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Through social distancing collection, French photographer casts new light on Saigon architecture

Wednesday, July 28, 2021, 10:00 GMT+7
Through social distancing collection, French photographer casts new light on Saigon architecture
Turtle Lake in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Photographer Alexandre Garel’s recently released snapshots of Saigon’s unique architecture highlight a previously undiscovered layer of the city’s new builds amongst now empty streets.

Garel, a French photographer with years of experience in snapping photos of Saigon’s unique architecture, was born in 1971. 

He moved to Vietnam at the end of 2011 and immediately fell in love with the city, spending his days building a photo archive of local architectural landscapes.  

In 2019, Garel collaborated with architect Mel Schenck to create a photo book titled 'Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture.'

His most recent photo book, 'Saigon: Portrait of a City' (2020), features a collection of photos and essays centered on Saigon’s architectural legacies, created in collaboration with journalist Tim Doling.

In late May, as Saigon was entering a new phase of social distancing and streets quickly emptied of human life, Garel began snapping photos of something he had never seen before in the city: desolation.

Seizing the moment, Grael began taking pictures of iconic landmarks, including colonial French edifices, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Binh Tay Market, and Turtle Lake, in order to capture an eerie emptiness most Saigonese could never have imagined.

A section of once-busy Dong Khoi Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City has emptied due to Saigon’s latest social distancing mandate, which started on May 31, 2021. Photo: Alexandre Garel

A section of once-busy Dong Khoi Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City has emptied due to social distancing, which started on May 31, 2021. Photo: Alexandre Garel

The Ho Chi Minh City Opera House in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Alexandre Garel

The Ho Chi Minh City Opera House in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Alexandre Garel

An office building owned by the Ho Chi Minh City branch of the State Bank of Vietnam in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

A building owned by the Ho Chi Minh City branch of the State Bank of Vietnam in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

The Notre Dame Cathedral in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Binh Tay Market in District 6 of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Binh Tay Market in District 6, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

An office building belonging to the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

A building belonging to the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

The Central Post Office in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

The Saigon Central Post Office in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Shophouses on Trinh Hoai Duc Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Shophouses on Trinh Hoai Duc Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Alexandre Garel

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