Réhahn’s Stunning Portraits | The Hidden Smiles of Vietnam

From the Hidden Smiles series
From the 'Hidden Smiles' series | © Réhahn
Polly Rider

Réhahn, a French photographer, showcases some beautiful portraits in his series, Hidden Smiles. Revealing the intense joy of the Vietnamese people despite age or poverty, Réhahn’s photographs, taken across the south-east Asian country, prove that Vietnam is aptly known as the happiest country in the world.

Born in Normandy, Réhahn has been traveling across Vietnam, beautifully capturing the locals with his camera. The joyfully raw and natural images perfectly depict the beautiful people in this beautiful land.

To Réhahn, the smile is more than mere muscle twitching, his Hidden Smiles project aims to celebrate the corners of the face etched by a lifetime of happy emotion. Although his sitters’ hands hide their smiles, the joy in their eyes speaks volumes. Réhahn hopes that the heartwarming pictures will inspire happiness in others.

Hidden Smile

The Vietnamese have been ranked among the happiest people in the world. Réhahn testifies to this, and, after spending three years in Hoi An, claims that he has managed to find the meaning of the word ‘happiness’ in this country. He highlights how the smile is translated through every inch of the face, even when the mouth is covered.

He says: “Vietnamese people are the most positive and optimistic people I’ve ever met in my life. It gives me a good energy everyday, just when I cross the small village where I live and meet many smiles. It’s Feng Shui: only good energy.”

Hidden Smile

Réhahn has spent seven years traveling around Vietnam on his motorbike, and along the way his adventures have lead to important meetings that have become the main theme of his photographic projects. Only once friendship has been established does Réhahn take out his camera to capture the moment. The stunning images look past old age or poverty’s burden to reveal energy and life behind the eyes of the individuals, through their concealed smiles.
The woman with the blue hand is from Red Dao, in the Sapa area, her hand is blue from working with indigo, a plant they grow and make into the blue dye for cloth.

Hidden Smile

Their smiles are often shyly disguised in their palms, which Réhahn refers as their ‘Hidden Smiles.’ During his travels, he noticed that many of the locals have this habit, which he puts down to modesty or politeness, a mark of elegance. The young girls do it out of embarrassment and the elderly women to cover their lack of teeth. However, the covering of the smile focuses attention on the eyes and wrinkles. Réhahn says: “I think good photography is when you can capture the soul, read a story in the eyes.”

Hidden Smile

His first photo book, entitled Vietnam – Mosaic of Contrasts, contains 145 photos and aims to show Vietnam in a natural and spontaneous light. Réhahn continues his journey around the ‘Land of Smiles’ and is currently preparing for an exhibition of 100 portraits of these hidden smiles. He plans to travel to India this month and Mongolia in June. but his heart will always lie in Vietnam.

Hidden Smile

View more images of the Hidden Smiles project, and more of Réhahn’s work on his website and his Facebook page.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article