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Recreating Iconic Photographs from the Vietnam War

The American War in Vietnam is one of the most complex and divisive conflicts of recent times. With advancements in television broadcast capability, the conflict saw unprecedented press coverage, with the horrors of war delivered daily to Western living rooms for the first time. The impact that the press and its images had on public perception of the war was significant. It contributed to America losing its innocence as a nation and gave birth to a popular distrust in government that has intensified to this day.

For every iconic photograph from the Vietnam War seared into public memory, there are thousands more that tell the story of its moments in a different way. In a single frame soldiers could be immortalised, demonised or sympathised with. While they say a picture can tell a thousand words, it tells little of the happenings outside its borders of its frame; it is this often missing context that accompanies many images from the war. Often lost or untold it leaves the viewer to imagine that particular moment.

This is a short video series of lesser known photographs from the Vietnam War, recreated with sound and motion.

A Brief Moment of Rest

U.S. Marines, Battle of Hue, February 1968

© Don McCullin Contact Press Images

This image by famous British War photographer Don McCullin depicts two U.S marines in a moment of brief downtime, resting against a wall during fighting in Hue City, Vietnam's former Imperial Capital. Smoke billows from a fire in the background. The Battle of Hue was one of the fiercest battles of the war, lasting one month and resulting in thousands of civilian casualties. Whilst the siege resulted in a tactical victory for U.S and South Vietnamese forces, the battle was a significant turning point in the war with the North Vietnamese having a political and propagandist victory. Characteristic of many of McCullin’s prints from the era - the image is black and white with a high contrast; an aesthetic that McCullin used to increase the drama, impact and accentuation of textures. Below is a video recreation of McCullin's image with subtle movement and audio.

Don Mccullin Hue

© Don McCullin Contact Press Images


Tet Offensive, Battle of Hue, Vietnam, January 1968

© Don McCullin Contact Press Images

This image, also by Don McCullin, shows a U.S marine peering out the window of a house in Hue. Lying on the floor is a large framed portrait of a Vietnamese couple; likely the former occupants of the home. Whilst it may have been positioned for the photograph, this image by McCullin represents the tragedy of civilian displacement and leaves the viewer thinking about the couple in the picture frame and their whereabouts and well-being at that moment in time. With the fighting in Hue taking place amongst houses and residential streets, the urban combat had an enormous toll on the local civilian population. Tragically over 3000 people were killed and more than 2000 were left without a home during the Tet Offensive in February 1968.

don mccullin hue soldier

© Don McCullin Contact Press Images

Troop on Sandbags

Quang Tri Province, Central Vietnam, 1972

© David Burnett, Contact Press Images

Barnett’s image shows an American troop sitting on sand bags in a base, watching air strikes in the distance. The image was taken in Quang Tri Province, near the former DMZ in Central Vietnam, February 1972. Burnett was in the immediate area when Nick Ut captured one of, if not the most, haunting and enduring images taken from the war, the pulizter photo of... village in Tay Ninh Province, South-eastern Vietnam.

Operation Rolling Thunder

North Vietnam, 14 June 1966

© Lt. Col. Cecil J. Poss, USAF

Flying under radar control with a B-66 Destroyer, Air Force F-105 Thunderchief pilots bomb a military target through low clouds over southern North Vietnam. June 14, 1966. The U.S Air campaign during the Vietnam war was one of the largest in Military History. This image was captured on mounted recon camera.

operation rolling thunder

© Lt. Col. Cecil J. Poss, USAF

A Long Awaited Shave

26 miles south-west of Da Nang, December 1965

© Jack Baird, Stars and Stripes

This shot by late Stars and Stripes correspondent and photographer, Jack Baird, depicts Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Larry S. Katzenbogan, 20, having his first shave since the commencement of Operation Harvest Moon in the Que Son Valley. By the end of Harvest Moon the Marines had lost 45 killed, while the ARVN lost 90 men and had 91 missing, and the Vietcong sustained 407 KIA and 33 captured.

© Jack Baird, Stars and Stripes