Réhahn had an epiphany. Born and raised in France, he had long been fascinated by Vietnam and its faraway mystery. But it wasn’t until he began sponsoring children in poverty in the country that he realised he could make a real difference. “I decided to organise a trip to meet the children and their families in Hoi An,” he says, “and I just fell in love with the people and the lifestyle. I promised them I’d come back, and I came back every year.” It was four years in to his annual visits that he decided to stick around. “I quit my job and settled down in the city. I started to ride a motorbike and explore the remote areas of the country. That’s when I became a professional photographer.”
Since 2011, Réhahn has since been photographing the 56 different ethnic groups that make up the country, highlighting Vietnam’s diversity and cultural identity in the process. “People think that Vietnam is only six famous cities, and they completely ignore the other faces of the country. It’s not only beautiful beaches and rice terraces. 56 ethnic groups with 56 different cultures, different costumes and different languages.”
Part of his motivation comes from the fact that such diversity could be on its way out. “Unfortunately they’re disappearing and being replaced by the Western culture. That’s why I want to document them and show the world.” Able to speak fluent Vietnamese, Réhahn has found it relatively easy to convince inhabitants of some of the country’s most remote communities to pose for his camera. “I explain my project, and I’ve found them always to be very excited to wear their native costumes and to share their cultures. Some of these groups are only comprised of 600 people. But they all have something to share and something to tell.”
Many of Réhahn’s photographs have been published in a new photo book, Vietnam: Mosaic of Contrasts Vol. 2, available here, and he plans on bringing much of his work, along with traditional Vietnamese costumes, to the Caen International Fair in September.
Find out more about Réhahn and his work at his website.