[sixties-l] 'Another Vietnam' photo exhibit: Seeing why the Vietnamese won (fwd)

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Date: Mon Apr 01 2002 - 16:27:13 EST

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    Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 10:55:40 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: 'Another Vietnam' photo exhibit: Seeing why the Vietnamese won

      'Another Vietnam' photo exhibit: Seeing why the Vietnamese won

    Via Workers World News Service
    Reprinted from the March 28, 2002
    issue of Workers World newspaper


    By Paddy Colligan

    "Obstacles make you clever," said Ho Chi Minh to Dinh Dang
    Dinh, the photographer charged with taking pictures of the
    Vietnamese leader.

    Ho was referring to Dinh's immediate difficulties in finding
    photographic supplies and the rest of the stuff he would
    need to do his job in a Vietnam immersed in the French phase
    of its long national liberation struggle. This observation
    might as well have been a metaphor for the entire war

    Images of that effort are now available in "Another Vietnam:
    Pictures from the Other Side," a photo exhibit and catalog
    of photos by Vietnamese photographers.

    The photographers worked throughout the U.S. war with the
    mandate to document the Herculean efforts of the Vietnamese
    people. The Vietnamese struggle became the inspiration for
    the oppressed throughout the world struggling for their
    freedom in the second half of the bloody 20th century.
    Vietnamese photographers took these pictures to inspire
    their people conducting the war.


    Their assignment was carried out under particularly
    difficult circumstances. They traveled and lived the life of
    the people whose lives and deaths they documented. They
    themselves often fell victim to the bombs and disease.

    They usually had only one camera and lens, necessitating
    great risks, since without telephotos they had to be in the
    thick of the action to get good shots. They often had to
    process their own film in underground tunnels or outdoors at
    night, washing film and prints in streams and hanging them
    on trees to dry.

    The photos in this exhibit could illustrate a manual on
    People's War. As much as photographs can, this collection
    captures what it was that enabled the Vietnamese to defeat
    the enormous, better armed, endlessly financed U.S. war

    After seeing the pictures, you know why the Vietnamese won.

    Their victory over the U.S. invasion was neither accidental
    nor enigmatic. It was to be expected from a people who
    obstinately devoted themselves to the war effort, continuing
    on in the face of millions of dead, injured or missing,
    focusing their considerable energy, strength, cleverness,
    righteousness, enthusiasm and will to achieving victory.

    Their determination was given focus and organization by
    their political leaders, shown in a few frames in a huge
    open-air meeting with village militias and soldiers.


    The photos are grouped into five sections to give a rough
    continuity to the narrative, and are accompanied by
    informative captions. The first and last sections, "The
    Waning Days of French Indochina" and "Birth of a Nation,"
    are overshadowed by the middle three sections, which contain
    the main story.

    "The Home Front: A House Divided" refers both to the
    division of Vietnam into North and South after its victory
    over French colonial rule in 1954 and to the fact that the
    war was conducted in the midst of the villages and paddies
    of the countryside.

    "The Trail" is a look at the incredible and vital effort
    embodied in the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

    The equally enlightening "Quyet Thang: Resolve to Win" shows
    the many civilian fronts of the war effort.

    There is necessarily considerable overlap among these
    sections, but it is not distracting--nothing can take away
    the power of the story told by these photographs.

    If this exhibit contains one formal lesson, it is that a
    photographer exercises judgment when taking a photograph,
    selecting from many possible images and perspectives to tell
    a story. As much as equipment and location, this choice
    shapes the work and its message.

    The photos of the Vietnam War available in the U.S. during
    and since the war have almost entirely been limited to the
    work of photographers who were showing the U.S. war,
    including its horrific effects on the Vietnamese. These
    photos helped fuel the massive antiwar movement in the U.S.
    But something different was needed in Vietnam.

    The Vietnamese photographers documented their tumultuous
    revolutionary struggle to help their own people understand
    and be encouraged by their role in achieving victory. We in
    the U.S. sometimes caught a glimpse of this inspiring
    perspective when Vietnamese photographers' work was
    reprinted in progressive antiwar publications--like Workers

    Seeing these inspiring photographs--large, powerful and well-
    printed--displayed on the wall of a museum in New York is an
    experience that moves you through a range of emotions. Our
    movement in the U.S. owes so much to the Vietnamese, and
    here we can at last see them at the very moments when they
    were doing the ordinary and the extraordinary things that
    comprised their struggle. There is no question about the
    heroism of those pictured--and those taking the pictures--
    but it is the joy, comradeship and determination in going on
    with life in the midst of incredible effort and mortal
    danger that makes the pictures so striking.

    Some observations from seeing the photographs:

    * This was a war that could not have been won without the
    youth. A teenaged girl is shown pensively playing a guitar,
    one of a unit of young girls whose job was to deactivate the
    criminal, delayed-fuse bombs the U.S. dropped on the
    Vietnamese countryside. The caption states that she and her
    entire unit were killed the following day; only bits of
    their clothing were left. There is the astonishing picture
    of elated young men who have just learned that their
    applications to go into the military to fight the U.S. have
    been accepted. North Vietnam had no draft until late in the

    * It was a war with a role for everyone. A very old man fans
    a young truck driver resting in a hammock on break from the
    arduous trek on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A puppet troupe is
    shown in the jungle on tour to play for the troops. Women
    haul heavy fishing nets on the Mekong, work traditionally
    done by men.

    * The Ho Chi Minh Trail was an amazing undertaking. It was
    begun in 1959 to solve the problem of supplying the forces
    operating inside South Vietnam. An early picture shows
    people laden with heavy packs laboring up a narrow, rocky
    path. Later pictures from the 1970s show trucks traveling in
    daylight along the trail, six lanes wide at places, with gas
    stations, underground fuel and telegraph lines, and rest

    * The battle scenes are very dramatic and were obviously
    captured at great risk. There are forests blazing with
    napalm. One shot shows soldiers from both sides exchanging
    fire. The ARVN unit--the U.S.-backed puppet army of South
    Vietnam--was wiped out a short time after the picture was
    taken. A shot shows troops moving through a row of houses
    using passageways punched through interior walls of adjacent
    buildings. This enabled them to move through neighborhoods
    with minimum exposure. There are many photos of armed women
    militia patrolling, practicing anti-aircraft fire, and with
    a captured U.S. pilot.

    The exhibit will be shown from April 17 to July 7 at the
    National Geographic Explorers Hall in Washington, D.C. A
    high-quality catalog has been published which includes all
    the pictures and captions plus some additional text:
    "Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the Other Side"
    by Tim Page (National Geographic, 2002, $50.00). The exhibit
    appeared earlier at New York's International Center for

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