November 21, 2004
Today in my quest to catalog family negatives I hit a batch from 1966 when my dad was in Vietnam. He had just bought a camera while on R&R in Hong Kong (a Pentax that was to become my first camera years later) and took pictures to send home. My mom was living in Monterrey, was pregnant, and was understandably worried, so most of the pictures he sent were of himself smiling and with friends. The images are usually labeled. "Beach at Vin Tau", or "Enjoying C-Rations", "Chuck Connors and Anne Margaret on USO tour", or something else innocuous.
But occasionally in the margins of the images you'll spot something that speaks to the seriousness of what was going on. There in the background of an infirmary shot, a body covered in a sheet with a prominent toe tag. Or of dark plumes of smoke in the distance. Tonight I was struck by these two images:
I also noted the progression of pictures. He took less than one roll a month, and usually the pictures were portraits of people or documentation of events. But in the last month, he shot many rolls, of the barracks, of the earth, of the sky, of the waterbuffalo beyond the fences, finally a flurry images unframed out the window of a jeep as he was headed for his last helicoptor ride out. It was as if he was straining to capture something of the place to hold on to. I know because I do the same thing.