/13 Vietnam

Craig J Barber


“Ghosts in the Landscape: Viet Nam Revisited”

I began returning to Viet Nam early in 1995. My intent: photographing, writing and learning about the land I first saw as a combat Marine many years before. Full of youthful ignorance upon my initial arrival in Viet Nam, saddened and still ignorant upon my departure, I returned home with more questions than answers and more anger than I care to admit. This time, older, gentler and more mature, I hoped for a better understanding. Carrying vivid memories-Some good, some not so, all intense, all needing clarification – I navigated each day through the landscape of my emotions. Following I share a journal entry:

“The lack of discernible change is jarring at times. Memory runs deep in my veins as I wind my way along narrow dirt paths and bamboo groves, past straw houses and barking dogs. More than once, as I wander the small hamlets, I have felt on patrol, the weight of my pack reminiscent of those days and the tripod feeling like a weapon. But now i am searching for images instead of “Charlie.” These moments are disconcerting but I do not brush them aside. I am trying not to brush anything aside, I want to embrace all that comes along”.

Yes, there is a major contradiction between journal entries such as this and my images, but one has to remember, that while I was in Viet Nam during the 1960’s the events of the moment were happening in the lush landscape you see before you. We patrolled rice paddies and quaint villages, all seemingly quiet and pristine only to turn the corner and step into hell, turn another corner and return back to quiet and pristine. The dichotomy was constant. As I worked in Viet Nam during my return trips, this was the flow of my mind… quiet landscapes accompanied by a torrent of memories that never fade.

Craig J. Barber