TJ Boulting and Trolley Books are hosting an exhibition by renowned photographer Philip Jones Griffiths to mark the tenth anniversary of his death, on 19th March 2008.
According to the gallery website, PJGX presents photographs from the two important bodies of work that represent Philip’s archive – the Viet Nam war and Britain in the 1950s to 70s.
Griffiths was born in 1936 in Wales and was famous for his coverage of the Viet Nam War. He started work as a full-time freelance photographer in 1961 for The Oberver, and then covered the vietnam war for Magnum agency.
Henri Cartier-Bresson said of Griffiths: “Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths.” In 1980, Griffiths became the president of Magnum, a position he held for five years. He died aged 72 in London, on March 19, 2008.
In 1971 he published his first book, the ground-breaking Viet Nam Inc, which cemented his reputation as both a fiercely intelligent and astute photojournalist.
The book had a huge impact in turning people’s opinion against the war and the US involvement in Viet Nam. Carefully considered and captioned with a scathing dry commentary, this was ‘war photography’ but in a very different sense, as the journalist and film-maker John Pilger wrote on Philip’s death in 2008: “No photographer produced such finely subversive work, knowing that truth in war is always subversive.”
Griffith’s book, Agent Orange: Collateral Damage in Viet Nam was even more vehemently ‘war photography’ of a different sense. The toxic chemical in Agent Orange that had been dropped by the US on Vietnamese and Cambodian soil to defoliate the landscape and reveal the enemy, was also responsible for horrific congenital deformities, still affecting children born today.
Viet Nam Inc. had been republished in 2001 with a foreword by Noam Chomsky, who observed: “If anybody in Washington had read that book, we wouldn’t have had these wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
But who would publish these disturbing new images from Viet Nam, a generation after the war had ended? It was around this time that Philip met Gigi Giannuzzi, the founder of Trolley Books, and he discovered not only a publisher but a kindred spirit, someone who was not afraid to make a book of such difficult-to-look-at work. T
wo more books followed, Viet Nam at Peace in 2005 and Recollections in 2008, published a few months after Philip’s death. Despite his seminal book on the Vietnam War, Philip hated to be described as a war photographer.
His 50–year archive is rich with stunning photojournalism from over 100 countries around the world. As well as his images, Philip’s words always gave a crucial insight, and showing in the exhibition is a filmed interview that Philip gave in Aberystwyth in 2007 at the University of Wales. It is followed by a recent award-winning documentary (a co-production between Welsh company Rondo Media, S4C and South Korean production company, JTV, Jeonju T
PJGX Philip Jones Griffiths Exhibition