/13 Vietnam

An-My Lê

Small Wars

At the conclusion of the Vietnam project in 1999, I became interested in finding a way to incorporate popular imagery of the Vietnam War into my work. While doing research on the internet, I discovered a site for Vietnam war re-enactors and began attending their events. These men are drawn to re-enacting the Vietnam war for complex reasons. Beside a passion for military history and an obsessive, formal approach to the art of re-enacting, they are also driven by deeply personal and complex psychological motivations. In comparable ways, the re-enactments allowed me to delve into my personal experiences of war and attendant adolescent fantasies about soldiers in uniform. Through the exploration of war imagery and the aesthetics of combat photography, I have begun to recast the war as a smaller, safer, and ultimately resolved conflict. The re-enactors and I have each created a Vietnam of the mind and it is these two Vietnams which have collided in the resulting photographs. Here I experience Vietnam in America as I experienced America in Vietnam: worlds of conflict and beauty.

An-My Lê, Cabinet , Issue 2, Spring 2001

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