Vietnam: Two Views
Statement by Steven Jay Rudy
On the first of April 1995, my wife, Sandra, and I arrived at Tan So Nhut Airport in Ho Chi Minh City to begin a long-awaited adventure. I had been to Vietnam before. In 1968-69, I was stationed outside Danang, working in the Navy's Pacification program.
During the war, I lived in Tam Toa, a squalid village of lean-to shanties that was home to about 2,500 Montagnard families -- all war refugees. I was a member of a team of four that provided medical services, dug wells, built schools and lent a hand in any task or project necessary to meet the refugees' basic needs for survival. From time to time, I also did combat-related photography in I Corps between Danang and the DMZ.
For many years, I had wanted to return -- not necessarily to photograph Vietnam, but more importantly, to revisit old memories -- memories that differed from those of other Americans who shared the Vietnam experience with me. I needed to find out whether my memories had been filtered through rose-colored glasses or if I had simply been fortunate enough to see another side of Vietnam.
These photographs, made in April 1995, and then on a return trip in November 1996, are not an attempt to recreate "the war" as most Americans visualize it, but are simply an attempt to show Vietnam as I see it today. It's a beautiful country inhabited by attractive, friendly, proud and hard-working people -- not really so different from the Vietnam I experienced in 1968-1969.
Statement by Sandra R. Rudy
Steven was the first man I met who would talk about his experience in Vietnam. When we met in 1973, I was fascinated by his stories of the war, the country and the people. I had spent the summers of 1969 through 1971 working in villages in Central America with Amigos de las Americas, a Houston-based organization that sends volunteers to live in villages in Latin America to give immunizations, teach English and good health practices, and dig latrines.
When we decided to make the journey to Vietnam, I was determined to see the country with as unprejudiced and fresh an eye as was possible. I did very little research. I read no histories of the country or the war. This is not my usual approach.
The result was an immediate immersion in a completely new, different and astoundingly stimulating culture. Had I done my usual research, I might not have noticed the amazing sense of design that the people use in their everyday lives, the way traffic moves like a river along the roads and the streets and the ubiquitous shade of green in the countryside.
The journey was a return for Steven. I saw Vietnam in a completely fresh light with no preconceived ideas. We both see Vietnam as one of the most beautiful countries in the world with people who are energetic, warm, and welcoming. This is the Vietnam we have tried to capture in our images.
Published on 5/1/98