Vietnam War photojournalism reflected the grim realities of human conflict in an unflinching manner that challenged viewers around the world to see war at its most stark. Visual Dispatches from the Vietnam War, on view at the Currier Museum of Art
in Manchester, NH from August 3 through November 11, 2013, presents more than 30 images, many of which have become iconic symbols of one of the most important events in 20th century American history.
Among the photographers represented in the exhibition are: Horst Faas, Henri Huet, Eddie Adams, Larry Burrows and Don McCullin. The exhibition also includes original Associated Press (AP) typewritten dispatches that photographers and their editors wrote from the Saigon office to explain the context of each image to stateside editors thousands of miles from the front.
Throughout recorded history, artists have explored war as prime subject matter. In the mid-1800s, photographers such as Roger Fenton and Mathew Brady often arranged bodies and objects before taking their photographs, creating more dramatic, but altered images. But during the Vietnam War, the photographers represented in this exhibition provided an unfiltered impression of war, filled with a sense of immediacy. Their photographs were taken quickly with new, smaller cameras and distributed to stateside newspapers and magazines, such as Life, Look and Time.
Each images power derives from the emotions expressed in their subjects faces and the photographers innate understanding of classical composition. They capture what photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson referred to as the decisive moment, the instant when emotion and composition merge. It was during this war that the photojournalist achieved the status of artist and the photograph became an even more powerful medium for social change.
These photographs have the ability to transcend time, place, moral judgment and politics, so they remain relevant documents of wars human tragedy, says Kurt Sundstrom, exhibition curator. They retain the power to challenge long-held perceptions, unlock dormant emotions and question the value of war.
The Power of Photojournalism
Public concern surrounding the war mounted and support waned as graphic images of the dead, wounded and displaced began appearing regularly in newspapers and on the covers of magazines. That these images shaped public opinion of the Vietnam War and hastened its end is a testament to the authority of the photojournalistic medium and the courage and artistry of their makers, some of whom died on the battlefield.
This exhibition focuses on a pivotal and distinctive period in the development of documentary photography. Never before or since has the human condition, under indescribable circumstances, been so poignantly captured. For the first time in war journalism, the visual image transcended the written word in its ability to put the viewer in the shoes of a soldier and to make the intangible tangible. The images on view in this exhibition are celebrated for their artistic composition, directness, compassion, and their ability to transcend boundaries. They not only captured history, they changed history.