Mar 29, 2018
March 29 is now the official National Vietnam War Veterans Day, set aside to “observe with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities” the commemoration of the war. More important than commemorating a war is to commemorate the service, in some cases the ultimate service, that soldiers gave their nation. For our part, we commemorate with what we know—photography—and on today’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast, we talk about photography created by U.S. servicemen during their time in Vietnam.
We begin with David Parks who, in 1968, published a book about his experience in Vietnam, titled GI Diary. The book includes excerpts of the diary he kept and personal photos he took while in the army. Mr. Parks, who is the son of famed photographer Gordon Parks, dropped out of college knowing that he was likely to be drafted. He saw front-line combat and documented his experiences, in text and image, from the viewpoint of an African-American “grunt.” We speak with Mr. Parks about his ability to photograph in such a challenging situation, about the gear he used, how he processed film, if he considered his work photojournalism, and how his diaries came to be one of the first books ever published about the Vietnam War.
On the second half of our program, we welcome Kendra Rennick, of The Vietnam Slide Project. When a friend employed her help to organize a collection of photos taken by her late father, a project was born. That project took on a life, and Ms. Rennick started an archive of “slides” taken only by soldiers who served in Vietnam. Many of these images reflect the more mundane aspects of army life, but are a rare glimpse into the lives and concerns of soldiers, some on their very first trip out of the States. We speak with Ms. Rennick about the organization of her project, its future, and the relationships she has developed with the veterans and families who donate their imagery.
Guests: David Parks and Kendra Rennick
Photograph ©C.R. Foster, courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Producer: Jason Tables