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Breathing new life into old photos of fallen soldiers



Hoàng Văn Léo (right) and his sisters hold the new portraits of his two brothers who died during the resistance war against America. VNS Photo Vân Nguyễn

Thu Hà, Vân Nguyễn

HÀ NỘI — Sixty-year-old Hoàng Văn Léo could not hold back his tears as he held in his hands portrait photographs of his two elder brothers.

It’s been more than 50 years since he last saw his brothers alive, and now it feels like once again they are together. 

This meeting has been made so thanks to computer generated imagery, taking an old, battered and creased photograph and turning it into something new.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Léo’s brothers, Hoàng Văn Mèo and Hoàng Khắc Mẫn, joined the army when the resistance war against America was at its peak. Tragedy struck the family in 1973 when their deaths were pronounced, one after another. Devastated by the loss, Léo’s mother died a year later.

Until now, the remains of Léo’s brothers are still unaccounted for, which has made the healing process even more challenging for the whole family. The only things that remained of his brothers were two stained black-and-white portrait photographs, as small as a matchbox. The photos were taken on the days they joined the army.

The portrait of Hoàng Khắc Mẫn, Léo’ second older brother. VNS Photo Vân Nguyễn

Now, thanks to the efforts of a group of young photoshop experts in Hà Nội, these old images were repaired and turned into vivid colour photographs that look like they were taken today.

“When my eldest brother went to the battlefield, I was only six years old so I can just vaguely remember how he looked,” Léo said.

“We had the photos enlarged before, but they were still in black and white and blurry. Only now that I can see my brothers’ faces clearly, I recognise that my older son resembles my eldest brother while my younger son looks like my second brother.

“These images look so real and soulful. I am very touched. Last night my family could not sleep knowing that the photos had been restored. I kept thinking about this and could not hold back my emotions.”

Léo and his family left their home at 5am and travelled a 160-kilometre journey from northern Lạng Sơn Province to Hà Nội to meet and express their gratitude to the team behind the photographic work.

Lê Quyết Thắng, 32, head of the team, said he was surprised to see Léo’s whole family came all the way to collect the photos.

Their joy and enthusiasm is something he and his team could not imagine when they first started this voluntary project. 

One of the more than 200 old stained pictures which were repaired by the team. Photo courtesy of Team Lee

In more than a month, Thắng’s team of five photoshop experts has helped revive more than 200 old photos of fallen soldiers nationwide, all free of charge.

The idea for this campaign came from a request to restore a photo of a fallen soldier he received on his Facebook page on April 30, National Liberation Day.

“I was really curious about the story behind that photo. I checked and read the story very carefully,” Thắng said. 

“I thought that behind such a photo there is always a story with lots of tears and also heroic moments in the past that, somehow, we seem to have forgotten.

“I told my friends and my students and we then had an idea that we could reach out to the fallen soldiers’ families and restore their old photos. We hope that this campaign will help the young generation like us remember the sacrifice of the older generations for the nation’s independence.”

According to official estimates, more than 1.1 million soldiers under Việt Nam People’s Army have died during wars in Việt Nam since 1945.

The team’s initial plan was to help restore 75 photos as this year marks the 75th anniversary of War Invalids and Martyrs’ Day (July 27). But the demand for such work is so huge it exceeds their imagination. Only one day after the team posted the campaign information on social media, requests flooded in from families across the country.

“Now we have received more than 2,000 requests and have done more than 200 photos. We just forgot about the initial number of 75 photos,” Thắng said.

The team uses Photoshop to restore the photos, turn them into colour, print them and get them framed before sending them to the families, normally by post.

A photo is carefully put into a frame by the team members. VNS Photo Vân Nguyễn

On average, it takes about four to six hours to finish a photo. But in some cases in which photos are just sketches or in dilapidated conditions, it will take around three days to finish.

Thắng said: “The most difficult thing is we have to work in the night time, from 8pm to 3 or 4am, because we have work in the daytime. Sometimes, as we are all too focused on the story behind the dead soldiers’ photos, we could feel a chill go down our spines.”

Like Léo’s family, some other relatives would come to Thắng’s place to pick up the photos. In some special cases, the team would arrange trips to bring the photos back to the families who do not live too far away from Hà Nội.

“When we give them the photos, the families were all touched and cried a lot. There were tears from the elders. They even laughed in tears. It is very difficult for me to describe the feeling at that time. But that has become our motivation and we’re going to try harder to fulfil this task,” Thắng said.

“This campaign is just the beginning. We will try to do more to help and pay tribute to the families of fallen soldiers who have devoted their lives to the country’s independence.”

Léo’s family pose for a photo with the photoshop team members, holding the portraits of his brothers wrapped in the national flag. VNS Photo Thu Hà 

Like any family of fallen soldiers, Léo and his family members regard the photos of his brothers as a treasure. Before saying goodbye to the team, they wrapped the framed photos in a national flag that they have brought from home.

“The red colour of the flag represents the colour of blood. Millions of soldiers have fallen down for national independence,” Léo said.

“I hope that in the future the team will continue this work to preserve these photos for future generations, reminding them that many people have sacrificed their lives for us to have a happy life and for the nation to enjoy the independence we are having today.” VNS


Your Vietnam

Mexican artist finds new inspirations in Việt Nam




Artist Roberto Arcuate collects waste such as plastic pipes and gives them a new life in the form of porcelain sculptures. VNS Photo Minh Thu.

By Hương Thu

Mexican contemporary artist Roberto Arcaute has chosen Việt Nam as the final destination in his journey to finish his latest installation project.

The project, named Union: Narrations of a Civilisation, aims to convey a message about the environment. Its idea is to take and copy everyday waste objects and reproduce them in porcelain sculptures with all their labelling information in blue.

It will feature nine sculptures generated from different waste that the artist has selected. Three sculptures are based on the selection of domestic waste that is normally generated in the home like paper, glass, plastic bottles; three others are based on the selection of urban waste that is normally generated in areas where people coexist and the rest on based on the selection of commercial waste from offices, restaurants, and stores, usually food, paper, or cardboard.

In the later phase of the project, he intends to select some of the finished objects to create a form of conglomerate type mass with the help of clay, cement and oven heat.

He said: “The word UNION in this project refers to something obtained by conglomeration (gathering, piling up, and joining fragments). The project proposes to show how a narrative of a consumer society is constructed and how its waste can be reincorporated into our civilisation from reproductions of itself.”

The 46-year-old artist has pursued Union: Narrations of a Civilisation for five years under the sponsorship of the Mexican government. He conducted parts of his project in Mexico, the US, China and several others before coming to Việt Nam.

Arcaute chose Việt Nam as the final destination to finish his new installation project. VNS Photo Minh Thu. 

He first came to the country eight years ago as a tourist and had the opportunity to have first-hand experience of local culture. He was particularly impressed with Vietnamese handmade pottery due to its sophistication and uniqueness and decided to finalise his installation project in Bát Tràng Ceramic Village on his second visit.

He added: “Việt Nam has a culture similar to other countries in the region but also has its own identity and pottery is an example. The clay in Bát Tràng Village is different from the places I’ve been to. In addition, a most striking feature in each product is the craftsmanship.

“I have travelled to Jingdezhen Town, the ceramic capital of China. But I was still impressed on how meticulous it takes for each Bát Tràng artisan to create the best version of their works. They don’t focus on mass production.

“It has been a great adventure to have this visual experience. I think Bát Tràng is becoming famous in the world and soon we will hear much more about this wonderful area of Việt Nam.”

It took him a while to find the appropriate pottery workshop and kiln. Eventually he found one that could provide him with English-speaking assistants and a space to work without affecting its daily production.

It didn’t take him long to get accustomed to his new life and discover more exciting aspects from the simple things of city life.

Every day, the Mexican artist drives his motorbike from his apartment in the centre of Hà Nội to Bát Tràng Province, about 10km away. Possessing an international driver’s license, driving a motorbike has caused him no difficulties, unlike many other foreigners who might feel afraid of heavy traffic in the capital city.

“I leave home early in the morning and return at sunset,” he said. “Along the way, I always hear very special sounds. People say it’s the sound of summer cicadas. It was the first time in my life that I heard such sounds.

“Another interesting thing is that Hà Nội has a lot of rivers and lakes and it rains frequently this season. I find the climate here wonderful. My hometown is in Monterrey, a dry area with many deserts, hills and having no natural water source, so when I saw Hà Nội with many rivers and lakes, I was extremely excited. Whenever crossing the Red River, I often try to slow down to enjoy the view.

“The most important wealth is the kindness of every person and also the spirit of work that could be seen everyday. Without a doubt, that makes Việt Nam different from other countries.”

He is particularly impressed with the kindness of local people. VNS Photo Minh Thu.

Arcaute has also been collaborating with the Mexican Embassy in Việt Nam to conduct a series of art activities, like a conference at the Việt Nam University of Fine Arts.

“I feel very lucky because it is not easy to win such art support in my country,” he said.

Arcaute plans to have Union: Narrations of a Civilisation exhibited in both Mexico and Việt Nam next year, and at the same time, publish a book describing the entire project in four languages: Spanish, English, Chinese and Vietnamese.

The Mexican artist also revealed that he would like to travel to HCM City, Đà Nẵng and several other destinations during his next visit to explore the native culture, which might inspire him with his future works. VNS









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Your Vietnam

Photo contest highlighting beauty of Vietnamese islands kicks off



ISLAND BEAUTY – The beauty of the country’s islands and seas is featured in a photo contest “Hoàng Sa – Trường Sa – Nhà giàn DK trong trái tim tôi” (Paracel and Spratly Archipelagos and DK Platforms in My Heart). VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt

HCM CITY — Professional and amateur photographers across Việt Nam are encouraged to compete in a photo contest highlighting the beauty of Vietnamese Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa islands.

The contest themed “Hoàng Sa – Trường Sa – Nhà giàn DK trong trái tim tôi” (Paracel and Spratly Archipelagos and DK Platforms in My Heart) is co-organised by the Vừ A Dính Scholarship Fund, the HCM City Photography Association, and the “For Hoàng Sa – Trường Sa” Club.

According to the organisers, photos should feature the daily activities of people and soldiers in the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos and the DK platforms who are protecting the country’s sovereignty in the sea and islands.

The photos should also reflect the people’s love and gratitude for soldiers and people in the archipelagos and platforms.

Each contestant can submit up to two collections or 10 single photos in colour or black-and-while at by August 15.

Entries must be sent in a digital file in JPG format, with a maximum file size of 3 Megabytes and a resolution of 300dpi.

Contestants will be judged by Vietnamese photographers such as Nguyễn Hồng Nga, vice chairwoman of the city Photography Association, Nguyễn Thanh Tâm and Nguyễn Á.

The organisers will present a total of one first prize, two second prizes, three third prizes and five consolation prizes.

The winners will be announced on August 20.

The organisers will also select the 50 best photos for an exhibition at the Youth Cultural House in District 1 on August 25.

The Vừ A Dính Scholarship Fund and the “For Hoàng Sa – Trường Sa” Club also launched a writing contest on the potential and beauty of the sea and islands, the sacrifice of soldiers in protecting the country, and daily activities of fishermen.

Contestants can send their entries, short stories and poems, to the organisers via email [email protected] by August 15. — VNS


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World Cup winning coach Raul to lead Việt Nam’s futsal




World Cup champion manager Diego Raul Giustozzi will take charge of the Việt Nam national futsal team. Photo

HÀ NỘI — World Cup champion coach Diego Raul Giustozzi will take charge of the Việt Nam national futsal team and is expected to lift the team up at the coming AFC Futsal Asian Cup 2022 in Kuwait.

Việt Nam’s first time competing in the World Cup was in 2016 in Colombia where they finished in the quarter-finals.

At the same tournament Giustozzi, 44, guided Argentina to the top podium for the first time, beating Russia 5-4 in the final.

Earlier, the former Argentinian national player competed in Spain for many years before moving to be a coach in 2013.

He also led Argentina to take a silver at the South American Games in 2014 and the third Continental Cup in same year.

At club level, Giustozzi managed Spanish ElPozo Murcia FC since 2018 and grabbed second place of the Futsal UEFA Champions League 2019-20.

The Argentine manager whose contract’s details are not revealed, on August 1 called up 23 players for the first training camp in HCM City.

Most are veteran players with experience in various international tournaments in recent years such as goalkeeper Hồ Văn Ý, fixo Trần Văn Vũ, ala Lê Quốc Nam, and pivo Nguyễn Minh Trí.

Young faces such as Nguyễn Văn Hiếu and Châu Đoàn Phát and fixo Nhan Gia Hưng are also called up this time.

After five weeks of training, they will leave for Thailand for an invitational tournament on September 8-19 where they will play Iran, Morocco, Finland, Angola and the hosts.

They will compete in the Kuwait competition from September 25-October 20.

Việt Nam are in the same group as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and defending champions Japan.

Giustozzi is expected to help Việt Nam gain a good result and qualify for the Futsal World Cup 2024. VNS


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