Lai Xa villagers’ museum honours traditional trade of photography

Wednesday, 2017-05-17 11:37:26
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The museum attracts many visitors on its opening day on May 15
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NDO – A Photography Museum was inaugurated on May 15 in Lai Xa village, Kim Chung commune, Hoai Duc district in Hanoi, making it the first museum to be built by a Vietnamese community to showcase their traditional trade.

Lai Xa village is the birthplace of photography in Vietnam and the hometown of many talented photographers. The photography trade flourished in Lai Xa village in the first half of the 20th century. In 1892, Nguyen Dinh Khanh, a Lai Xa villager born in 1874 opened the first studio named Khanh Ky on Hang Da Street.

Lai Xa village was recognised as the only photography village in 2008. Nguyen Dinh Khanh is honoured as the Vietnamese instigator of the craft.

Exhibits at the Lai Xa Photography Museum are installed using modern technologies recommended by many Vietnamese and foreign experts including Associate Professor, Doctor and former director of Vietnam Museum of Ethnology Nguyen Van Huy; French designers Veronique Dolfus and Patrick Hoarau; and painter Dam Ca.

The works on display tell stories of the traditional craft of photography in Lai Xa, how Nguyen Dinh Khanh and his successors were able to turn Lai Xa, which started as a agricultural village, into a locality mastering the trade of photography. As up to 80% residents in Lai Xa are photographers, the museum also helps answer the questions on how they have built their trademark and how they have contributed to the country’s development of photography.

The museum features different spaces including a reproduction of a studio in days’ past, photos depicting the village’s first photographers, photography exhibitions on worship and ritual, portrait photography, portraits of popular artists, the art of lighting in photography, the Khanh Ky photo club and photo studios in the village today. There is also a space dedicated to updating artistic photos taken by photographers who are currently residing in Lai Xa village.

The exhibits at the museum are captioned with detailed information in order to convey a certain message to visitors or tell them stories about the photos and objects. There are stories about consensus among local authorities and residents in treasuring their traditional cultural values which have been handed down by ancestors, about the history and tradition of the village’s trade of photography as well as the village’s culture.

During the construction of the museum, local authorities and people faced a number of difficulties. The idea of building the museum started in 2015 and the toughest obstacle of the project at the time was finding a suitable location for construction. After discussion, locals decided to condense the backyard of Dun temple in order to have room to build the museum. However, they also decided to set up a space in the museum to worship the village’s contributors. The cost for constructing the museum was funded by local residents.

A movement has also been launched to call for the donation of objects, documents and photos on the village’s craft of photography for the museum’s collection. The movement has received an enthusiastic response and support from photographers and studio owners, who have donated cameras and other photography equipment to the museum.

The construction of Lai Xa museum has not only helped to boost the cultural sector of the village but also brought about benefits for tourism development. The model also acts as a fine example for many other famous traditional craft villages in Vietnam.

It has demonstrated that once local residents are aware of and respect their locality’s cultural values, they can serve as foundations to promote creativity in turning such value into motivation for development.

The exhibits at the museum are captioned with detailed information

A century old camera on display at the museum