by Tao Jun, Dong Hua
HO CHI MINH CITY, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- Throngs of adults both young and old were mesmerized by 50 works of art at a show here recently depicting the unadulterated beauty of women.
But the pictures were far from those focusing on traditional aesthetics. They were of females wearing nothing but their "birthday suits."
Most of the adults were enthusiastic and curious about the unprecedented "Tao Tac" (The Creator's Work), which was Vietnam's first-ever nude photo exhibition.
The show featured 50 black-and-while nude photos shot by Hao Nhien, a 42-year-old photographer from Ho Chi Minh City, who used to be a dancer and choreographer.
"For me, it was not too difficult to obtain a license to hold this exhibition, because my colleagues and I had carefully selected the photos which are in line with artistic etiquette," the well-known photographer told reporters.
The pictures Hao Nhien selected, artfully use light and shadows to subtly reveal the beauty, mystery and form of his subjects. Light delicately bounces off the contours of backs and buttocks and shadows skillfully maintain modesty.
"This nude photo exhibition is all about subtlety. Hao Nhien chooses the perfect angles to shoot from and arranged the light precisely, which beautifies the curves of women in an attractive and mysterious manner, not in a vulgar way," Vietnamese photographer, Hoang Nam said.
"This exhibition allows art lovers to have the opportunity to enjoy pieces that glorify women's beauty," said local painter Thanh Binh.
Most nude art lovers echoed Hoang Nam and Thanh Binh's sentiments, but some expressed their regret, saying that the first-ever nude photo exhibition could have been much more impressive if it had contained photos which were more diversified in terms of revealing women's beauty, especially their breasts.
They argued that if photos of women's breasts are non-artistic and not in line with artistic etiquette, then many photos of topless women from Vietnam's Central Highland region would not have received awards in international and national contests.
"Nude paintings and nude photography have distinct characteristics, with emphasis on form, composition, emotional content and other aesthetic qualities, and the keyword here is 'nude'," Trieu Khac Tien, a lecturer at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts, told Xinhua on Friday.
"Therefore, Vietnam should develop nude-related aesthetics for people, especially the youth, as many simply become ensnared by pornography," the lecturer said.
The painter-lecturer said he has been mesmerized by breathtaking nude photos taken by famous Vietnamese artists such as Thai Phien, Huy Hoan and Quoc Dinh, but could only see them through websites or Facebook accounts, not at official exhibitions.
"Vietnam and China share many similarities, including fine art nude photography. China held its first nude photo exhibition as early as 2001, and Vietnam should have followed suit," Tien said, noting that the exhibition drew a great deal of attention from local people and state media.
"At that time, Xinhua reported: Far from being shocked, Chinese audience have calmly received the country's first nude photo show, which has been staged here in this capital (Guangzhou) of south China's Guangdong Province since January 11."
"Around 1,000 people visit the show daily, and more than 200 albums containing the pictures featured at the exhibit are sold every day," the Vietnamese lecturer said, referring to the show in China.
Xinhua also quoted a leader of the Fujian Photographic Art Society, a co-sponsor of the photo show, as saying that nude photography is no longer taboo in Chinese people's mind, he added.
Nude photography is also no longer taboo in Vietnamese people's mind, but according to Tien and many other Vietnamese art lovers, nude photos taken by Vietnamese photographers like Hao Nhien are more or less "en vogue," not as graphic as artworks by their foreign peers.
"The exhibited photos (by Hao Nhien) are mainly arrays, comprising blocks and light which are benign, and float somewhere, yet go deep into the art of nude photography. It's like drinking wine before a meal," famous Vietnamese photographer, Thai Phien, told Xinhua on Friday.
Thai Phien, born in 1960 in the central Thua Thien Hue province, is the author of Vietnam's first nude photo book and calendar christened "Xuan Thi" (Springtime).
He has pursued the art of nude photography for 25 years, and longed for his works to be exhibited in broad daylight for the first time.
"I have applied for licenses to hold nude photo exhibitions, but all failed. Now, I'm looking for publishing houses, which are deeply aware of and enthusiastic about the arts, to publish my new nude photo books," he saud.
"I have created not only 'Springtime', but also 'Summertime' and 'Wintertime," Thai Phien said, smiling broadly and bringing his mustache to life.
"Springtime," the first nude photo book in Vietnam, was published in both Vietnamese and English in 2007 and features 71 photos which were highly appreciated by both readers and management agencies alike.
At that time, local culture management agencies stated that nude art is still a new form for the Vietnamese. As part of the trend towards increased international integration, it is necessary to help shape and develop the public's aesthetic tastes, in step with traditional cultural values, so the population can learn to appreciate and understand this new form of art.
According to Nguyen Phu Cuong, deputy director of the Photography and Fine Arts Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the criteria for nude photos include work which portrays high aesthetic values, no images of sexual organs, and the photographer must have the written consent of the models taking part in official documentation.
In mid-September, Huynh Van Muoi, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Association, said the municipal Department of Culture and Sports' decision to license Hao Nhien's nude photo exhibition is very meaningful, blowing fresh air into the environment of fine art nude photography.
"This exhibition is meaningful both in terms of the arts, and freedom and reform," he said.
With the first nude photo exhibition having already taken place in Vietnam, local photographers' devotion to nude art has been officially recognized by cultural management agencies and the public.
"We firmly believe that Vietnamese nude art, once compared to a malnourished child by my favorite artist Thai Phien, will grow stronger, because the child has been fed well and grown up," Tien said, smiling brightly.