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Rehahn donates “Hidden Smile” photo to Hanoi museum
Kieu Giang
Monday,  Mar 14, 2016,22:49 (GMT+7)

Rehahn donates “Hidden Smile” photo to Hanoi museum

Kieu Giang

By Kieu Giang – The Saigon Times Daily

The “Hidden Smile” photo

French photographer Rehahn last week presented his renowned photograph “Hidden Smile” to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi.

The photograph features 78-year-old boat rower Bui Thi Xong in the ancient town of Hoi An, who is touted as “the most beautiful old woman in the world” by the American press. Xong and her husband took their first flight to Hanoi to attend the donation ceremony, which was held by the French embassy, the French Institute in Vietnam and the Museum.

Rehahn said the “Hidden Smile” work is his favorite shot from his collection of over 50,000 photos depicting Vietnam. It was used for the cover of his photo book “Vietnam-Mosaic of Contrasts” published in 2014 to tell a story about Vietnam and Vietnamese people through 150 photographs.

Rehahn took the photograph when Xong bashfully covered her face when smiling in front of Rehahn’s camera.

“I was on a boat of Xong in Hoi An by chance in the summer of 2011 as part of my trip to Vietnam. After a conversation with her, I noticed this might be a typical image of the elderly’s beauty in Vietnam so I took photos of her,” Rehahn told the Daily.

(From L-R) Eva Nguyen Binh, wife of the French Ambassador to Vietnam, French photographer Rehahn and Bui Thi Xong attended the photo donation ceremony in Hanoi last week

“When I ask if she has teeth or not, she shyly covers half of her face. Although I cannot see her smile, I know that is a beautiful smile via her radiant eyes,” he added.

Rehahn bought a new boat for Xong since he acknowledged her difficulty in earning a living on the river. When the book was published internationally, many tourists who had a chance to visit Hoi An came to meet the old woman to take photos and enjoy a boat trip on the river to support her.

Rehahn commented on his photo that the “Hidden Smile” photo shows that beauty has no age.

“She works hard like most Vietnamese women and yet she is still full of happiness. Her smile and sparkling eyes show us that the beauty has no age,” Rehahn said.

“Mrs. Xong is old but brave, strong and charming and we can still see a part of childhood in her eyes. The two hands show her age and make a natural frame for the photo. Then, the viewer can focus on her eyes which also tell a story,” Rehahn continued.

Rehahn described he had donated the photograph to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum as a way to say thank you to Vietnam for giving him the chance to start a new life four years ago.

Rehahn has plans to collect materials for a photo book about the culture of drinking coffee in Vietnam. He will travel more to the Mekong Delta and the northern mountainous regions to take more photos about Vietnam’s landscape and ethnic minority groups.

Rehahn was listed by Boredpanda.com (1.5 million followers on Facebook & three million on Google+) in 2014 as the fourth best portrait photographer in the world alongside the famous photographers Steve McCurry, Jimmy Nelsson, Lee Jeffries. His works have been used in some of the prominent photography magazines, including the Los Angeles Times, Conde Nast Traveller, the Daily Mail, the Times, National Geographic, Foto Digital and the BBC. His personal Facebook page has attracted over 300,000 fans and followers.

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