Podcast: GI Diary and The Vietnam Slide Project

March 29 is now the official National Vietnam War Veterans Day, set aside to “observe with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities” the commemoration of the war. More important than commemorating a war is to commemorate the service, in some cases the ultimate service, that soldiers gave their nation. For our part, we commemorate with what we know—photography—and on today’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast, we talk about photography created by U.S. servicemen during their time in Vietnam.

We begin with David Parks, who, in 1968, published a book about his experience in Vietnam, titled G I Diary. The book includes excerpts of the diary he kept and personal photos he took while in the army. Mr. Parks, who is the son of famed photographer Gordon Parks, dropped out of college knowing that he was likely to be drafted. He saw front-line combat and documented his experiences, in text and image, from the viewpoint of an African-American “grunt.” We speak with Mr. Parks about his ability to photograph in such a challenging situation, about the gear he used, how he processed film, if he considered his work photojournalism, and how his diaries came to be one of the first books ever published about the Vietnam War.

On the second half of our program, we welcome Kendra Rennick, of The Vietnam Slide Project. When a friend of Ms. Rennick’s employed her help to organize a collection of photos taken by her late father, a project was born. That project took on a life, and Ms. Rennick started an archive of “slides” taken only by soldiers who served in Vietnam. Many of these images reflect the more mundane aspects of army life, but are a rare glimpse into the lives and concerns of soldiers, some on their very first trip out of the States. We speak with Ms. Rennick about the organization of her project, its future, and the relationships she has developed with the veterans and families who donate their imagery.

Guests: David Parks and Kendra Rennick

© C.R. Foster, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© C.R. Foster, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© C.R. Foster, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© D Thornton, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© D Thornton, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© D Thornton, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© D.W. Russell, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© D.W. Russell, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© G Huested, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© W. Brown Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© W. Brown Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
© Unknown Soldier, Courtesy The Vietnam Slide Project
G I Diary cover, © David Parks
From G I Diary, © David Parks
From G I Diary, © David Parks
From G I Diary, © David Parks
Kendra Rennick on the B&H Photography Podcast, ©John Harris
Kendra Rennick and Allan Weitz, © John Harris
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Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves

4 Comments

Thank you for this - I served in the USMC during the Vietnam era - 1967-1971 but never was able to go in country -  something I truly regret to this day- I had many friends who did go - Thanks again -  I loved it 

Thank you so much for the feedback John.

What a fantastic episode. Really splendid. I think it's fascinating that even in such a fast-moving age someone is taking the time to painstakingly go through slides that tell the unposed stories of so many brave young men. 

The B&H podcast is truly THE photography podcast. Thank you so much for putting out such high quality content. 

As much as I would like to, I don't normally  comment on our own podcasts  The above comment was left by listener Jon B. and his name was switched for mine when I logged in to reply....apologies Jon and much thanks for the feedback. I agree that collections like The Vietnam Slide Project or other of "vernacular' photographs are incredibly important and given the significance of the Vietnam War in our recent history and the age of its veterans, the time is right for the collection to grow.  Also, much thanks for your comment on our podcast, we love doing it and glad that listeners respond so positively.   

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