04.jpg

Historical Dictionary

tags

PHOTOGRAPHY

If the Indochina War was not yet a “television” war, it was certainly a photographed one, by both military and professional photographers. The French army’s Service Presse Information employed famous war photographers such as Daniel Camus, André Lebon, Pierre Schoendoerffer, Jean Péraud, and Pierre Ferrari among others. Military photographers such as Schoendoerffer and Ferrari were instructed and expected to show the heroic and valiant side of the Expeditionary Corps’s fighting troops. They did not disappoint. Non-military photographers were given a freer rein and could travel with local combat units without having to deal with handlers. Some of the most poignant and original photography of the Indochina War came from the likes of Robert Capa. Ironically, one of the least photographed or filmed combats of the Indochina War was the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Contrary to widespread opinion, Dien Bien Phu is, as the French military writer Eric Déroo puts it, “an episode without an image, or almost”. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam also produced an exceptional war photographer, Trieu Dai. Like his French counterparts, he worked for the army and the state supporting it. However, Trieu Dai produced some remarkably poignant pictures of men in battle, Vietnamese ones. And the subjects of his photos did not always please the propaganda machine of which he was a part. Those he took during the battle of Dien Bien Phu are a case in point. See also CINEMA; CULTURE; EXPERIENCE OF WAR, DIEN BIEN PHU; NOVEL; MYTH OF WAR; RAOUL COUTARD.