French portrait photographer Réhahn talks about his travels, Vietnam, Cuba, globalization and music

"The globalization is my biggest fear. Tribes give up their culture for the western dream. It’s not rare to see villages where no one has a traditional costume, even for their festival."

Réhahn: Smiles From The Blue Planet

French portrait photographer based in Vietnam, born in 1979 in Normandy, Réhahn has always lived with a passion for travel and photography. For most people who travel to explore the beautiful sceneries, Réhahn travels to meet people and capture the most natural moment of those individual he has encountered. It is only through these far away places that Réhahn learns of new cultures and most importantly, learns to take photo in his very own special way. The difference between Réhahn's photos from other portrait photographers is the random and natural moment, of which, he captures when spending his time to interact with the models. Réhahn’s photos leave viewers to imagine the story behind each moment because he wants viewers to discover for themselves the beauty of the photos.

In 2007, during his mission trip with a nonprofit organization to Vietnam, Réhahn has feel in love with the people of this country. He begins to invest more time into exploring the Vietnamese and its culture through his camera lens during his yearly trip to Vietnam. It was only in 2011 that Réhahn decided to relocate his life by moving to a small town of Hoi An, Vietnam. Choosing to give up his modern and hectic life in France to live a quite one in Hoi An was Réhahn bold decision to follow his dream in photographing.

He spends most of his time travelling and meeting new people whether it is local or tourist to search for the right moment to capture for his photos. Seven years in Vietnam travelling on his motorbike to only ¼ places of the country, Réhahn has captured over 40,000 photos; however, only 145 of the photos have made it to his first photo-book “Vietnam-Mosaic of Contrasts.” The book is a story that the photographer wishes to share with the world about his view and stories of Vietnam. It depicts different facets of Vietnam in Réhahn’s very own way and his intention is to allow each viewer to absorb the photos in their own natural way just like how he capture his models.

The love for photography does not stop here for Réhahn, He has continued to seek for adventure and new idea to deliver his photos. Réhahn’s passion for photography brings him more ideas and techniques in picture taking by collaborate with other photographers and new developed technology. Réhahn tirelessly seeks new opportunity to learn and share his work with his fans, photographer friends to get feedback and advise from everyone. He also shares with them many of his stories along the road. Réhahn’s hardworks have paid off by being recognized by some of the most prominent photography magazines such as, The National Geography, Foto Digital, etc. Nonetheless, these successes are motivating Réhahn to keep trying harder to seek for something more beautiful, more natural, and of course with more meaning to him and others that like his work.

Interview by Michael Limnios

ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT © RÉHAHN - ALL RIGHT RESERVED

What were the reasons that you started the photo art searches and experiments?

I think there’s a photographer in every traveller. I liked to take photos to show my friends and to capture some moments for myself. Like the music, a single photo can remind you a good memory. When I moved to Vietnam, I had a lot of free time and felt inspired. Hoi An, where I live now is an open air studio where each person is a potential model. Today, I was wandering the countryside and stumble across a fabulous moment with 2 old men with beard, playing chess and smoking Vietnamese cigar. A gift of the chance!

"Stay happy with the simple things. It was a lesson of life for me to see these people happy, especially the old ladies. They kept some part of childhood in their personality."

How do you describe and what characterize Réhahn philosophy of image/photo?

A good photography is a photograph which tells a story. Learning the technical things is easy but capturing the soul and emotion is not given to anybody. I’m a people person, a humanist before being a photographer. It’s a big advantage in travel photography.

How important was/is music in your life? How does music affect your mood and inspiration?

Music is with me everyday. On my computer, in my gallery, it’s a compliment. As I said, a song can remind you a moment of your life and brings you emotion. In photography, music becomes important for my video collages. Music complete the load of emotions.

You have traveling around the world. What are your conclusions about the people and music?

I’ve seen different instrument in each countries and some that don’t even have an English name. However, my favorite country is without any doubts, CUBA. This country lives with music and the people are instrument with amazing dance mode. Music is everywhere and does affect the mood sometimes. I can say that Cuban music is in my daily life and remind me my several trips in this country.

Are there any memories with local musicians which you’d like to share with us?

Yes, in Ninh Binh, a musician I met few times finally gave me his instrument when I gave him my book with his photo. I keep it in my house like a treasure!

"I think there’s a photographer in every traveller. I liked to take photos to show my friends and to capture some moments for myself. Like the music, a single photo can remind you a good memory." 

What are your hopes and fears for the future of local tribes and indigenous cultures?

The globalization is my biggest fear. Tribes give up their culture for the western dream. It’s not rare to see villages where no one has a traditional costume, even for their festival. I saw in 3 years, many cultures have gone in exstinct. Of course, we would want them to have a better life in term of living condition and quality, but we hope it will not at the price of their own identity as an ethnic. In the other side, I’ve seen some villages developing their local business with embroidery. It seems to work and their life is getting better without losing their culture. I wish that the 53 minorities in Vietnam take this way.

If you could change one thing in the world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would forbid weapons.

What do you learned from your experiences with the local and indigenous culture and people?

Stay happy with the simple things. It was a lesson of life for me to see these people happy, especially the old ladies. They kept some part of childhood in their personality.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from your travels?

The 1000 times, people invited me in their house, preparing a lunch like if it was an important day or a wedding. They are so proud to have a guest in their house and it’s touching. I’m always surprise to be invited in every villages.

"However, my favorite country is without any doubts, CUBA. This country lives with music and the people are instrument with amazing dance mode. Music is everywhere and does affect the mood sometimes. I can say that Cuban music is in my daily life and remind me my several trips in this country."

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..? And what from your memorabilia (books, records, photos etc.) would you put in?

I would love to live in the 19th century in Paris. I’m a book collector and I love this period in the French literature. I would not bring any book but I would go to buy the first edition of all books of Alfred de Musset and Victor Hugo.

Réhahn - Fine Art Photography

INTERVIEW MICHAEL LIMNIOS / PHOTOS © RÉHAHN, ALL RIGHT RESERVED

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