Lai Xa Village, the birthplace of Vietnamese photography

(VOVWORLD) - Lai Xa village in Hoai Duc district, about 15km west of Hanoi, is the birthplace of photography in Vietnam and the hometown of many talented photographers.  
Lai Xa Village, the birthplace of Vietnamese photography - ảnh 1Visitors visit the Lai Xa Photography Museum. 

Lai Xa photography tradition began in the late 19th century by Nguyen Dinh Khanh, also known as Khanh Ky, a villager born in 1874.

He was one of four famous photographers named in the Vietnamese Encyclopedia. The other three are Dang Huy Tru, Vo An Ninh, and Dinh Dang Dinh. Khanh Ky’s greatest contribution to Vietnamese photography was to turn an imported business into a traditional craft and spread it across the country. As a patriot, he participated in the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Movement, a socio-cultural and ideological reform in Vietnam in the beginning of the 20th century, and operated photo shops in Toulouse and Paris.

Lai Xa Village, the birthplace of Vietnamese photography - ảnh 2 The first camera used by originator Khanh Ky.

Nguyen Minh Nhat, an artisan of Lai Xa photography village, said:“When Mr. Khánh Ký handed down the trade to his descendants and neighbors, they opened photo shops across Vietnam and abroad in Laos, China, and Germany. Dozens of young villagers followed him to work in France. Wherever there are shops established by Lai Xa villagers, their descendants are still keeping up the trade. Four generations of my family have been involved in photography. Five Lai Xa villagers have been granted the official title of artisan.”

The photography trade flourished in Lai Xa Village in the middle of the 20th century. In that period, some 200 studios were opened all across the country. Lai Xa villagers even opened photo shops abroad.

Dang Van Tich, a village elder, said: “In 1890, at the age of 16, Khanh Ky learned the trade at the Du Chuong Photo Shop run by a Chinese man in Hanoi. 2 years later, in 1892, he opened his first shop in Hang Da Street, Hanoi. Khanh Ky hired his relatives and fellow villagers to follow the trade. Lai Xa village considers the year Khanh Ky opened his first photo shop to be the year Lai Xa became a photography village. In 1913, Khanh Ky’s photo of the French President was chosen from among hundreds of photos as the best and was widely published in French newspapers, firmly establishing his reputation.”

Lai Xa photographers can do everything from taking photos to coating film, tinting, making photographic paper, and mixing colored powders to match the weather.

Tich added: "Unlike other photos, photos made by Lai Xa photographers are rinsed in water dozens of times to clean the salt from the film so that the photos will not discolor even after hundreds of years. After that Lai Xa photographers use pen brushes to correct both the film and the photo so that they will be beautiful and durable. Vu Dinh Hong, a Lai Xa villager, was selected to photograph President Ho Chi Minh, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, President Ton Duc Thang, and Party General Secretary Truong Trinh."

Villagers recently inaugurated the Lai Xa photography museum, the first museum in Vietnam to honor photography.

Lai Xa Village, the birthplace of Vietnamese photography - ảnh 3

 Burning incense to honor Khanh Ky, the trade’s originator.

Nguyen Van Thang, Chairman of the Lai Xa Photography Club, said: “In 2003 we established the Nguyen Dinh Khanh Photography Club to help Lai Xa photography develop both as art photography and press photography. Club members have participated in many photo exhibitions in Hanoi and other provinces.”

The 20th day of the 4th lunar month, the death anniversary of Khanh Ky, is observed each year as the traditional day of Lai Xa village.

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