Yves Coffin was a French consular official who served for many years in South East Asian countries. They included Indonesia (Jakarta), Cambodia (Phnom Penh), Laos (Vientiane) and the Philippines (Manila). He was also at various times consul in Kobe in Japan and Detroit in the United States. In 1960 he married the notable Indonesian novelist and short story writer Nh. Dini. They were divorced in 1981. In his later years Coffin lived in Nantes in France.
Coffin was a highly talented photographer who devoted much of his spare time to taking photographs of temples and art works in the countries to which he had been posted.
The Library purchased the photographs from Yves Coffin in a number of instalments between 1970 and 1976.
The Coffin Collection contains about 4700 photographs of ancient art, sculpture and archaeological sites in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. The photographs were taken by Coffin between about 1955 and 1972.
The largest group comprises about 3600 photographs taken in central and eastern Java and Bali. The Javanese works depict temples, sculptures and rock carvings dating from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. They include views of the Buddhist temple complex at Borobudur, the Hindu temple complex at Prambanan, and the Candi Surawana, Kalasan, Mendut, Panataran and Sari temples, as well as photographs of sculptures, reliefs, friezes, ornaments, wall panels, entrances, doorways, niches and other features within the temples. There are also many photographs of sculptures held in the National Museum in Jakarta. There are a relatively small number of Balinese photographs, including the eleventh century tombs at Gunung Kawi, the cave at Goa Gadja and the temple of Pura Maospahit.
The Khmer photographs total nearly 1700 and depict monuments of the Khmer Empire which extended over Cambodia, Laos and southern Vietnam from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries. They include many photographs of the Khmer capital Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Baphuon, Banteay Srei, Phnom Bakheng, Ta Promh and other temples at Angkor, and temples such as Bakong, Prasat Banon, Beanteay Chmar, Phnom Bayon, Phnom Chisor, Muang Tam, Phimai and Phum Prasat. The subjects include gates, staircases, galleries, courtyards, doorways, lintels, pilaster decorations, reliefs, friezes, pediments and sculptures. There are also photographs of Khmer sculptures and figures in the national museums of Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand and the provincial museum at Kompong Thom.
The kingdom of Champa controlled the coastal regions of central and southern Vietnam from the eighth to the nineteenth centuries. The 300 Cham photographs in the Coffin Collection are of sculptures held in the Da Nang Municipal Museum and the National Museum of Vietnam in Saigon. They include pedestals, colonettes, reliefs, dancing figures, heads of deities, lions, garudas and elephants.
The final group consists of 102 photographs of Thai temples, sculptures, statues of Buddha and other figures. They include the ruined temples of Wat Phra Sri Mahathat at Lopburi, Wat Pra Si Sampet at Ayudhya, Wat Mahathat at Sukhothai and Wat Phra Singh at Chiang Mai.
The photographs are held in the Pictures Section at PIC/9192/1-63 LOC PIC Cab. 3178-3180
The Australian National University Library holds a collection of photographs of Khmer monuments donated by Yves Coffin (1 volume and 8 boxes).
Coffin, Yves, The beauty of the stones of Angkor, Hemisphere, vol. 20 (11), Nov. 1976, pp. 25-29
Coffin, Yves, Siva’s temples at Gedong Sanga, Hemisphere, vol. 17 (7), July 1973, pp. 20-24