Photographer Nicolas Cornet and "Vietnam’s Pagodas"

Tuesday, 2018-11-20 10:36:54
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French photographer Nicolas Cornet
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NDO – For the past three years, French photographer Nicolas Cornet has spent a lot of time travelling through the provinces and cities of Vietnam to record images of temples, pagodas and culture, as well as the spiritual life of indigenous people.

As a person who is very interested in the cultural history, architecture, and life in Vietnam, it is certain that the theme of temples, pagodas and the meaning in the life of people always attract him. Nicolas shared: "My wife is Vietnamese, half of my friends are Vietnamese. So I like Vietnam’s culture and the language."

Starting his journey from north to south on the S-shaped country to explore Vietnam's temples, pagodas and places of worship, he took about 30,000 photographs and visited nearly 100 temples and pagodas.

French photographers always focus on the beauty of architecture, fine art sculpture, Buddhist visual arts in temples and pagodas.

Particularly in Vietnam, he took photos of a lot of places. He does not remember how many pictures and projects he has done. In many photos on Vietnam, Nicolas has introduced the image of Vietnamese temples and pagodas through his exhibition "Vietnam’s Pagodas". He also launched a 250-page photo book named "Vietnam’s Pagodas" with 31 temples and pagodas.

He said: "In 2015, my family visited Phat Tich Pagoda in Bac Ninh. At this time, the pagoda was rebuilt, so all the old tile roofs, walls and architecture were repaired and rebuilt. At that moment, I thought that, unfortunately, I and the Vietnamese people will no longer be able to see the legacy. Since then, I decided to produce a photo book on temples and pagodas in Vietnam to record the priceless images, with the desire that the future generations can feel the beauty of the ancient architecture.”

“With love for my hometown of Vietnam, I decided to record the beautiful images of ancient pagodas in a photo book, before they disappeared due to "restoration", he added.

Plain and delicate picture on the monk's room at Bo Da Pagoda, in Bac Giang province taken by Nicolas Cornet.

The photo book gathers the architecture of ancient temples and pagodas. In particular, it focuses on the fine art details of the heritage that sometimes not many Vietnamese know. Through the book, the readers can see that the ordinary life in the Buddhist temples is described as very special and delicate. The book consists of five chapters. The first two chapters talk about the temples and pagodas in the northern region, while the third chapter focuses on the temples and pagodas in Hue and Hoi An and the last two chapters talk about the temples and pagodas in the southern region. Every chapter, he has spent a page to describe the beauty of architecture, fine art sculpture or Buddhist visual arts. Along with ordinary life at the temples and the close ties with community, villages were also described. "The images I take are mainly about the daily life of Vietnamese people. I like the close ties with people and showing it through my pictures", he said.

In Hue, Nicolas had the opportunity to sit conversing with the monks, to experience the spiritual life of a Buddhist. In order to have the best photo angle, sometimes, he asked to stay in the temples for two or three days. "Temple architecture in Hue is very different from the northern region, there are many green trees around and water wells, in addition, feng shui is given special importance there" Nicolas shares.

Sharing about his journey, Nicolas said that the temples in the northern region were not only Buddhist places of worship, as in other countries in the world, but also a place to worship Kings and national heroes. He was most impressed with the image of many people going to the temples during the most important traditional festival of the year such as the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival or the first lunar month's Full Moon Day festival, to pray for peace, health and luck. In addition, people go to the temple to enjoy pure space at the temple, he added.

The daily spiritual life of Vietnamese people.

Not only working as a photographer, Nicolas is always interested in the development of Vietnamese photography, because there is not any university training professionally on the subject. From there, he decided to take part in teaching photography and journalistic photography courses. Recently, he coordinated with the French Cultural Centre L'Espace, at No. 24 Trang Tien Street, in Hanoi, to implement many training photography project for young photographers, which were launched in 2013 in Ho Chi Minh City and have been organised in Hanoi since early November, 2018.

Spending time and effort to do the project, the only goal of Nicolas is sharing what he learns with his photography lovers. According to him, Vietnamese photographers should support young talents to create a new generation of photographers.

Talking about his next project, he said: "I will spend time to relax after implementing the project and intend to launch a book on Vietnamese cuisine. It is not just about introducing daily food, but also about my personal feelings about regional specialties. At the same time, in the book, I will share about the relationship between society, culture, people with food, or how to prepare dishes.”