35 Rare Portrait Photos of Vietnameses From the 1880s

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Born 1838 in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, French photographer Émile Gsell served in the military from 1858 to 1866, during which time he learned photography and travelled to Cochin China (now Southern Vietnam), becoming the first commercial photographer based in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).

Portraits of Vietnameses taken by Émile Gsell in the 1880s

On the strength of his Cambodian photographs Gsell was awarded a medal of merit at the Vienna International Exhibition, which was held from 1 May to the 31 October 1873 and during which Gsell exhibited two albums of photographs, one of the ruins of Angkor and the other of “the mores, customs, and types of the Annamite and Cambodian populations”.

In April 1875, Gsell accompanied a mission, led by Brossard de Corbigny, to Huế, though he was not allowed to photograph the people he met nor the Citadel. However, two of his photographs demonstrate that he was in Hanoi at the end of 1875 and from November 1876 to January 1877 Gsell was able to take many views of Tonkin (now Northern Vietnam).

Gsell’s photographs were marketed by Auguste Nicolier, who sold chemicals and photographic supplies in Saigon from 1876.

Émile Gsell died at home in Saigon on 16 October 1879.

These rare and amazing photographs Gsell took portraits of Vietnameses in the 1880s.

Two wealthy girls from An Nam, 1880

A governor in Cho Lon district, 1880

A Saigon girl, 1880

A wealthy Annamese woman and her daughter, 1880

Portrait of a wealthy family with servant man behind, 1880

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