“Vietnam in 1980s” through lens of a former French reporter

(VOVworld) – The ongoing photo exhibit in Hanoi by former French journalist Michel Blanchard has attracted the public attention. Nearly 60 photos on display capture various aspects of Vietnamese life sin the 1980s when Vietnam still faced many difficulties.

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Journalist Michel Blanchard is introducing his photo on an electrical tram on Hang Dao Street in 1984. (Photo: vietnamnet.vn)

“Everything, especially my childhood memories, is swarming in. I have an opportunity to turn back time to live in the subsidy period. I’m very moved to see the photos, the images of trams, kiosks in Dong Xuan market, and Thien Quang lake where I used to go and play with my friends.”

“I find the exhibit close to Hanoians. Those who were born after 1980 like us can learn about Hanoi’s culture, clothing, and architecture 40 years ago. I think in recent years the younger generation has paid more attention to Vietnam’s past culture and beauty. That’s why the event has drawn many young people.”

Moved and proud is what the two female visitors felt about the exhibit. It’s also the feeling of many Hanoians when they visit the exhibit “Vietnam in the 1980s” by former AFP reporter Michel Blanchard.

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An electrical tram on Dinh Tien Hoang Street in Hanoi in 1983.

On display are 60 photos. Each of them features a sincere image of the natural landscapes of Ha Long Bay, or Thay Pagoda, or the beauty of Hanoi’s ancient streets. Photos of Hanoi people preparing for the traditional Tet holiday or the distinctive character of the Lunar New Year in Sai Gon create a special impression.

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Tet flower market in Hanoi.

Born in 1949, Blanchard worked as an AFP journalist from 1976 to 2006, and was bureau chief of AFP news in Hanoi from 1981 to 1983.

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Bicycles were the most popular vehicle at that time.

Among thousands of documentary photos about Vietnam Blanchard took, he wants to introduce in this exhibit the images truest to everyday life.

Vietnam has changed a lot in 40 years but as Blanchard says he will never forget a peaceful old Hanoi and Vietnam during the 1980s when the locals always looked happy despite their hardships.

Blanchard said at the exhibit’s opening ceremony: “I like to take portraits most because a portrait photo can capture a moment that we will never re-take. It’s different for landscape photos which we can go to a place again and again to retake. A portrait photo tells a story. It means I’m a photographer and a collector of stories.”

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Water transport on the Red River.

During his stay in Vietnam, whenever he was free, Blanchard used to ride a bike to take photos of Hanoi streets. He also made a trans-Vietnam tour from the northern province of Lang Son to Ho Chi Minh City in the south to explore the country, and its people.

After working 3 years in Vietnam, Blanchard has often come back as a tour guide. On these trips, he always tries to visit the locals and streets to which he used to have a strong attachment.

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