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August 2006

The Vietnam Syndrome
By JAMES NACHTWEY/VII PHOTO

VII derives its name from the number of founding photo-journalists who, in September 2001, formed this collectively owned agency. Designed from the outset to be an efficient, technologically enabled distribution hub for some of the world's finest photojournalism, VII has been responsible for creating and relaying to the world many of the images that define the turbulent opening years of the 21st century.
Alexandra Boulat, Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Antonin Kratochvil, Christopher Morris, James Nachtwey and John Stanmeyer were joined in 2002 by Lauren Greenfield and in 2004 by Joachim Ladefoged. Eugene Richards joined in April 2006. Together they document conflict - environmental, social and political, both violent and non-violent - to produce an unflinching record of the injustices created and experienced by people caught up in the events they describe.
On September 9th 2001, VII announced its formation. On the following night, covering for the missed return flight of a colleague, James Nachtwey arrived at his Manhattan apartment close to the World Trade Center. The next morning, he photographed some of the most haunting pictures of the collapse of the towers, at the same time eloquently conveying the destruction of a way of life.
While the stark realities of the battlefield loom large, VII turns its gaze with equal intensity to more subtle forms of conflict and documenting the changes and development of society and culture worldwide. The work of Lauren Greenfield, particularly in her social documentary of youth culture and gender identity, adds a further perspective and depth to the work of the agency
But this is not merely artfully captured, neutral observation; nor is it the doctrinaire elaboration of a political or social position. Each photographer is inspired by an array of often very different motivations, and it is from this breadth of reference that the agency draws its originality and strength. What unites VII's work is a sense that, in the act of communication at the very least, all is not lost; the seeds of hope and resolution inform even the darkest records of inhumanity; reparation is always possible; despair is never absolute.


PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMES NACHTWEY/VII PHOTO

1.
Cam Lo, Quang Tri Province. Phan Thi Hoi bathes her 14-year-old son, Bui Quang Ky. She was exposed to Agent Orange when she was in the North Vietnamese Army during the war.
2.
Nguyen Thanh Hai, 24, with his father, Nguyen Thanh Quang, in the foreground.
3.
Dallas, Texas. Eric Ramsey, 35, who suffers from hydrocephalus and has a deformed foot and hand. A large part of his brain is also missing. Eric’s father was a Marine during the Vietnam War and was severely wounded by a land mine and exposed to Agent Orange. Eric receives some benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but not for Agent Orange.
4.
Twelve-year-old Tran Thi Thang, with her mother, Ngo Thi Sen. Her father was in the North Vietnamese Army during the war and was exposed to Agent Orange
5.
Fulshear, Texas. Harold Jackson, 62—who suffers from hydrocephalus peripheral neuropathy, skin cancer, and prostate cancer—and his wife, Doe. Jackson was in the army during the Vietnam War and was exposed to Agent Orange. He receives benefits from Veterans Affairs.
6.
A boy watches TV at Tu Du Hospital, in Ho Chi Minh City.
7.
Highland Lake, New Jersey. Michael Szymczak, 23—who suffers from spina bifida—and his mother, Doreen Szymczak. Michael’s father was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and may have been exposed to Agent Orange. Michael receives benefits from the Veterans Administration, as spina bifida is recognized by the V.A. as a consequence of Agent Orange.
8.
Le Thi Tuyet, 25, with her mother, Pham Thi Manh, and father, Nguyen Van Xuan. The family lived in the area during the war and saw Agent Orange being sprayed.
9.
Greensboro, North Carolina. Rodney Tyler, 58—who suffers from Parkinson’s disease—and his wife, Martie Tyler. Rodney was in the navy during the Vietnam War and was exposed to Agent Orange. After 21 years of trying to get benefits, he now receives 100 percent disability compensation from Veterans Affairs.
10.
Seventeen-year-old Nguyen Thi Hue, who is blind, with her mother.
11.
Hackettstown, New Jersey. Ryan Albertson, aged six—who suffers from spina bifida—and his father, Kelly Albertson. Ryan’s grandfather James Albertson was in the army in Vietnam during the war and was exposed to Agent Orange. Ryan does not receive benefits from Veterans Affairs.
12.
Cam Lo, Quang Tri Province. Phan Thi Hoi kissing her 14-year-old son, Bui Quang Ky.
13.
Defiance, Ohio. V.F.W. Post 3360. The U.S. government refuses to award Purple Hearts to Agent Orange victims, so the Order of the Silver Rose, an association of Vietnam veterans, gives medals to vets affected by the chemical.
14.
The Vietnam Friendship Village, outside of Hanoi. A home for disabled war veterans, many of whom have various forms of cancer, diabetes, and skin disease, most likely caused by Agent Orange.
15.
Nguyen Van Thong, 22, who has mental and physical disabilities, crawls beneath the shadow of his brother, Nguyen Van Thuy, who suffers from hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Their father was exposed to Agent Orange when he served in the North Vietnamese Army.

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign | info@vn-agentorange.org | P.O. Box 303, Prince Street, New York, NY 10012-0006