The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress
October/November 2004
ARTS OF WAR
 
 

More Than A Thousand Words:
North Carolina GI Photo Exhibit
 

BY MARC LEEPSON

Martin Tucker, who joined the Navy when he was 18 in 1967 and served for two years, today is the photography coordinator at the Sawtooth Center for Visual Art in Winston- Salem, North Carolina. During his Navy days, when he was posted at the Charleston Naval Station in South Carolina, Tucker came in contact with countless numbers of sailors en route to, and coming home from, the Vietnam War. "That planted the seed for the exhibit," Tucker said in a recent interview. "I wanted to do something for them."

The exhibit in question is A Thousand Words: Photographs by Vietnam Veterans. What began as a roughly formed idea in the late sixties has turned into a top-quality, highly successful show of five dozen evocative in-country war photos taken by GIs that has gained national attention and will be traveling throughout the nation.

Tucker, a former photojournalist, began the project in earnest in September of last year. He spoke to veterans groups and posted flyers titled "Seeking Vietnam Veterans" in coffee shops, police and fire stations, and barber shops in the Winston-Salem area. Six months later, he had received some 2,600 photographs and slides from Vietnam veterans and family members.

"One veteran brought in the two original telegrams sent to his parents each time he was wounded in action," Tucker told us. "Conversations with vets were often quite emotional as the men looked at their photos and discussed the surrounding events after 30-35 years." Tucker and a team of high school and college photography students scanned 400 black-and-white and color images into computers. "Students, teens and volunteers, while maintaining the integrity of the originals, restored color and repaired damage," Tucker said. Tucker and his team digitally enlarged 60 of the photos and created a power point show with 60 additional photos and quotes from the veterans. The veterans also contributed taped interviews about each photo.

The exhibit opened to critical and popular raves July 1 at the Milton Rhodes Gallery in Winston-Salem. Local TV and radio shows and newspapers. Then the show was the subject of a segment on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. "Within 15 minutes after that aired, we began getting e-mails and calls from all over the country," Tucker said. That was when he decided to put together a traveling show. It will continue through 2005.

"The response to this exhibit has just been unbelievable," he said. "I’ve met and spoken  with so many vets and family members who’ve said they’ve been able to talk  about the war for the first time in 30 years. Our guest sign-in book is full of thank-you’s and notes from people who have come back two and three times. Some tears have been shed, hopefully beginning the healing process. The most rewarding sight of all is to walk by the exhibit and see one solitary veteran standing in front of one of those photographs."

To catch a glimpse of the exhibit and see the traveling schedule, go to www.sawtooth.org/vets.html For more info, e-mail photoart@sawtooth.org

Two other Vietnam War exhibits of note: Face to Face: Images from a Different War, a one-man exhibit of digitally re-mastered slides by Don Fox, who served as chief announcer for AFVN in 1967 in Vietnam, which ran from October 12-November 13 at All Things Art Gallery in Canandaigua, New York; and Vietnam From a Texas POV, which contains manuscripts, photographs, artifacts, uniforms, and memorabilia from the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos, which began September 1 and goes through January 31, 2005. A panel of writers will discuss their work on Veterans Day at the University’s Alkek Library. 

ONE RED FLOWER

One Red Flower, a powerful musical drama about an eventful 1969-70 year’s tour of duty of an Army platoon in the Vietnam War, had its world premiere during a month-long run at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, in September and October. Paris Barclay, the Emmy-Award-winning producer-director, wrote the show based on the 1988 book Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam, edited by VVA’s Bernie Edelman, which also begat an excellent film documentary of the same name. Signature Theatre’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer directed the production.

"We follow these six characters, become emotionally involved with them, and experience what war was really like for them," Schaeffer said in a newspaper interview. "Based on actual lettersand told through lettersthese are all very personal, first-hand moments, connected together over the space of a year."

Schaeffer took pains to make the show as realistic as possible, beginning with putting his six actors through a boot camp experience run by a Marine gunnery sergeant. The director took those steps, he said, in tribute to Vietnam veterans. "It really isn’t about us," he said. "It’s about the words of these guys, these intimate letters that are so heartbreaking and engaging. It’s about channeling these words and bringing them to the ears of others."

The result is a hard-hitting, two-act, twenty-song, two hours and forty minutes of theater. "One Red Flower," the critic Rich See said, "is an emotional musical that Signature has crafted into a technically well-constructed, vocally delightful production."

ARTS IN BRIEF

The photographer Eddie Adams, who made an international reputation for taking one of the most influential and shocking photographs of the Vietnam War, died September 18 in New York at age 71 of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Adams enlisted in the Marines and served for three years as a combat photographer in the Korean War. He had a long and distinguished career as a photojournalist, covering 13 wars and winning hundreds of awards.

While covering the Vietnam War for the Associated Press, Adams took the photograph that brought the war’s brutality home to many Americans with a jolt—a close up of ARVN Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a VC prisoner with a shot to the temple at point-blank range on February 1, 1968, in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for that photo, which the photographer David Hume Kennerly called "one of the five greatest photographs of the 20th century that really changed history."

Ground was broken on September 15 for the Air Force National Memorial, the first to honor those who have served in the USAF, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. The $40-million memorial, funded by the Air Force Memorial Foundation, will feature three huge stainless steel spires, the tallest of which will soar 270 feet into the sky. It is expected to be completed in 2006.

The National Vietnam Veterans’ Art Museum’s latest special exhibition, Women on War, opened in the Chicago museum on Veterans Day. "This exhibit will be an important step forward in acknowledging the contributions of America’s servicewomen," said Jim Moore of the NVVAM Art Committee. The paintings, photographs and other works of art in the exhibit deal with the experiences of women who have served with the military or a service organization such as the Red Cross or USO in America’s wars. To visit virtually, go to www.nvvam.org

Tom Savini, the Vietnam veteran and renowned Hollywood actor and horror makeup artist (Friday the 13th, et al., has produced a new DVD. Savini’s House Call is the first installment of his horror anthology, Tom Savini’s Chill Factor, a series that is billed as a DVD version of The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Tales from the Darkside. For info, go to www.tomsavinischillfactor.com

QUERY

Brooklyn College is conducting an oral history called "New York’s Vietnam: Remembering the Past, Shaping the Present," and is seeking interviews with Vietnam War veterans and family members from New York City. For more information on the project, call Prof. Philip F. Napoli at 718-951-4539 or e-mail napoli.vietnam@verizon.net or go to http://userhome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/pnapoli/vietnam/vn_frameset.html

   

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