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Photo Hanoi'23: Ambition to drive Hanoi as city of photography
Ngo Minh 18:02, 2023/04/23
Photo Hanoi'23 Biennale with a variety of activities such as exhibitions, talks, and photography workshops will last from now until June 3.

Photo Hanoi'23 is the first international art biennial to be held in the capital, reaffirming Hanoi's determination to become the photography city of Asia.

This event is jointly organized by the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports and the French Institute in Vietnam to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam-France relations.

On this occasion, Thierry Vergon, Director of the French Institute in Vietnam, talks to The Hanoi Times about the prospect of the event.

Rendez-vous  of international photographers

- Why did the French Institute initiate the Hanoi Biennale of Photography? Why photography?

This idea began in 2020 for many reasons. First of all, it is a means to promote other cultural activities. Meanwhile, Vietnam is home to many good young photographers and famous photographers who inspire the public. 

Given good responses from the public and cultural partners, we decided to organize the biennial event. The Biennale is very popular for promoting art in the world. For example, everyone knows the Venice Biennale, but there are also events dedicated to photography such as the Bamako Biennale in Mali, Objectifs in Singapore, Kyotographie in Japan, or Photo Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

 A photo collection of French artist Alexandre Garel.

- Would you describe some highlights of Photo Hanoi'23?

I would like to talk about French photographer Robert Doisneau who was very active in the 1960s and is considered one of the godfathers of French photography. He's never been exhibited in Vietnam. We will have the first exhibition of thirty of his original photographs during Photo Hanoi'23. I hope this will help give visitors more insight into the history of photography.

Another artist that is very important in Vietnam and in the world of visual arts is visual artist/curator Nguyen The Son.

Regarding exhibitions, there are two special exhibitions, including the first is the collective exhibition that opened on April 21 at No.22 Hang Buom Street curated by Nguyen The Son. This is a very interesting example of collaboration between Vietnamese and international artists.

The other is at Vincom Center for Contemporary Art where female photographers are exhibiting.

All the artists participating in this show are very good and the exhibitions are interesting though they were not mentioned. 

 Thierry Vergon, Director of the French Institute in Vietnam speaks at the opening ceremony of Photo Hanoi'23. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

Opportunity to promote Hanoi through photography

- How do you think this event will resonate and attract international attention?

The event will influence not only participants but partners involved. It is not only the cooperation between Hanoi and the French Institute but international partnerships, with partners from Germany, Italy, Spain, the US, Japan, Switzerland, the UK, and Belgium. They will promote the Biennale of Photo Hanoi in their networks, making the event popular abroad.

Media is also a very important way of promotion and we got support from journalists in Asia and Europe, especially in France. 

- How will the festival promote creativity and career opportunities for young talents?

It's a place for young photographers to present their work and meet other photographers. It enables them to show their work, talk about their techniques, learn new ones, and take part in discussions.

Additionally, some roundtables are available for students, people, and photographers to know better what's happening in photography in the world and to see how to build their own careers around it.

 The photo collection 'Remaining Memories' by artist Nguyen Duy Kien.

- How important is Photo Hanoi'23 for the cultural, economic, and social development of the city in the short and long term?

It's not certain but the impact is visible. I would like to take Kyotography as an example. Organized in Kyoto, Japan, it's been a big event for 10 years and now attracts more public than the number of inhabitants of the city. So you can imagine that it is very good for the tourism industry and the economy.

- What are your expectations of Photo Hanoi'23?

After two or three editions, the French Institute will no longer be the main partner and co-organizer of this event, but the government of Hanoi will have a dedicated team that will organize this biennale of photography. We will do as much as we can to help this team build their capacity through field trips to big events like this to enable them to gain experiences from the organizers and partners. 

I think it's very important that this event is not between French and Vietnamese, but a Hanoi event with international partners, including the French Institute.

Hue Festival, for example, is a program built by French cooperation. After a few years, it was totally organized by Thua Thien-Hue Province.

The Hanoi People's Committee should take this project as its own with significant investment as it's not only good for photography but other fields. 

I also hope that Vietnamese photographers will be popular in the world. So I hope that when I come back in 10 or 14 years, there will be this big event called Photo Hanoi.

- Thank you for your time!

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