VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. American G.I's often showed compassion toward the Vietcong. This sprang from a soldierly admiration for their dedication and bravery; qualities difficult to discern in the average government soldier. This VC had fought for three days with his intestines in a cooking bowl strapped onto his stomach. 1968

Philip Jones Griffiths: one of the ultimate photojournalists of history:


Warning: Graphic photos ahead:


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VIETNAM. This woman was tagged, probably by a sympathetic corpsman, with the designation VNC (Vietnamese civilian). This was unusual. Wounded civilians were normally tagged VCS (Vietcong suspect) and all dead peasants were posthumously elevated to the rank of VCC (Vietcong confirmed). 1967

Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths. – HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON

I’m currently living here in Saigon, and have obviously been thinking more about Vietnam in general.

For example, I’m currently staying in a hotel here in Saigon, with my super-fast wifi, enjoying my single-origin espresso, crossing the street and working out the park, and talking to 18-year old Vietnamese kids and working out with them (as they are listening to American rap music like Lil Wayne and Kanye West).

Then I think– the Vietnamese war wasn’t that long ago; times have changed.

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VIETNAM. Called a “little tiger” for killing two “Vietcong women cadre” – his mother and teacher, it was rumored. 1968

Here is one of the photos from Philip Jones Griffiths that moved me the most, the tenderness that American GI’s showing compassion towards their Viet Song Enemy:

C6275C8B-C43A-4F16-ABF0-4237B9AC9503
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. American G.I’s often showed compassion toward the Vietcong. This sprang from a soldierly admiration for their dedication and bravery; qualities difficult to discern in the average government soldier. This VC had fought for three days with his intestines in a cooking bowl strapped onto his stomach. 1968

I look at all these horrific photos from the Vietnamese war (VIETNAM INC by Philip Jones Griffiths), and now look at modern society– and have so much more gratitude. There is much more world peace now, yet I don’t think we should get too comfortable.

I watched Full Metal Jacket and saw how easy it was to dehumanize the ‘other’, especially in war.

VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970

Anyways, I have more hope and optimism for the future of humanity, for there to be more world peace through mutual cooperation, business, and open-mindedness in culture, music, food, etc.

Lots of good stuff to come from Vietnam– especially more connection with Vietnam with Japan, South Korea, and America:


EDD7844D-598D-4BB2-8DA2-206BCBF845FD
VIETNAM. In an attempt to impose the American value system on the Vietnamese, the Marines concluded operations called, in Orwellian Newspeak, “county fairs.” Villagers were taught how to wash their children, made to watch Disney films on hygiene, had their teeth pulled, were given real toilets with seats, and were introduced to filter tips. 1967

To go back to Philip Jones Griffiths, to me, he was one of the ultimate photojournalists of history. He was one of the instrumental forces to change the public opinion of the American public to be more anti-war in Vietnam. PJG (Philip Jones Griffiths) has proven that the camera is mightier than the sword.


1. Record the history of the human race

VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968

Even if not a single picture is never published, they exist. And that means that we are recording the history of the human race. If that’s all your doing, it still a very very worth while profession to be involved in. – Philip Jones Griffiths


2. Channel your anger into something positive/productive

BA3D2057-C9FB-49C5-A3A1-C2B686658EF7
VIETNAM. This boy was killed by U.S. helicopter gunfire while on his way to church – a Catholic church – whose members were avid supporters of the government, who were in turn pro-American. The result was a disillusioned urban population, reluctant to believe in or support their discredited leaders. 1968

I attempt to channel my anger into the tip of my forefinger as I press the shutter. Philip Jones Griffiths


3. People trust pictures; photography has great power!

49B8A20F-44CF-4E83-96BB-9F9833149519
CAMBODIA. 1980. Human remains. This Buddha reclined in a cave below a temple surrounded by the remains of many Cambodians. Situated near the town of Sisophon in the northeast of the country, the area had recently been occupied by Vietnamese troops.

People believe pictures. It’s a photograph that’s in your passport, not a painting. Now, George Bernard Shaw said, ‘I would exchange every painting of Christ for one snapshot.’ That’s what the power of photography is. Philip Jones Griffiths


4. Look at photos upside down to analyze composition

6C8CBDB6-2D17-4A7C-9C22-D4079F121431
SOUTH KOREA. Street Scene. The Korean War had been over for fourteen years. Most of South Korea had looked much as it had for centuries. This was the main street of Sokcho, a town in North Korea before the war began-now complimented with a reminder. 1967

The first picture of his I ever saw was during a lecture at the Rhyl camera club. I was 16 and the speaker was Emrys Jones. He projected the picture upside down. Deliberately, to disregard the subject matter to reveal the composition. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. Philip Jones Griffiths


5. Aim to make photography democratic!

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VIETNAM. South Vietnam. MACV headquaters, Tan Son Nhut Airport. These are MACV (MIlitary Assistance Command, Vietnam) personnel who were lectured monthly on the progress of pacification. 1970

Real photography is a wonderfully inclusive, democratic medium, whereas art photography is more often a private pursuit by conmen. Philip Jones Griffiths


6. Photos has the power to dictate the cultural memory of history

VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970

When Bill Gates started Corbis we were told that he needed images to fill those digital picture frames in his home, and many found this plausible. But now it’s pretty clear that he’s set out to control the visual history of the twentieth century. Philip Jones Griffiths


7. Inform the public with your photos!

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VIETNAM. South Vietnam. MACV headquaters, Tan Son Nhut Airport. These are MACV (MIlitary Assistance Command, Vietnam) personnel who were lectured monthly on the progress of pacification. 1970

What we get to think and know about the world is in the hands of a very few… A truly informed public is antithetical to the interests of modern consumer capital. Philip Jones Griffiths


8. You need both content and form!

7D0D4071-B6D9-4476-AE1C-B6C3CD727F14
VIETNAM. Human skulls were a favorite souvenir among the soldiers and their officers. The commander of this unit, Colonel (now Brigadier General) George S. Patton III, carried around a skull at his farewell party. 1967

Content alone is propaganda; form alone is wallpaper. Philip Jones Griffiths


9. On black and white photography

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GB. NORTHERN IRELAND. Since ancient times, the shield has presented a challenge to military designs — how to see the enemy without sacrificing protection. The latest development is one made of Plexiglas. Unfortunately, it affords a dimmed visibility after repeated blows. 1973

Let’s assume that all the cassettes of monochrome film Henri Cartier-Bresson ever exposed had somehow been surreptitiously loaded with colour film. I’d venture to say that about two thirds of his pictures would be ruined and the remainder unaffected, neither spoiled nor improved. And perhaps one in a thousand enhanced. Philip Jones Griffiths


10. Criticize society to progress it!

8B1A1D75-6314-4E79-95F0-308ACA13D0B9
VIETNAM. 1967. GI with child. Older soldiers that missed their families befriended dogs and children. The canines proved more congenial. More dogs than wives were taken back to the US.

Journalists should be by their very nature anarchists, people who want to point out things that are not generally approved of. It’s by criticizing that society that humanity has made progress. – Philip Jones Griffiths


Photos by Philip Jones Griffiths

Photos via Vietnam INC MAGNUM PHOTOS >

Here are the photos that have affected me the most — note several things:

  1. The captions used to accompany the photos, how they show an anti-war perspective for Vietnam.
  2. The poetic compositions of PJG; even in the midst of horrible atrocities.
  3. I was quite shocked to see some of the very loving photos of the American GI’s toward the children, and even some of the VietCong:
  4. The power of photos to affect your interpretation of history.

5A22E54E-7203-434B-A0A1-A0D1D2453303
VIETNAM. The Saigon fire department had the job of collecting the dead from the streets during the Tet offensive. They had just placed this young girl, killed by U.S. helicopter fire, in the back of their truck, where her distraught brother found her. When The New York Times published this photograph, it implied there was no proof that she was killed by American firepower. 1968
E7B4C7AD-77D5-4A20-853F-97B7922B7E81
CAMBODIA. This amphibious assault was to establish a beachhead for a barbecue. Vast quantities of meat and beer were consumed while local Vietnamese looked on. Such activities were prompted to engender morale among the troops and to expose the Vietnamese to what was considered the superior American ways of life. 1970
1CAADFEC-49C9-4EA1-BB0E-221B0843CDEA
VIETNAM. Vietnamese youth being arrested by soldier of the US 9th. Division on the outskirts of Saigon. Innocent peasants take the brunt of the US military Drive. 1968
71C0019E-19ED-4CCE-A657-F88A89B89655
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Quin Hon. U.S. Soldiers with a group of captured Vietcong suspects. 1967
GRP1970005W00007-18
CAMBODIA. Prisoners of war were afforded very different treatment by each side. Americans were treated reasonably (the ranting of the MIA movement in America aside), whereas captured Vietcong were tortured, raped, and killed. Some ended in the tiger-cages of the U.S. administered Con Son prison, where conditions would have staggered a Spanish Inquisitor. 1970
EDD7844D-598D-4BB2-8DA2-206BCBF845FD
VIETNAM. In an attempt to impose the American value system on the Vietnamese, the Marines concluded operations called, in Orwellian Newspeak, “county fairs.” Villagers were taught how to wash their children, made to watch Disney films on hygiene, had their teeth pulled, were given real toilets with seats, and were introduced to filter tips. 1967
25F0D2DA-EC8B-4361-9793-C3B71ACF06CC
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. Pity the poor fighting man in Vietnam. The problem was always too much water or too little. In the early days of the war, water was shipped from California, the indigenous sort considered unsafe. Later it was made “palatable” with huge quantities of chlorine. Wiser men know to fill up with the natural variety. 1968
7BF187FE-6193-47AF-901E-52DA8A4E7BF3
VIETNAM. 1985. Amerasian girl. Like most people that measure value by the paleness of the skin, the Vietnamese do discriminate against the offspring of black fathers (although the extent of their prejudice is probably exaggerated.) This girl, in a school in the countryside, seemed well liked. Back in Saigon, Amerasians claimed persecution, hoping to get visas to emigrate to America.
FC277FF0-6AB0-4D95-B557-600FB94248C4
VIETNAM. This operation by the 1st Cavalry Division to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail failed like all the others but the U.S. military were shaken to find such sophisticate weapons stockpiled in the valley. Officers still talked of winning the war, of seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel.” As it happened there was a light, that of a fast-approaching express train. 1968
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VIETNAM. South China Sea. US Air Force. As part of the techno-war concept, the idea of an automated battlefield was widely touted. Aircraft carriers – floating airstrips, secure from the attack – would respond to requests for bombing. The pilots never saw the faces of those they killed and maimed. It was considered important to protect men from sights that could produce emotional reactions. 1971
69C2C0A9-490B-4F8F-A23A-2C76508785CD
VIETNAM. Can Tho. A beautiful daughter could be a bonanza for a poor family. She could earn more in one night than her father in a month. The average prostitute earned more than President Thieu’s official salary. Their money helped support family members back in the countryside. After the war, many slipped back into the puritanical life of the village. 1970
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VIETNAM. Quang Ngai. This guerrilla fighter had just thrown a grenade, killing one member of the platoon and wounded two others. In the resulting fracas, he too was killed. The incident occurred in what had once been a quiet hamlet in central Vietnam, probably in the very field in front of his home where he’d spent his youth tilling the soil. 1967
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968
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VIETNAM. In Quang Ngai Province everything that moved was a target. It had been strongly Communist for thirty years and in practice U.S. policy was genocide. Each morning, a few lucky survivors of the previous night’s carnage made it to the province hospital. The newly developed antipersonnel weapons caused a problem – their plastic darts did not show up on X-rays. 1967
940320B8-75ED-4367-B12F-EE69C39722FD
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. MACV headquaters, Tan Son Nhut Airport. These are MACV (MIlitary Assistance Command, Vietnam) personnel who were lectured monthly on the progress of pacification. 1970
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VIETNAM. South Vietnam. The vietnamese village. Rise is traditionally threshed by walking a buffalo over it. This costs nothing and is a pleasant way to spend an evening.1970
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VIETNAM. Every home has a thick slab of hardwood, used as a table, bed and an air-raid shelter. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970
953DC921-924C-4D9B-AE20-1EAD5F8BF2B1
VIETNAM. The parents of young children were rarely present in the village of Vietnam. Americans often wondered where all the children came from. The fathers were often away fighting for one side or the other, and the mothers had jobs servicing the G.I.’s. Whether officially called cleaning, laundering, shoe-shining, or even car-washing, “servicing” usually meant prostitution. 1970
VIETNAM. Delta and My Tho. 1967
VIETNAM. Delta and My Tho. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Ben Tre. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Ben Tre. 1970
VIETNAM. 1967.
VIETNAM. 1967.
1AFFE372-C746-496B-8C29-BA6769888092
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968
01A57809-7A57-4953-AAB6-834E772AE09C
CAMBODIA. Car salesmen used to follow soldiers into the field to make their sales (“so the boys will have a real reason for wanting to get home in one piece”). As the fighting intensified, they found it safer to send catalogs. 1970
VIETNAM. 1968. ARVN soldier enters battle armed with toothbrush and playmate.
VIETNAM. 1968. ARVN soldier enters battle armed with toothbrush and playmate.
VIETNAM. 1968
VIETNAM. 1968
VIETNAM. Quang Ngai. 1967
VIETNAM. Quang Ngai. 1967
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VIETNAM. 1967. Aerial view of one of the villages of the Bantangan peninsula during a “Search and Destroy” operation. Smoke rises from homes burning among neat, well-cared-for paddy fields.
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Song Tra. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Song Tra. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Operation "Cedar Falls". 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Operation “Cedar Falls”. 1967
GRP1967001W00009-19
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Vietnamese being moved in Chinook helicopters to “Freedom Camps”. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Operation "Cedar Falls". 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Operation “Cedar Falls”. 1967
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VIETNAM. Refugee camp. In this camp, the “Psy-Ops” officer discovered he’d forgotten to order “indigenous reading material” for the inmates, so he dished out Playboy magazine instead. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Danang. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Danang. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Saigon. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Saigon. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Saigon. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Saigon. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Saigon. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Saigon. 1970
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968
VIETNAM. The battle for Saigon. 1968
B5CBA5BB-BDF5-486D-8251-45A41E5514A5
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. MACV headquaters, Tan Son Nhut Airport. These are MACV (MIlitary Assistance Command, Vietnam) personnel who were lectured monthly on the progress of pacification. 1970
61221328-9C55-467A-B8C3-D2AC6055438B
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Danang. A U.S. Marine demonstrates how to bathe a child to bored Vietnamese mothers. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. 1970
VIETNAM DU SUD. Saigon. 1966
VIETNAM DU SUD. Saigon. 1966
VIETNAM. General William Westmoreland. 1967
VIETNAM. General William Westmoreland. 1967
VIETNAM DU SUD. Saigon. 1967
VIETNAM DU SUD. Saigon. 1967
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Cam Ranh. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Cam Ranh. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Cam Ranh. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Cam Ranh. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Cam Ranh. 1970
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Cam Ranh. 1970
DE98A881-88FA-4DF4-B097-BCDF95F90632
VIETNAM. Long Binh. Discarded equipment collects in stockpiles as the ground war draws to a close. 1970
VIETNAM. US Air Force. 1971
VIETNAM. US Air Force. 1971
7CA506F4-003B-48E5-A9AB-1F88E5A69220
VIETNAM. South Vietnam. Quang Ngai. This group was not recovering from surgery so, to free up scarce beds, they transferred to an outbuilding to die. The determination was made by the hospital’s solitary Spanish surgeon. There was no way he could operate on everyone; he explained with tears in his eyes, “Every morning I have to play God – deciding who will die and who I will give a chance to live.” 1967
0A57D9E9-A9E5-4C2F-A80A-7BA658BCF41E
VIETNAM DU SUD. US Air Force. “Yankee station” is the area in the south China Sea where the United States carriers position themselfs for bombing runs on Vietnam. 1966


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