La Casa Del Habano Ho Chi Minh City officially launched the Elva Humidor, a collaboration between esteemed photographer Réhahn and Elie Bleu, in early November.
Moving to Vietnam after he visited for the first time while on a humanitarian mission with the French NGO Les Enfants du Vietnam. Réhahn has called the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage village of Hoi An home for 20 years.
A frequent traveller to Cuba, encountered Elva in Old Havana in 2013. The woman’s fierce and fiery presence caught his attention.
“With a wreath of red flowers adorning her head, she resembled Frida Kahlo,” said Réhahn. Although he hadn’t planned on taking any photos at that moment, Elva’s challenge to exchange something for a picture intrigued him. “Curiosity piqued, I sat down next to her and inquired about her oversized cigar, wondering if she actually smoked them. Elva chuckled and revealed that the cigars were mainly for tourists, as she couldn’t afford to indulge in them daily. In a spontaneous gesture, I offered her a Cohiba Esplendido, which she accepted with a wide grin.
The two spent over an hour together, enjoying their cigars and engaging in conversation about history and Cuba. The vibrant portrait of Elva quickly came to embody the spirit of Cuba and became the most iconic portrait in Réhahn’s Cuba series.
Made in France by Elie Bleu, with a Padouk Wood exterior and Spanish Cedar interior, the 250-count humidor is limited to 66 pieces. The series also includes an ashtray made from Kaolin clay in the French city of Limoges which is limited to 105 pieces. An Elva cutter and lighter are limited to 155 pieces each.
Réhahn returned to visit Elva numerous times after that first encounter and Elva’s daughter receives support through Réhahn’s Giving Back Project. Through the project, Réhahn has an opportunity to take on social responsibility by giving back to those who inspired the image. With this philosophy of “conscious photography”, both the subject and the artist benefit.
The last remaining print of Elva hangs in Rehahn’s gallery in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.