Rehahn, who traveled throughout Vietnam, experienced the Culture Through Photography program in Hoi An offered by Khiri Travel.
You can read all the guidebooks, take part in all the day tours, and watch all the TV shows about a destination, but to really understand somewhere you must scratch beneath the obvious surface. The best way to do this? Meet the people who live there. There’s something special about meeting someone who is prepared to share their stories, their passions, and their history. We have created a collection of our favorite people to give you a new perspective on Vietnam.
Today we will meet with Internationally renowned photographer, Rehahn who has traveled extensively throughout Vietnam capturing the culture of ethnic minority communities with his camera but also witnessing first-hand the fragility of some ethnic groups’ cultural heritage as we discuss his background and the Culture Through Photography experience offered through Khiri Travel.
You traveled to over 35 countries before settling in Vietnam. - What was it about Vietnam that made you want to stay there? What makes it such a special place for photographers?
I didn’t move to Vietnam specifically for photography. I initially came with the NGO Les Enfants du Vietnam because I was sponsoring the education of a young girl. I kept returning because I fell in love with the spirit of the country and the people. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to make Vietnam, and Hoi An, in particular, my home base. Some of my early photographic subjects (such as Madame Xong) have become part of my adopted family here. In terms of photography, it’s natural that a lot of my work is set in Vietnam because I’ve come to know it so well through my travels. I can’t imagine ever getting bored with the country’s majestic landscapes and the countless opportunities to meet new people.
Many tourists are nervous about photographing people when they travel, but you clearly have no problem getting close to your subjects. What tips can you give to people when it comes to developing a rapport with local people in Vietnam and Asia in general and for photographing people respectfully?
Vietnam is actually a very relaxed country when it comes to approaching people with my camera. It is much easier to talk to people you meet in Vietnam than in India, for example. Locals tend to be friendly and curious about my work for the most part. That said, I always treat potential subjects with respect. I wouldn’t like it if someone shoved a camera in my face and took a picture without my permission, and neither do the people one might meet in Asia or anywhere else in the world. For me, the goal is to learn about the person I’m interested in photographing. What’s their story? What are they passionate about? Their dreams etc … These encounters and the new friendships that result from them are what keep me interested in my work, year after year. My advice for anyone interested in developing a rapport with locals is simply to sit down and talk to them. Don’t be in a rush to snap a photo. Look at the person in front of you, really look. And let the relationship develop naturally. That said, if someone doesn’t want to talk to me or to be photographed—no matter how interested I am in taking a photo—I always walk away. Respect comes first and foremost.
You have done an amazing job photographing members of all 54 of Vietnam's ethnic minorities, many of whom are in danger of disappearing. What can the tourism industry do to support these communities?
It is very important to seek out travel agencies that prioritize locals over their bottom line. In Sapa, there are many ethnic villages that offer homestays and treks. There are also places that sell crafts that seem to be created by artisans in the ethnic groups but are actually made in China. Do your research and make sure whatever tour you do promotes sustainable development and respect. The same thing goes for products – don’t try to buy the cheapest item, look instead for quality and origin. Finally, the best thing that the tourism industry can do is to make sure that the areas that they develop in are not overtaking tribal lands and cultures.
A question that many photographers will want to ask - what gear do you use when making your amazing portraits?
I use a Canon R5 camera and edit with Camera Raw.
Everyone knows Saigon, Hanoi, Hoi An, Halong Bay & the Mekong Delta - which lesser-known Vietnamese destinations would you say are unmissable for photographers?
Mai Chau is underrated, I think. It’s a beautiful area with incredible landscapes and charming villages where several ethnic groups reside.
Finally, you're the host of our 'Culture Through Photography' experience in Hoi An - what can travelers expect when they book this experience?
This experience is an opportunity for visitors to enjoy a private tour of the Precious Heritage Museum with me as their guide. In the museum, there is a story alongside the portrait of each ethnic group. Visitors who book this experience can hear more personal details about the tribes, my voyages, and my work.
At Khiri Travel Vietnam we offer a number of Personality experiences where guests can spend time with a local photojournalist, and share stories with the 18th generation of a family who have lived over 200 years in the same house. Learn about the life of a North Vietnamese fighter pilot who has met both the pilot he shot down and who shot him down in Hanoi. In central Vietnam, met Ms Hang and her fascinating organic farming project. Understand traditional music and learn to play some of the instruments at a former residence of the Royal family in Hue with Ms Thao. In Saigon experienced some local art galleries on our Street Art tour with Ms Linh, and met a local businesswoman, Ms Duong, and learned about her life and the dramatic changes in recent years.
Embark on an adventure to discover Vietnam’s captivating heritage and its wonders with Khiri Vietnam! Reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org Let us create a personalized experience that ensures an unforgettable journey through the heart of Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage.