Image: Vo Anh Khanh. Sept. 15, 1970.
A victim of American bombing, ethnic Cambodian guerrilla Danh Son Huol is carried to an improvised operating room in a mangrove swamp on the Ca Mau Peninsula. This scene was an actual medical situation, not a publicity setup. The photographer, however, considered the image unexceptional and never printed it.
The survivors are called witnesses of history. I don’t know if we ourselves are witnesses, but our photographs certainly are. They paid the price with blood.
Doan Cong Tinh
When you look at incredible images like the one above you can more easily understand how their sheer tenacity and resourcefulness virtually guaranteed a result against the-then most powerful army in the world.
In photo above, Vietnamese orderlies bring a wounded fighter to be operated on by nurses in a makeshift hospital theatre hidden in a swamp. This would have presented all kinds of ‘operating’ challenges, such as an increased risk of infection and the unwelcome and distinctly non-medical attention of leeches.
For much of the world, the visual history of the Vietnam War has been defined by a handful of iconic photographs: Eddie Adams’ image of a Viet Cong fighter being executed, Nick Ut’s picture of nine-year-old Kim Phúc fleeing a napalm strike, Malcolm Browne’s photo of Thích Quang Duc self-immolating in a Saigon intersection.
Many famous images of the war were taken by Western photographers and news agencies, working alongside American or South Vietnamese troops.
But the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had hundreds of photographers of their own, who documented every facet of the war under the most dangerous conditions.
Almost all were self-taught, and worked for the Vietnam News Agency, the National Liberation Front, the North Vietnamese Army or various newspapers. Many sent in their film anonymously or under a nom de guerre, viewing themselves as a humble part of a larger struggle.
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