Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Craftmanship in 1930 Vietnam as Seen in Paris' Specialized Municipal Libraries

In this photo series, the camera's lens focuses on Vietnamese artisans in 1930, zooming on the intricate details of wood carvings and patterns from pagodas across the country, with a generous dose of orientalism.

According to the online portal for several specialized municipal libraries in Paris, where these photographs were retrieved, these photographs were taken under the commission of the Service photocinématographique.

Alison J. Murray Levine noted in her book Framing the Nation: Documentary Film in Interwar France, the Service photocinématographique in Indochine was established after World War II as a bureau for the colonial government’s public relations. This establishment was part of France’s "film mission" in Indochina, characterized by an emphasis on films as a means to popularize Indochina in France and inform the colonial subjects about their "mother country," wrote Nick Deocampo in Early Cinema in Asia. Thus, the French government invested in camera equipment and documentaries that enabled them to advertised images of Vietnam for propaganda and publicity.

The images, which centers around craftmanship and architecture in three regions, were taken after the Service photocinématographique has outsourced their tasks to a private company called Société Indochine-Films.

More @ Saigoneer


  1. Ah, the french. fumbled away an empire. well done.

    1. Life in Saigon would have been wonderful in the first half of the century.

  2. Wow, very nice work. Do they still produce this by hand, or have they gone mechanized, and computer controlled?

  3. Yes and my favorites are lacquerware inlaid with mother of pearl in wall frames and my favorite, room dividers. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of mine. Thanks. Come to think of it, I do have some wedding gifts on the wall. Come on down! :)