Another Vietnam: North Vietnamese Images Show Unseen Si

National Geographic News
January 24, 2003

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Photographer Douglas Niven made more than 16 trips to Vietnam to look for images made by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong photographers during the Vietnam War. He found thousands of images, many of which had never even been made into prints.

He also met retired war photographers in distant corners of Vietnam, stirring fading memories and emotions.

The result is Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the Other Side, the first published collection of images of the conflict made by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong photographers. Niven and Christopher Riley edited the book, a publication of National Geographic Books.

Niven worked as a photographer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for Agence-France Presse from 1992 to 1995. In 1996 he and Riley co-edited The Killing Fields (1997, Twin Palms Publishers), a book of photographs of Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge.

He discusses the book Another Vietnam in an interview with National Geographic News.

NG News: For many people in the West, the Vietnam War has been defined by several iconic images. But they were all seen through the lenses of American and other Western photographers. Your book shows us another perspective of the conflict, which the Vietnamese call the American War. Will this book redefine the popular view of the war?

Niven: I grew up as a kid with pictures of the Vietnam War and can probably recite at least ten images in my head that still stick in my memory. I think a lot of Americans have the same collective memory of the Vietnam War. I was curious about what pictures filled the memories of the Vietnamese people and if their view of the war was impacted by images in the same way. This book is an attempt to put together pictures showing how Vietnamese people viewed the war, and what those photographs looked like.

Isn't it odd that no one has thought of doing this before? The war was over more than a quarter of a century ago.

I also was surprised that nobody had done it before. When I first went to Hanoi, I expected that there had at least been a Vietnamese attempt to do this. There have been a few Vietnamese publications with pictures from the war, but never a comprehensive attempt to put all the war images together. There hasn't even been a North Vietnamese book on the war.

Over time, I found out that many of the Vietnamese war photographers didn't even know each other. So it was fun to put together this collection and also to see the photographers getting to know one another for the first time and viewing one another's pictures.

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