Referred to as someone who “captures the souls of his models“, (Wanderlust Travel Magazine, 2018) Réhahn is more than just a man behind a camera. Behind each click is a story. Whether the photograph shows a child with startling blue eyes, a woman pulling a needle through indigo fabric or a man walking alone down a brightly painted street, these are more than just images to Réhahn. They are the culmination of an experience. The stories of his subjects as well as his passion to learn more about their culture, diversity and changing traditions are what drives Réhahn’s work.
Réhahn’s unique combination of fine art photography and documentary styles results in images that both inform and mesmerize. His portraits of Vietnam, Cuba, and India are particularly well-known for exactly this reason. They take the viewer along on the voyage to catch a glimpse of authentic interactions with people, their smiles, their wisdom, their daily lives. For Réhahn, photography is a way to approach people, to document what is happening in the present while also learning about the traditions and heritage of their past.
Réhahn visited over 35 countries before making Hoi An, Vietnam his home in 2011. His first book “Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrasts” has been a bestseller since 2014. He followed this success with four subsequent books: “Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrasts, Volume ll” in 2015; “The Collection, Réhahn – 10 Years of Photography” in 2017; “100 Iconic Portraits” in 2019; and “Vietnam Mosaic of Contrasts, Volume III” in 2020.
In 2016, for International Women’s day, Réhahn’s portrait of Madam Xong was placed in the permanent collection at the Hanoi Women’s museum. The resulting media coverage amassed more than 80 articles and 10 television interviews. Now just over two years later, Réhahn has been featured in international media totalling more than 500 articles and interviews and over 50 television appearances.
One memorable career moment took place in 2018. Réhahn was honored during an official ceremony, which was organized to celebrate 45 years of friendship between France and Vietnam. Vietnam’s Secretary of the Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, who has since become the President of Vietnam, gifted Réhahn’s portrait “Madam Xong” to French PresidentEmmanuel Macron.
Réhahn’s fine art photography collections are exhibited at his four COULEURS BY RÉHAHN galleries. Two are located in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An ancient town and two are in Saigon, one on the historic Dong Khoi street and the second in the InterContinental Saigon hotel.
In addition to his galleries, Réhahn opened the PRECIOUS HERITAGE museum in 2017 to showcase his portraits of Vietnam’s diverse ethnic groups, their traditional costumes, stories, music, and artifacts. The museum is free to the public.
THE PRECIOUS HERITAGE PROJECT
In 2013, while travelling to meet the tribes of northern Vietnam, Réhahn witnessed not only the diversity and the rich culture of these groups but also the fragility of their heritage. Traditional costumes, dialects, rites and ancestral knowledge are fading or being replaced by other methods as the country’s development increases. Réhahn started to collect traditional costumes generally offered by the chief of the village themselves in order to preserve and present their culture.
On 1 January 2017, he opened the Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum. Created to foster intellectual curiosity and open the doors to understanding and communication with the diverse ethnicities present in Vietnam, the museum attracts both tourists and locals.
Within 500 m2, this cultural art space showcases more than 200 photographs of members from each group in their traditional dress. Displayed alongside the photographs are more than 65 authentic tribal costumes, some of them were given by the village chief as a means of preservation since many of these garments are no longer being made. Each ethnic group is presented with factual information and the stories of Réhahn’s encounter with the tribe. The texts are available in English, French and Vietnamese.
In September 2019, Réhahn completed his primary mission of researching, meeting, and documenting each of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam.
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The Giving Back Project, officially launched in 2011, embodies the closing of a circle in the relationship between photographer and subject. Réhahn believes that a photograph is a collaborative work between the photographer and the subject and that the artist has an opportunity to take on social responsibility by giving back to those who inspired him. With this philosophy of “conscious photography”, both the subject and the artist benefit. Some Giving Back projects have included individual and family support for subjects such as Kim Luan, An Phuoc, Sapa, Madame Xong and many others. In addition to this individual support, Réhahn’s Giving Back projects strive to benefit entire communities.
Cultural museums such as The Precious Heritage Museum (opened in 2017) and The Co Tu museum (opened in 2019) are dedicated to the goal of the preservation of the cultural history of the ethnic groups in Vietnam. These important Giving Back projects are long term community outreach initiatives as well as educational centers.
Education is an important part of Réhahn’s Giving Back philosophy. By funding 100% of the construction for boarding houses in remote areas, where there are many ethnic tribes, the Giving Back project hopes to sustainably support the educational journey of children from these ethnic groups in order to increase their likelihood of finishing secondary school and continuing onto university.
In 2019 and 2020, in collaboration with the French NGO Enfants du Vietnam, 2 boarding houses for disadvantaged youth were built in Yen Bai Province and Kontum province. They provide room and board for children between the ages of 11 and 15 years old to facilitate their educational journeys.
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