University Of Richmond Museums Opens Robert Hodierne: Vietnam War Photographs

Robert Hodierne: Vietnam War Photographs opens September 17, 2015, through January 26, 2016, in the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, University of Richmond Museums. Robert Hodierne (American, born 1945) was a 21-year-old freelancer when he made his first trip to Vietnam in 1966. The photographer returned in 1969 as a soldier assigned to Pacific Stars & Stripes in Saigon, where he spent another fourteen months. He returned home from Vietnam for the last time in April 1970. During those two tours he photographed combat in every corner of the country, from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that was the border with North Vietnam, to the Mekong Delta in the south, to the jungle-covered mountains of the central highlands, to the rice paddies of the central lowlands. The exhibition includes more than forty photographs from his two tours in Vietnam. Today, Hodierne continues as a photojournalist and is Associate Professor of Journalism, and Chair, Department of Journalism, University of Richmond.

While his photographs have been published in many of the world’s major print publications and continue to be published in books and used in documentaries about the war, most of the images in this  exhibition have never been published. The photographs reflect his concern for the ordinary soldier as seen in their faces, faces that have the same haunted look you see on the faces from all the wars that have been photographed. The majority of his work was in black and white, although the exhibition includes one battle he photographed in color. To this day, Hodierne says when he dreams about Vietnam it is always in black and white.

Highlights of the exhibitions include a black and white photograph taken in 1967 of a village on fire with a Vietnamese woman and two children in the foreground. The fire was set in retaliation for the deaths of two American G.I.s. Hodierne had always wondered about that village: was it a Viet Cong village or were the peasants there simply caught in the crossfire? In 2005 Hodierne returned to that village and found people he had photographed in 1967 and discovered they were not Viet Cong, simply peasant farmers caught in the crossfire.

Another sequence was shot on Valentine’s Day, 1967, when a six-man squad was ambushed and pinned down in the open. Hodierne’s photographs of that desperate fight include the anquish of the sergeant in charge, Sgt. Joe Musial. The final picture of the sequence depicts Musial pinned down in the open and looking back at a dead soldier, while behind him is a seriously wounded soldier. The squad spent the night in a shallow ditch cut off from the rest of the company. By morning the North Vietnamese Army was gone.

Robert Hodierne graduated from Grinnell College in 1968 with a degree in political science.  He has written articles for the Washington Post Sunday MagazineThe New York Times Magazine, andReader’s Digest. He has taught journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Richmond, and conducted numerous seminars on ethics and reporting. Hodierne has also held positions as a general assignment reporter, an investigative reporter, and editor. His photographs have been featured in major U.S. and European magazines, and publications including the 1968 Popular Photography Annual and in the Times-Life series of Vietnam books.

The exhibition was organized by the University of Richmond Museums and co-curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, in collaboration with photojournalist Robert Hodierne.

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