No one has charted the misfortunes of the innocent people caught up in the Viet Nam war as Philip Jones Griffiths. In just a few images he could manage to capture the destruction reaped upon the country and its inhabitants, and lucidly make sense of the atrocious injustices that afflicted both men, women and children, like holding a mirror to the conscience of the invaders.
Viet Nam At Peace is the monumental chronicle of a country struggling to emerge from the apocalyptic destruction of war, a destruction so seismic that it was thought vainly by many to be the end of all contemporary imperial aggression. It is Tolstoyan in its reach and emotional responses.
Philip Jones Griffiths, the author of Vietnam Inc. and Agent Orange: Collateral Damage in Viet Nam, has visited Viet Nam 25 times since the end of the war. The first Westerner to travel by road from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City after the war, and later the Ho Chi Minh trail, he has amassed an unparalleled photographic record of the post-war transformation of the country.
From the first days of terrible hardships, as the joys of victory were quickly tempered by the reality of the extent of the destruction wreaked by the war, and the crippling effects of the US embargo, he has recorded an uncomfortably comprehensive view of the aftermath of war. This is not simply a record of shattered landscapes; it is also a record of the shattered hearts and minds, culture and hopes.
He has witnessed the limbless heroes, the Amerasian children, the boat people, and the re-emergence of the social problems of prostitution and drug addiction as the country embraces consumerism. Equally, here are recognised the horrified attempts by the Vietnamese themselves to curb the hydra of its worst excesses.