REID YALOM - Vietnam: Colonial Legacy

May 16 - June 27, 2015

Please join us for an Opening Reception on Saturday, May 16, from 6-9pm


Smith Andersen North is pleased to present its first solo exhibition for photographer Reid Yalom. The work in this exhibition was made over five years, roughly 2007 through 2011, when Yalom traveled widely through Vietnam. During this time, he photographed many aspects of its French colonial legacy--a legacy that created much of the urban landscape of modern Vietnam, and became the underpinnings of the half-century of war and turmoil that followed. 


In certain places the colonial presence is self-evident, while in others it is hidden away. (The jungle overruns buildings only seventy years old, making them seem as ancient as Roman aqueducts.) Today, many of the largest and most beautiful colonial buildings are used as government buildings, museums, and embassies, but they also serve as hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and residencies. 


In Ho Chi Minh City and other thriving cities, colonial buildings are being replaced at an alarming rate. Decay and development are literally erasing history. Only the oldest people have any memory of this colonial period and few speak French, which was once widespread there. Capturing the remaining evidence of French colonialism in Vietnam is at the heart of this photographic project. 


Ried Yalom is a Northern California photographer whose work has been widely published and exhibited. He began taking pictures as a teenager and took courses throughout his time as an undergraduate, first at Bowdoin College then at Stanford University under the direction of Leo Holub. He graduated from Stanford in 1978 with a degree in Philosophy. Yalom continued his education with a degree in International Relations from the Monteray Institute in 1983. In 1989, he rededicated himself to photography, taking courses at UC Berkeley extension, where he studied with Mark Citret. Yalom became Citret's photo assistant for the next five years and under his tutelage learned large format photography and the fine art of black and white printing. 



Top ImageOpera Seats, Haiphong Theatre, Vietnam, 2008. 

About this image: In the mid-1930s Haiphong had a population of 25,000 French citizens. One can imagine the central social role this theatre once held. 


Bottom ImageCondemned Prisoner Cell, Hanoi Central Prison, 2007. 

About this image: The Central Prison in Hanoi, Maison Centrale, is best known to foreigners as the "Hanoi Hilton," and as the prison where Senator John McCain and a number of other American pilots were incarcerated during the Vietnam War. The prison was built by the French colonial regime in 1898, and used for more than fifty years to hold tens of thousands of criminals and political prisoners. It served as the headquarters for the Surete, the French secret police, who practiced water torture and some of the first electroshock torture. The cell in this photo was used for Vietnamese prisoners awaiting the guillotine or other corporal punishment.