What is your photography background?
Sébastien: I discovered photography at the Fine Arts University in Paris and then started shooting street photography during my 20s, as well as various assignments and personal projects — including my first trip to Vietnam in 2003.
François: I started photography as a hobby in high school and was a photo editor for four magazines in Paris over four years. Then I became a full-time freelance photographer until NOI Pictures was founded.
When did you get the idea for creating NOI Pictures?
François: I think it was around 2005, but the idea became more realistic around 2007. It was urgent to provide clients with reliable photographers and photographers with reliable assignments.
Why did you choose to base yourselves in Hanoi?
Sébastien: Because to me Hanoi is one the most exciting places in the world. Even now after eight years living there I get surprised every morning…
François: A bit of destiny and a bit of luck, I always had Asia in my mind since my early childhood. It could have been somewhere else, but I felt incredibly comfortable in Hanoi since my very first day in the city 14 years ago. Though we founded NOI Pictures in Hanoi, we are constantly travelling all over Vietnam and Southeast Asia with photographers also based in Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Shanghai and Bangkok.
Why is having a homegrown photography agency so important for Vietnam?
François: We believe that too many photographers think they can be excellent in every field — which can’t be true — and that can be misleading for clients. NOI Pictures is here to advise and provide clients with an extensive choice of skills and styles, adapted to their specific needs, with guaranteed results.
We also protect the interests of our collaborators; we think it is essential to provide photographers with a reliable structure where they can find support for production. NOI Pictures allows them to focus on what they do best; creating images.
How difficult was it to set up?
Sébastien: It wasn’t really difficult. Since we were the first to open a rep agency in Vietnam, the most exciting part was to share our vision with our staff and photographers to build what we are now; a roster of 11 commercial photographers and more than 40 contributors in our stock image bank.
What problems have you experienced with copyright? How are you resolving this?
Sébastien: If a few publications and companies have indeed used some of our photographers’ work without authorization or appropriate licensing, it’s usually due to a lack of information.
Copyright and authorship are notions that are often misunderstood, and everyone in the creative industry has to face similar issues in this still-emerging market. But Vietnam is now open to the world; more and more companies acknowledge that legal control of media usage protects them, by securing the creative work they have invested in.
How easy or difficult has it been to find good photographers to have on your books?
Sébastien: There are many talented photographers in Vietnam, but we’re keen on building strong, long-term relationships with collaborators who are willing to share our vision. Mutual trust is essential to guarantee the best work process to our clients.
Sébastien: We now discover emerging photographers who are showing some very interesting work, thanks to social media and local publications. And we recently saw Vietnamese photographers showcased in international festivals and winning prestigious prizes. How’s that for an improvement?