If you don’t know who Philip Jones Griffiths is then now is the time to be enlightened. We lost him fairly recently, but thanks to people like Donna Ferrato we have something unique to remember him by. In short, PJG was a Welsh photographer known for his coverage of things like the Vietnam War. His views and experience in Vietnam were brilliantly captured in “Vietnam, Inc.” which was widely viewed as a publication that changed public opinion about the war.
I think the best way to describe him and his legacy is in this quote from his friend fellow photographer Henri Cartier Bresson.
“Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths.”
This film was created shortly before his death and is both incredibly personal and incredibly informative about the mind of the man who brought us this lasting photographic evidence. On a personal note, I met PJG during a political convention in downtown San Diego in the late 1990’s. I was walking alone along the fringes of the chaos, looked up and there he was. I introduced myself, explained what my goals were and he graciously gave me advice as if we had been friends forever. He stood, glasses on the end of his nose, towering above me with his arms crossed behind his back, and I instantly felt a respect of not only the human but the preciousness of what he was offering me. In my experience with photographers this is a somewhat rare occurrence. I’ve certainly never forgotten it, and I’ve also never forgotten the first time I opened “Vietnam, Inc.” and first glimpsed the legacy he left for all of us.