Saigon – 1954 / Paris – 1958

GG01Graham Greene, one of the great writers of the twentieth century, was in Saigon in 1954, where he wrote his novel The Quiet American. He met Raymond Cauchetier at René de Berval’s house and liked his photos of the Vietnamese people so much that he offered to preface one of his albums, something he had never done for any photographer. But circumstances ruled the project out.

Some years later, in Paris, Graham Greene agreed, for the first and only time in his life, to be interviewed on television. For political reasons, the interview was conducted by a Hungarian channel.

He presented his novel The Quiet American along with Raymond Cauchetier’s album Saigon, two works that explored the deeply human side of the peoples of Indochina caught up in the war.


Kingdom of Cambodia – 1967

In 1967, Norodom Sihanouk, the head of state of Cambodia, launched a campaign to promote his country’s cultural treasures and tourist attractions. Photography was the key to the campaign and by chance several famous photographers had come to work at Angkor. But Sihanouk chose Raymond Cauchetier because he was enchanted by his album on Saigon and appreciated his view of the common people.

NS2Raymond Cauchetier stayed in Cambodia for two months, without taking a day’s rest. After taking several thousand photos, he waited anxiously for Sihanouk’s reaction. But the king was delighted, decorated him and invited him to set up a National School of Photography in Cambodia. A flattering offer that Raymond Cauchetier was unfortunately unable to accept, because of prior engagements.

Norodom had an air-conditioned safe built to protect the slides and negatives, which had been declared a national treasure. But shortly afterwards, he was overthrown by a coup d’état while he was on a visit to France. General Lon-Nol, who seized power, was in turn driven out by the Khmer Rouge not long after. They found the safe when they invaded the royal palace, and believing it contained jewellery, dynamited it. All the photos were destroyed. Nothing remains except a few copies that Raymond Cauchetier had kept as souvenirs.



PHOTOS DE CINEMA attracted much more interest in the United States than it did in France when it was published. The ASC, represented by John Bailey, asked Raymond Cauchetier to write a post for his famous blog summing up his career as a photographer which had begun well before the time of the New Wave.
The original text published on the ASC website is here.


John Alexander POPE

When I brought my tiger cub back to the Grand Hotel in Angkor, he graciously let himself be fussed over by a group of Americans.

I later discovered that one of the Americans was John Alexander Pope, exhibitions director at the famous Smithsonian Institution in Washington, a sort of private Louvre, which drew crowds from all over the world. Mr Pope asked to meet me because he wanted to know how I had found Bijou in the jungle. While he was there he looked at the unpublished photos of Cambodia and Vietnam that were yellowing in my drawers and was immediately enthusiatic.

He decided on the spot to show them at the Smithsonian Institution.

It took him two years to mount the exhibition but it was much larger than initially planned. It turned into a travelling show which toured museums in the United States for several years. Faces of Vietnam gave the Americans a glimpse of Indochina and its brilliant civilisations that they had not seen before and they loved it.

The exhibition was divided into two parts, one showed my photos and the other, landscapes by young artists, such as Rembrandt, Giorgione, Monet, David, and the Douanier Rousseau. My photos held their own. Nobody knew that the exhibition would never have happened if Bijou had not taken a nap on the terrace of the Grand Hotel in Angkor.