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Vietnam At PeaceReview - Vietnam At Peace
by Philip Jones Griffiths
Trolley, 2005
Review by Christian Perring
Feb 12th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 7)

Philip Jones Griffiths is a major photojournalist.  Many of his photographs are available for view at the Magnum Photos website.  He has three books of photographs from Vietnam: Vietnam, Inc, 1971; Agent Orange, 2003; and the largest of the three, Vietnam at Peace, 2005.  It's a heavy tome with 305 pages, that requires handling with both hands and a large space to open up and view.  The photographs are in black and white, and each is accompanied with a short explanation of what it depicts.  The paper is high quality and the printing is also good.  It has 15 chapters, each of which has a page of text introducing it.  The book examines the effect of the Vietnam War on the country, with chapter titles such as "The Debris of War," "Victims of Agent Orange," "The Mai Lai Massacre," "Amerasians," "The Boat People," and "The War Museums."  Griffiths makes his opinion plain in his writing: the Vietnam War was a terrible wrong committed by the United States and other countries that caused irreparable damage to the people of Vietnam.  He also has great respect for those people, and he documents how they are recovering from the war. 

Griffiths has a great talent in composing his photographs.  Nearly every image in this book is striking or moving, especially after you have read the explanation of what the image shows.  This is most obviously true with pictures of children with facial and body deformities as a result of their mothers being exposed to Agent Orange, or people who were disfigured by bombs or bullets.  We also see people psychologically shattered by the traumatic experiences they have gone through.  The photographs show the damage wrought by the war and the poverty people endure.  Griffiths also shows some visits by American politicians and the world press occasionally coming in to cover issues, and both seem like self-serving intrusions to the country.  Some of the later pictures show signs of industrialization and commercialization, often with western products and logos being spread over the country.  Overall, this is a fascinating portrait of modern Vietnam with profoundly moral commentary.

 

 

Link: Publisher's webpage for book.

 

 

 

© 2007 Christian Perring

 

 

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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