When War Photojournalism Became Art: Visual Dispatches from the Vietnam War at the Currier Museum of Art
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.
The exhibition 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 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 view of war, filled with immediacy. Their photographs were taken quickly with new, smaller cameras and distributed to stateside newspapers and magazines, such as Life, Look and Time.
“These photographs have the ability to transcend time, place, moral judgment and politics, so they remain relevant documents of war’s 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 reveals photojournalism’s importance, as well as the courage and artistry of these reporters, some of whom died on the battlefield.
This exhibition focuses on a pivotal 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. The photographs 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.
Guests are invited to use a public response area adjacent to the exhibition to share their reflections on the images. There, Vietnam veterans may share personal photographs of their combat experiences in a special installation. Digital scans of the photos and descriptions of up to 100 words will be accepted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or guests can bring copies with them when they visit. You may submit personal photographs starting now through the duration of the exhibition.
The exhibition also includes an area for guests to write letters of support to active duty military personnel, which will be sent to our soldiers in the Middle East. For more information about these opportunities, visit www.currier.org. MooreMart of Nashua, N.H. will collect donations brought to the Currier until August 4 and send these to active military members.
Watch and Respond: A Film and Letter Writing Campaign
Sunday, August 4, 3–5 p.m.
Watch “Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam,” the powerful 1987 documentary film featuring real-life letters written by American soldiers during the Vietnam War to their families and friends back home. Archival footage of the war and news coverage create a highly personal experience of the war. Following the film, Kurt Sundstrom, exhibition curator, will lead a brief discussion after which guests are invited to kick off the Currier’s three-month letter-writing campaign by writing a letter to active duty military personnel and compiling care packages.