistic movements inspire you?

My inspiration comes from various types of photography. In fashion, I like the work of German photographers Helmut Newton and Ellen Von Unwerth; I like Raghubir Singh's street photography as well as Saul Leiter's or Kimora Ihei's work in Paris. Lately, I've been watching a lot of Kurosawa movies.

Any projects for the future ?

I am working on a short film project called Madame Ching, Lady Pirate. It's a biopic about the most successful pirate in history. A Chinese woman, who started as a prostitute in Canton and built an amazing fleet with thousands of junks and crews that numbered in the tens of thousands. She defeated the Emperor of China and his Portuguese and British allies, twice, in naval battles. Later she succeeded in negotiating her retirement with the defeated emperor. She is one of the few pirates in history who died of old age. She was a precursor of feminism and established a code of piracy that protected women. I am also working on a documentary about African football players in Vietnam.

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