Requiem Project Overview

A remarkable collection of Vietnam War photographs was put on exhibition in Frankfort, Kentucky at the newly opened Kentucky History Center in late 1999. It was the first major show for the new Center.

The exhibition, "Requiem – The Vietnam Collection", paid tribute to all 135 photojournalists, from all sides of the conflict, who died or went missing during the war in Vietnam and neighboring countries. "The Vietnam Collection", consisting of over 300 photos, was the work of a group of Kentucky civic leaders and business executives, most Vietnam War veterans, together with the Office of the Governor and financial sponsorship from individuals and corporations across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The photographs came from the award winning book Requiem – By The Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina, published in 1997, and compiled by well known photographers Horst Faas and Tim Page. Both had covered the war. Page worked for UPI as well as freelanced for Time and Life magazines. Faas, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, was the Saigon photo editor for the Associated Press from 1963 to 1972.

What originally began as a memorial by Page to two friends, photographers Dana Stone and Sean Flynn, who died in Cambodia, became a much bigger project to collect the works of all the photojournalists who died in the line of fire. Many of the photos were done by men and women from Vietnam, North and South, which had not been seen before by the public. While it may not be the most complete collection of photographs from the Vietnam War, many have said that it may be the most important.

"Requiem – The Vietnam Collection" was assembled by the Kentucky Requiem Project Steering Committee, initially, as a tribute to the lost photojournalists and the men and women who served in Vietnam from that state. Kentucky had the second highest participation in Vietnam, on a per capita basis, of any state in the country. The Committee was chaired by F. Richard Lennon, a former US Marine Corps officer, who served in Vietnam in 1968 and who initiated the Kentucky exhibition together with Faas and Page.

A second objective of the Kentucky Steering Committee was to create a one-of-a-kind outreach program by arranging to donate the entire collection of photos, accompanying materials and necessary funding to the people of Vietnam to sponsor a similar exhibition in Hanoi. Upon the closing of the exhibition in Kentucky, the collection of photos was conveyed by Governor Paul E. Patton to representatives of Vietnam as a gift from the citizens of Kentucky. It was donated as "a gift of Hope, Healing & History" with the wish that "we never forget the sacrifices of the photojournalists who took these amazing photos and the men and women who are captured in them".

Said Lennon, at the subsequent opening of the exhibition in Hanoi in March 2000, "these photos are a tribute to and some of the best works of the 135 photojournalists, from all sides, killed or missing while covering the conflicts in Vietnam and Indochina. This exhibition is a tribute to their artistry, their professionalism and their dedication to their craft. This Kentucky-sponsored exhibition is also dedicated to the men and women, from both sides of the conflict, who served their respective countries so honorably and admirably. The photos communicate, better than can words, the conditions under which these men and women served. Irrespective of individual political views and differences, their sacrifices can never be minimized nor forgotten".

The exhibition, opening to large crowds in Hanoi in early 2000, was accomplished in cooperation with the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture & Information, the Vietnam News Agency and the Vietnam Association of Photographic Artists. The opening received broad coverage in the media, with reporters from CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press, the Vietnam News Agency, the China News and a German film crew in attendance. More than 50 Vietnamese reporters and/or photographers covered the story.

At opening ceremonies, Horst Faas remarked " the photographs have now come home to remain in Vietnam and to be a permanent memorial to the men and women who took them and died here". Said Tim Page, "I think it is one of the most incredible bodies of photographic work ever assembled…the fact is that so many of these frames are the last ones retrieved from inside cameras, the last roll of film. It’s like touching the spirit of the people who recorded those images".

Following a highly successful showing in Hanoi, Vietnamese officials decided to transport the collection to Ho Chi Minh City, calling the exhibition an act of remembrance and a highlight of events marking the 25th Anniversary of the end of the war and the reunification of Vietnam on April 30, 2000. There, the "Requiem – The Vietnam Collection" was put on display initially for two weeks. However, it remained open for almost three months as a result of unexpected and unusually large crowds. For most of the visitors it was the first time to see these photos – both those from the Western photojournalist as well as from the Vietnamese. Emotional moments were visible virtually every day as veterans, friends and family members visited the exhibition to remember their KIA and MIA loved ones.

Following the closing in Ho Chi Minh City in late summer 2000, "Requiem – The Vietnam Collection" became two exhibitions, with Faas and Page donating their private collection of another set of the photos to the Vietnamese. This was done to accommodate Vietnamese officials who, realizing the power and interest of these photographs, made a decision to create permanent displays in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – after the collection of photos complete tours of other major cities in Vietnam during 2001& 2002.


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