Photography has been an occupation in Lai Xa village, Hoai Duc district, Ha Tay province for more than 100 years. Nguyen Dinh Khanh, a native of Lai Xa, is considered one of the founders of photographic industry in Vietnam.
Khanh began photography at the age of 16. Two years later in 1892, he opened his own photographic studio called Khanh Ky in Hanoi. The Khanh Ky Photoshop quickly became well known in the capital city, and later opened branches in several other largest cities in the country, including Hai Phong, Nam Dinh and HCM City.
Dinh Khanh was not only a successful photographer, but also a patriot. In 1907, he joined in the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc patriotic movement. Three years later, he went to France to further his photographic studies. There, he established close relations with many Vietnamese patriots including Phan Chu Trinh and Phan Van Truong. In 1911, Khanh opened selected as first winner for his photos of the French President in a contest with hundreds of skilled photographers. He later became well known in Europe.
In 1916-1917, Khanh used his studio to conceal his revolutionary activities. Khanh owned many photo shops in Europe. He assisted the financing of Nguyen Ai Quoc during his time in Paris.
After Vietnam again gained independence from the French colonialists, in May 1946, Nguyen Dinh Khanh sent a letter to President Ho Chi Minh expressing his wish to return to Vietnam. Khanh also wanted to bring new advancements in photography.
However, in May that year, he passed away at the peak of his career. In June the same year, President Ho Chi Minh went to France to pay tribute to Mr. Khanh, also known as Khanh Ky. He was in great debt to Mr. Khanh Ky who helped him learn photography during his early days in France.
Vietnamese people, and the people of Lai Xa village in particular, appreciate Khanh’s contributions photography and to his country.
Vice General Secretary of the Vietnam Photographers’ Association, Chu Tri Thanh, said, "President Ho Chi Minh and Mr. Khanh are the founders of Vietnamese photography and are bright examples of for us to follow".
Every year, local people celebrate the anniversary of Mr. Khanh’s death remembering his contribution to the centenary development of the village’s photographic craft. In 2000, photographic clubs and training courses were set up in the village.
Nguyen Van Thanh, Head of the Khanh Ky Photographic Club, confided "We are very proud of Nguyen Dinh Khanh for his devotion to the photographic craft as well as his contribution to the national revolution. We try our best to continue to develop the craft and contribute to the development of Vietnamese photography".
Over the last century, Lai Xa villagers have been instrumental in spreading the art of photography throughout Vietnam. Lai Xa natives such as Thinh Ky, Phuc Lai, My Lai and Kim Lai have opened hundreds of photographic studios nationwide. Last year, the Ha Tay province’s People’s Committee issued a Decision in recognizing the traditional photographic occupation of Lai Xa village.
Reprinted from VOV News