Catherine Karnow is a National Geographic photographer (based in San Francisco) and has been shooting in Vietnam since 1990. After twenty-five years photographing this country, Vietnam has become her defining body of work, with iconic and soulful photographs gracing the publications of Smithsonian, National Geographic, the book Passage to Vietnam, the Ford Foundation and others.
A dark yet hopeful 1990 gave way to the mid-nineties and a country buzzing with the excitement of a promising future. Twenty years later, changing the face of Vietnam are the returning Viet Kieu, who are bringing a whole new kind of energy. The images also remind us of the legacies of the U.S. War, both sad and also uplifting.
There are moving, tender images as well as beautiful stories of healing and forgiveness with the extraordinary humanitarian work done by American veterans in the country where they once fought. The images also show her unique story of a 20-year friendship with General Vo Nguyen Giap and his family.
A selection of Catherine Karnow’s work is now part of the hotel art and available for public viewing at Martini Bar, 3rd Floor. 16:00 – 23:00 daily
WOMAN ON THE TRAIN, 1990 – In Central Vietnam,Trần Thị Điệp, a schoolteacher from Hanoi, rides the Ho Chi Minh City-Hanoi train, also known as the Reunification Express.
AMERSIAN BOY AND MOTHER, 1990 – Jim Lai and his Vietnamese mother show a photograph of her with her American husband, Jim’s father. They were a family until the father decided to return home to a family he already had, and had kept secret.
THE LAST ROYALTY, 1990 – The last of Vietnam's dying aristocracy, relatives of Emperor Bảo Đại, stand in their weed-choked family cemetery in Hue, Vietnam's former royal capital.
BURIAL OF GENERAL VO NGUYEN GIAP, 2013 – General Giáp’s coffin is transported to the burial site in Quảng Bình province, chosen not because it was his birthplace, but because the site was deemed auspicious, beautiful and fated correct.
National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow and the Old Hacks, Pulitzer award-winning AP correspondents Nick Ut and Peter Arnett at the Martini Bar, Caravelle Saigon, 27th April 2015.
FISHING JUNK, HA LONG BAY, 1994 – Photographed in 1995, the traditional fishing junk no longer exists. Amongst Halong Bay's 2,000 islands — a UNESCO world heritage site — a fisherman plies the waters in an early morning fog. With a 3,800 kilometer coastline, fishing is a major industry in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese have always been daring and productive fishermen.
VESPA GIRL GRABBING CHICKEN, 1994 – Phuong Anh Nguyen, a Viet Kieu, or Overseas Vietnamese, fled Vietnam and grew up in Southern California. She returned to Ho Chi Minh City in 1992, and opened the trendy Q-Bar. Her Viet Kieu identity is revealed by the way she grabs the chicken; Vietnamese don’t grab live chickens by their necks but by their feet.
VIETNAM AIRLINES, NEW STEWARDESS SCHOOL, 1994 – Anticipating an influx in tourism and business travel, Vietnam Airlines opens up new routes and a school for flight attendants.