French photographer Rérahn Croquevielle has presented his world-renowned photograph of a smiling old lady in Hoi An titled ‘Hidden Smile’ to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum.
The event, organised on March 8, was a collaboration between the French Embassy and the Institut Français in Viet Nam.
Rérahn encountered the lady in the photo, Bui Thi Xong, then 74, when he was walking along a riverside in Hoi An in 2011.
The French photographer said on his website that the photo symbolises something powerful, present in Viet Nam: the joy of life despite old age and poverty.
He recalled Mrs Xong posed in quite an unnatural manner when he asked her if it was possible to take a photograph of her.
When seeing her portrait, Xong was surprised as she wasn’t used to seeing herself in photographs. By reflex, Xong placed one hand over her forehead and the other in front of her smile.
The photo was chosen as the cover for his 2014 book titled ‘Viet Nam – Mosaic of Contrasts’, which captures the French photographer’s journey in Viet Nam, and its people, culture and lifestyle through 145 photos.
The book has received international acclaim and Xong’s face has appeared in a number of international newspapers such as the National Geographic, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Mail and the BBC, among others.
Her image also appeared several times in TV broadcasts, one of which even concluded that she was the most beautiful women in the world through the eyes of the French photographer.