How and Why I Photographed Vietnam

A good country and a good people caught in an external conflict of financial greed and political power that raped the land and the soul of the people. I was sent by the United States government to be a part of that conflict. I refused. I could not refuse to go to Vietnam, but I could and did refuse to join the fight or the hate. I was a Conscientious Objector and therefore a member of the medical corps. I was a “medic” in the field and under fire, but I never fired back. My dedication to show love and compassion to all mankind regardless of whether someone, somewhere had designated them friend or foe nearly cost me life and limb on many occasions. The shots I took were with my camera. I shot to show to the world the heart and soul of the Vietnamese people and their beautiful country, to show the love that lives in all of us for each other, and to set them apart from the warfare, hate and death that they did not own nor desire. I endeavored to use my camera to lift my Vietnamese friends from the mire and blood of warfare to a state of photographic immortality where love is in the ascendancy and gentleness holds sway. They needed it. I needed it to give meaning and purpose to my sojourn in their far flung land. I have no regrets and count it time well spent. I give to you, my reader, all the feelings and vision that I gathered. Peace.

I used an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic 35 mm camera purchased from Japan through the Army PX to take almost all of the pictures that are posted here. Some early pictures were taken with a camera lent to me by the officer in charge while I was stationed on top of the extinct volcano “Old Baldy”. I bought some film in anticipation of my camera coming in the mail and used my film in his camera. Little did I know that the Ekatachrome slide film I bought was heat damaged before I bought it. I sent all the film to the U..S. to have it processed properly. My mother then kept the processed slides for my return. After several rolls had been processed, my mother asked “Is Vietnam really that color?” I shot back a letter and asked “What color? Please send some sample slides to me.” I learned from some long distance research that the yellow dye process had been damaged due to storage in a much too high temperature which made all the pictures shades of mostly red and blue. The slides were too off color to use for a book that I had in mind, but too precious to discard. To my immense delight, three decades later the color correction, that PhotoShop can do, returned the proper color balance and exposure to the digital images that you see here.

I come from a family of photographers and studied photography at the University of Idaho as part of a degree in Fine Arts. I have worked to improve the soul of my photography ever since I took my first pictures with the Kodak Brownie camera that was a Christmas present from my mother some 63 years ago. May the spirit of light and love find its way into your photographs too.