Archives Photography

1954 The Great Migration to the South of Vietnam – Operation Passage to Freedom

Migration and the Geneva Accords

After the 1954 Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into North and South, there was a 300-day period (ending on May 18, 1955) during which Vietnamese people could freely choose their place of residence.

A massive migration occurred, with approximately 1 million people moving from the north to the south and around 50,000 people moving from the south to the north.

The unexpected migration prompted the North Vietnamese government to block roads,


Farewell portraits, a photographic practice, from the college Nguyen Van Khue in the 50s

The portraits in this collection were given by students to their professor at the end of their instruction in the 50s. The written words on the back primarily serve as a formal farewell and provide information about their names and the dates, allowing us to identify the individuals. Fortunately, within one specific portrait, the student also included the name of the Nguyen Van Khue School.

Professor Huỳnh Công Ân says : “From its inception in 1940, Nguyen Van Khue School stood as one of the largest private schools in Cochinchina during the French colonization period.


On the beginning of rice trade in Cholon with photographer Nadal during Indochina

Fernand Nadal, born in Algeria, arrived in Saigon in the 1920s. His first advertisement in the magazine Indochine française (1922) described his activities as follows: “Art Photographie—Photography for business” and “Publishing: postcards, photo albums, and documentaries on Cochinchina, Cambodia, and Annam.”

Unlike other studios that focused primarily on portraits, Nadal’s work provided a documentary perspective of that era. He published over 2000 photos, with notable albums including:

  • Ruines d’Angkor: A collection of photographs showcasing the ancient temples of Angkor.


Vietnamese historical photography, paths from Hong Kong to Cholon, Saigon Chinatown

For the Indochina period, historian François Drémeaux reveals an intriguing fact: Hong Kong served as the first harbor of French Indochina. This choice was influenced by several factors, with one of the primary attractions being the city’s favorable taxes and free port system.

The Vietnamese Administration of the Nguyen Dynasty also recognized this advantage. In 1865, they dispatched Dr. Dang Huy Tru on a Chinese mission to explore Hong Kong’s current development. At that time,


Photographer Huong Ky Photo, archives of a precursor film maker in Indochina time

The name of Huong Ky Photo is more associated to the history of cinema in Vietnam than to Photography.

Located in Hang Trong Street (Rue des tambours), Hanoi, the studio photo was established in 1905 by Mr. Nguyen Lan Huong (1887 – 1949).

This street is famous for the production of a specific woodcut paintings. The craftsman only prints the black outlines of the image, then will finish the details by hand.


Illustration Journal 1934, Photographer Khanh Ky on the visit of the Emperor of Annam to Tonkin

Text from the article

We mentioned, in our last issue, the visit that the Emperor of Annam Bao Daï made to Tonkin during the first half of December. We have since received some new photographs which illustrate with a picturesque commentary this study trip of the young sovereign, the impact of which was considerable in all the cities and regions he traveled.


Photographer Khanh Ky, The first photo reporter in Vietnam (Indochina period)

Khanh Ky’s real name is Nguyen Dinh Khanh (1874-1946), opened a photography studio in 1892 on Hang Da street. The business being successful he opened many studios in Hanoi, Haiphong, Saigon (1907, 1924)  even in China at Guangzhou (1924).Unlike other photographers, he attached particular importance to train his operators who mainly came from Lai Xa village, in Ha Dong province who is considered as considered the cradle of Vietnamese photography.

In 1910, Khanh Ky went to France to study photography.


Interiors of Steamliner Paul Lecat, Company Messageries Marititimes

The steamliner began his career on September 22, 1912 on the Far East line. In 1914, it was, with its 13,000 gross tonnage, the largest and most luxurious of the Company’s liners, the only one able to offer “luxury” cabins, equivalent to the North Atlantic lines.

Some excerpts of the travel story on Jeanne Marie Méchin aboard the Paul Lecat in November 1923 between Marseille and Saigon. These letters take a month to reach France till the France-Indochina air mail link reduced the time to one week.


Les Messageries Maritimes – the Far-East Line to Haiphong – Hanoi

Text from the leaflet

HAIPHONG, the port of the French Protectorate of Tongking, is situated at the far end of the Gulf of Tong-king, on the Cua-Cam, 90 minutes from the sea, and is 8229 miles from Marseilles. Its population is about 75.000, of which the French and Chinese number 15.000.

Fine streets and spacious boulevards bordered by brilliant flowering trees and shrubs give the town a most cheerful appearance. Among its most important buildings are the Residency,


First historical snapshots and street photography in Vietnam – Indochina period

This album is a rare archive containing snapshots and instant photos made by M. Barbet on his trip from Marseille (France) to Hanoi (Vietnam formerly Indochina ) in the early 20th century on the steamliner of the company Messageries Maritimes .

Usually at that time, photography practice was made by professional photographers because the process involved heavy and voluminous gears to be setup. The low sensitivity of the film also needed a long exposure time.