Photography and Visual Representations of the American War in Viet Nam

Author: Er-Win Tan, Senior Lecturer, Department of International and Strategic Studies, University of Malaya
Ted Engelmann, Independent Scholar, Veteran of the American War in Viet Nam (1968-1969), and Freelance Embedded Photographer in Iraq (2008) and Afghanistan (2009)
Published: December 8, 2017

Citation: Tan, E-W., Engelmann, T. (2017). Photography and Visual Representations of the American War in Viet Nam. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 4(si).


“A picture says a thousand words”, as the aphorism goes. This certainly applies to the realm of photography. Yet, do photographs speak for themselves, or does the backdrop of photographs matter in underscoring the deeper underlying issues in wartime? As this manuscript shall examine, iconic photographs taken during conflict can have a deeply powerful symbolic impact in seizing the imagination and attention of the public. In so doing, and depending on the context of the conflict being fought, such iconic imagery of war may impact not only on the decision-making process of that conflict, but also be adopted by other observers in the post-conflict to underscore underlying metaphorical themes in warfare. The authors propose to examine this in the form of five particularly iconic photographs from the Viet Nam War (known in Vietnam as “The American War”).


war, photography, iconic imagery, dissent, public opinion