- Polly Rider
Photographer Réhahn, born in Normandy, 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.
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.’
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.
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.’
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.