A café owner laboriously searched photos of a far-off past, printed and hang them on the walls in a café.
Whereas cafés and restaurants tend to be decorated in modern styles, a few spaces are decorated in a memories-evoking vintage style that makes an impression that life is unchanged through time. The vintage style not only shows the owner’s taste but also leads clients to a particularly good and successful world.
A café on Dinh Tien Hoang Street in the Citadel appears to be hustle and bustle, typical of a modern pace of life. It is expected that life is also busy inside the café, but clients will be surprised as there is something nostalgic, leading them to an ancient space that is quiet and graceful. This seems hidden in the photos that were hung by the owners, more or less expressing the opposite that not everyone can recognize.
Despite a modern designed wall, the colors black and white are of the past and of the old scenery and architecture. There are photos of the roof of a church with the tall bell tower, the Indochina-style architecture that no longer exists, the scenes of streets with only pedestrians and cyclists, and the small boats nestled under Truong Tien Bridge in the early morning. These simple things have brought the viewers back to their own place of the past.
Old villas, old streets and old churches bring present viewers to the old memories
Some other cafés and restaurants also collect similar photos for decoration to remind their clients of the past memories that are hard to gain back in real life. Those photos are both named and anonymous, but they all hide feelings in each angle and seem to hold viewers longer.
For the elderly generations who had firsthand experience in that scenery, those photos were also part of the history of their own. For the younger generations, the photos of the old time evoke in them curiosity, comparison and contrast, and surprise as well.
“There are streets that no longer exist now, paddy fields that become crowded residential areas now and bicycles that stay only in people’s memories. All these have brought me back to a far-off space. The photographers must not have known that their photos have existed for ages and evoked present viewers both nostalgia and curiosity,” said Hong Van, who love pictures of the past.
Van added that she felt the time stopped when she was in front of those photos. She did spend some of her spare time going to the places in the photos to explore more about them.
Nguyen Khac Trung, 35 years old, who considered himself just mature enough in his middle age, owns a collection of many photos of Hue in the old days. The photos are both experiences and memories of what happened in his life which, together with him, witness changes through time and history.
“I ever saw the scenery, passed the houses and had many memories with the places in those photos,” Trung said, expressing the intention of opening a café and having it decorated with the old photos as a reminder of his childhood.
His intention became true for not only Trung but also clients who share the same interest. Trung said that many of his clients, some of whom were expatriates returning home in Hue, got astonished when they arrived at his café. They have found something familiar just as the images are still around out there.
“Some people became touched because they found in those photos a familiar street and their house on the street. Regretfully, they no longer belong to them,” Trung said.
The old days and romances that seems to fade through time still stay somewhere in the treasured photos that were captured by the contemporaries.
Story and photos: NHAT MINH