David Douglas Duncan (1916-2018)

Vietnam was the perhaps the greatest war for photojournalists, the last war where photographers were allowed the freedom to work and report what they saw with relatively few restrictions. The coverage in magazines and particularly on TV in America had a powerful effect on public opinion, stimulating the anti-Vietnam War movement there and across the world.

While the iconic images by Nick Ut and Eddie Adams are seared into our minds, there were many, many others and so many fine photographers, many of whom made their names there. And too many who died there, as had Robert Capa years earlier in 1954 when we knew it as Indo-China and it was the French colonial power who were fighting and losing.

There were far too many photographers of note in Vietnam to mention them all, but two stand out for the body of work that they produced and also for the books they published. One was the greatest Welsh photographer of the century, Philip Jones Griffiths, with his ‘Vietnam Inc‘, published in 1971 and the second, a man twenty years older than Griffiths, was David Douglas Duncan, who died on Thursday. His ‘I Protest!‘ (1968) was also a denunciation of US policy in Vietnam.

Duncan had made his name as a photographer in an earlier war, in Korea, and his book ‘This Is War!’ is a classic of photojournalism which Edward Steichen called “the greatest book of war photographs ever published.” It was a view very much from the position of the fighting man, reflecting his own past in the Marines, aiming to see war through their eyes. He went on to photograph many other things, and to produce a remarkable document of the life of Picasso as a friend and resident photographer.

You can read more about this remarkable photographer and his life in the TIME Lightbox celebration of his 100th birthday in 2016 and in the New York Times obituary.

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