March 20, 2008

Philip Jones Griffiths

Vietnam 02-05-96-05

The photographer Philip Jones Griffiths, famous for his singular focus on the war in Vietnam, passed away earlier this week.

Of the various themes in Griffiths’ work, one of the most central dealt with his understanding of the war as a mission to turn the Vietnamese into consumers of the American brand.  Given Griffiths’ long time dedication to following the aftermath of the war, his contribution, as much anything is, was a portrayal of the long-term effect of the conflict on the consciousness of that country. 

If a sense of irony passes back-and-forth here between Griffiths and the viewer, I don’t get the sense that this passerby registers, in any way, how much these Western figures evolved, over decades, into such a normative model.

It’s both strange and curious that the photographer would die on the five-year anniversary of the Iraq War.  Is part of the resonance here the possibility of observing a similar phenomenon in the shops in Baghdad in, say, 2038?

The Vietnamization of Philip Jones Griffiths (Digital Journalist)

Presence Of Mind: The Photographs of Philip Jones Griffiths (Aperture)

Magnum: Wars (Vietnam) – (Magnum video)

(image © Philip Jones Griffiths / Magnum.  February 5, 1996.  from: Vietnam at Peace / Trolley Books)

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