RÉHAHN – CHASING THE LIVING ANCIENT

rehahn natgeo

Réhahn fell in love with the disappearing world. This French adventurer discovered the magic of photography at a young age and decided to embark in a journey that would last a lifetime. Born in Normandy 37 years ago, Réhahn travels to far-away corners of the planet, rushing to document the beauty of ancient cultures before they become extinct:

Before being a photographer, I worked in marketing and had my own printing company. It was a great job and I learned a lot from it. (Very useful for what I’m doing now). Yes, I have been passionate about photography for a long time. My designer was photographer and we spent so much time talking about photography, so I decided to invest in a camera (50D Canon).

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The first time I took photo, I realized each photo could tell a story. It’s always hidden and if you don’t step further to explore, you will never know. The more time I spend with my subjects, the more I know about them.

“My break-through was the publication of my first book, VIETNAM, MOSAIC OF CONTRASTS. It became a best seller here in Vietnam and it was sold in more than 30 countries.”

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Im a self-taught photographer but I like to follow some photographers like Timothy Allen, Steve McCurry…

Sometimes, I’m worried about danger along the trips. On my road trips, I need to pass some barriers or go inside the forest where no one lives. Drug crimes are also big problems when you travel to remote areas, especially near frontier areas. But when I’m shooting, I forget everything and just focus on my work.

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What photograph are you the proudest of? What did it mean for you?

Such an interesting question! I have more than 70,000 photos so it’s not easy to pick up one but I think the photo “Hidden smile” is the one I like most.

 

rehahn hidden smile

When her photo entered the Vietnam Women’s museum, I paid the flight for her and her husband to Ha Noi. It was the first time in their lives travelling far from Hoi An. She was really happy and it made me happy too.
Everyday she works in front of my restaurant so I often meet and talk with her, we also
celebrate birthdays together, we were born on the same day (but not the same year as you can
guess).

Apart from Madam Xong, the most fascinating person I’ve ever taken a photo of is An Phuoc – the girl with blue eyes is the one I’m most impressed by. When you look into her eyes, you can feel the strength of a little girl at such an early age. The eyes are powerful and gorgeous. Her family thinks that her blue eyes come from her french great-grandfather.

 

Before taking photos, I always spend time with people, chat with them and listen to their stories. I want to make them feel comfortable and catch their joy or sadness. I never ask them to pose like I want. The most important thing is to take photos when they are really who they are.

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“I have met more than 40 ethnic groups, most of them live in remote areas. What I learned from them is that the culture needs to be preserved. Some minorities are aware of their significance and do their best to keep it as original and ever-lasting as possible. However, others don’t really care about their culture and the tradition is greatly influenced by the modern world. So I think it is not easy to protect a culture, it should come from the awareness of citizens and practical movement of local authority.”

Since my first trip to Vietnam, I decided to stay here for the rest of my life. Hoi An (Vietnam) is one of my favorite cities in the world. Hoi An has everything you need for a relaxing life, from the yellow walls, specialized foods, friendly people to dynamic economic background. The city also has a diverse expat community where I can communicate with people from my home country. I also call it my open-air studio.

rehahn photographer vietnam

How do you decide where your next trip is going to be?

I will go online and search what to see, things to do there. I also find images to know how beautiful and photogenic they are. If there are some features that interest me, I will make the decision. But this year, I spent most of my time documenting all the ethnic groups of Vietnam. It’s urgent to visit them before their culture disappears completely.

Do you also like more traditional trips, to resorts or so?

No, I accept only one way of travelling. I can’t go with guide or groups.

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“India, Cuba and Vietnam are my favorites. These cities are all colorful, from people, landscape to lifestyle. I’m always impressed with how their daily lives are. These countries are surely an endless inspiration for me.”

The most rewarding part of travel photography is to interact with people during my trip. The more I go, the more I understand how their lives are. I’m a people’s person and a collector of stories. I like to listen to them.

Would you still do it if it wasn’t your full time job?

Of course. When it becomes your passion, you do it no matter wheter it’s your full-time job or not.

Réhahn himself.
Réhahn himself.

The best part is to travel from one place to another, learn more about ethnicity and culture and
never get bored. The only bad side is being far from my family.

The best advice I can give to young photographers is to not become a photographer for your EGO. Just do it for the people, not for yourself only!

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