Trang Bang: 40 Years Later


It’s difficult to explain to someone who has grown up in the world of digital photography just what it was like being a photo-reporter in the all too recently passed era of film cameras. That there was, necessarily, a moment when your finite roll of film would end at frame 36, and you would have to swap out the shot film for a fresh roll before being able to resume the hunt for a picture. In those ‘in between’ moments, brief as they might be, there was always the possibility of the picture taking place. You would try to anticipate what was happening in front of your eyes, and avoid being out of film at some key intersection of time and place. But sometimes the moment just doesn’t wait. Photojournalism – the pursuit of story telling with a camera, is still a relatively young trade, but there are plenty of stories about those missed pictures. In the summer of 1972, I was a 25-year-old photojournalist working in Vietnam, where I spent two years trying to cover the events of that war. Some stories present themselves in more obvious ways than others, but as the U.S. began winding down direct combat roles and encouraging Vietnamese fighting units to take over the battle, there were moments when trying to tell that story presented enormous challenges.