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Remembering Dinh Tien Mau, a photographer known for capturing glamor of old Saigon

Friday, October 16, 2020, 14:22 GMT+7
Remembering Dinh Tien Mau, a photographer known for capturing glamor of old Saigon
A portrait of Dinh Tien Mau in 2016. Photo: Pham Cong Luan / Tuoi Tre

Famed Vietnamese photographer Dinh Tien Mau, the owner of the famous Vien Kinh Photo Studio in Saigon – the old name of Ho Chi Minh City – and the man who snapped dozens of portraits of popular artists in southern Vietnam, passed away on October 8 at the age of 85.

For over two decades from the early 1960s, Vien Kinh Studio at 227 Phan Dinh Phung Street, now Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, enjoyed excellent reputation for hosting magnificent photo exhibits featuring Mau’s works.

Portraits on display at the studio often included the hottest movie stars, singers, and theater performers of the time.

During the 1960s, Vien Kinh and Director Le Dan’s Binh Minh Studio on Bui Thi Xuan Street are the two go-to spots for Saigon dwellers in search of the right photographer to snap a perfect family portrait.

From left to right: Thang Long band, singer Le Thu, and singer Thanh Lan. Photo: Dinh Tien Mau

From left to right: Thang Long band, singer Le Thu, and singer Thanh Lan. Photo: Dinh Tien Mau

Dinh Tien Mau was born in Hanoi’s Lai Xa Village, an area known for turning out prolific Vietnamese photographers.  

He moved to Saigon with his family at the age of 13 and started working as an apprentice at Van Van Studio on the erstwhile Duranton Street, now Bui Thi Xuan Street, in District 1.

During his 10-year apprenticeship, Mau learned every detail of shooting, developing, and editing photos.

In 1958, he rented a house and opened a series of failed studios until Vien Kinh Studio finallyn stuck in 1963 and became well-known throughout the city until its closure in 2004. 

During its four-decade run, dozens of showbiz stars visited Vien Kinh to have their photos taken, including Thai Thanh, Kim Cuong, Tham Thuy Hang, Thanh Nga, Thanh Lan, Ut Tra On, and Hung Cuong. 

Many of his celebrity portraits have been featured on the covers of magazines, music albums, and books.

From left to right: singer Thanh Nga, actress Tham Thuy Hang, and singer Thai Thanh. Photo: Dinh Tien Mau

From left to right: singer Thanh Nga, actress Tham Thuy Hang, and singer Thai Thanh. Photo: Dinh Tien Mau

After 1975, when Vietnam was reunified, Mau continued his career as a photographer for Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper and Khan Quang Do (Red Scarf) newspaper before retiring to work as a freelancer in 1985.

From left to right: singer Thanh Nga, actress Tham Thuy Hang, and singer Thai Thanh. Photo: Dinh Tien Mau

From left to right: artist Thanh Nga, actress Tham Thuy Hang, and singer Thai Thanh. Photo: Dinh Tien Mau

Mau left behind an extensive legacy in the worlds of portrait photography and photojournalism. 

His most famous works include a collection of portraits of southern Vietnam’s celebrities which convey the grace and liveliness of the old favorites at the height of their stardom.

Many of his works are on exhibit in his hometown at the Lai Xa Photography Museum.

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Xuan Tung - Pham Cong Luan / Tuoi Tre News

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