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tv   Photojournalist Catherine Leroy  CSPAN  March 30, 2021 1:54am-2:24am EDT

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with c-span and telling these three women's stories and your own. ms. becker: thank you for having me in person. ♪ >> all q&a programs are available on our website or as a podcast at >> today is national vietnam veterans day and we take you into the c-span archives for conversations with the three women journalists in vietnam we just heard about on q&a. we start with a 1980 five interview with one of those women. -- 1985 interview with one of those women. >> this is a photograph, series of photograph you took in
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vietnam during the war. what is the story behind the series? >> this is one view among many nameless in vietnam. it was a marine in may 1967. this marine became very famous and he made me very famous, his name was vernon. after i did the series of photographs, a number of mothers in america were absolutely convinced it was their son and i had to come back to the company a few days later and get his name and identify him. he was bending over his dead comrade, and he picked up his rifle could and screaming, i killed them all. it was one of the many stories i did, but that story was
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particularly strong and had a big impact on people could -- people. >> what makes a photograph or image particularly lasting? why would any photograph be representative of the war for you? >> because it is timeless. i think photographs have this sense of being timeless. television moves and goes very quickly. looking at a photograph is a very different thing. >> kathlyn -- catherine leroy is with us, she was a photographer in the vietnam war, she was there in the 1960's, and came back in 1970.
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we will be talking about his work. -- her work. first of all, you were 20 years old. >> yes. i went to vietnam with a one-way ticket. i had $100. i wanted to become a journalist. nothing was going to stop me and i spent a couple of years there. i started to work for ap as a freelance, and i made $15 per picture. [laughter] i spent my time in the field, with the marines, and i did a combat jump, the only one who did a combat jump, that was in
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1967, and that was my life, to be photographing the war. >> beyond wanting very much to be a photojournalist, did you go with the goal in mind in terms of what you wanted to show of the war? >> i think it became very clear when i started to photograph that i was very close, as you probably can see. i was being hit all the time by what i could see. i think it was very compassionate also to be so close and wing all of those things in vietnam. sometimes i was doing three or four aerosols per day. -- aerosols per day. -- air assaults per day.
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i saw action all the time. >> the percentage of time you spent in action was quite high? >> very high. >> werther things you saw that were so emotionally draining that you could not take pictures of them? >> oh yes. i could not photograph dead bodies. i could not photograph -- people were going to die and i did not want to photograph dead record -- dead marines that could be recognized. i think someone needs his own privacy. >> you went back in 1975 and then in 1980 and there has been a lot written in terms of the networks going back today, spending the next several days live.
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is that worthwhile, going back 10 years later, and what did we learn from it? >> i think it would be more worthwhile to stay in 1975 when the north all of the television s have left by then. they have been given very strict orders from new york to leave saigon. i headed up with 100 other journalists in vietnam. the bureau chief of the television network -- suddenly, everybody had left. the people who remained capitalized. it's interesting to go back now, except now it is very organized.
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carrie: we were just looking at the cover of life magazine. catherine: the capture of the north vietnamese during the tet offensive. carrie: we can talk about that. were you proud of this story making the cover? catherine: it's the kind of thing if you are lucky, of course i was very proud of it. carrie: let's go to the phones. . guest: hello? good morning. i have a lady who is almost 60 years old, and i want you to know that one of the reasons i am a pacifist, with the photograph that appeared in life magazine about little chinese child amongst the rubble in shanghai, when the japanese attacked china.
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it has affected my whole life. and i want you to know, that what you do is so important. it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. it is absolutely true. that is embedded in my memory. [indiscernible] it was just did it in my memory. i support what you do, and it is so important for those of us who cannot be there, to know, and the way that you know, and the chances you take are very valuable to the rest of us. thank you. catherine: thank you very much. i think we are all haunted by images. there are number of images that stay in our minds forever. we keep them in our minds and we
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never forget them. this lady, precisely has been stricken by something that she always will remember. very interesting. much more than television which does not stay with you all the time. carrie: do you think that the impact of the photographs of the vietnam war in some way affected the outcome of the war or at least affected the public's perception of the direction of the war? catherine: yes, the images of vietnam, the famous picture of a vietnam -- viet cong is in her being shot. it remains as a very strong pictures of vietnam, had a number of others. they hit people.
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it was the first time vietnam was covered, the way it was. looking back at it, it was new media, we had access to it. you have to hurry up to photograph the world because it is closing, you can't see anymore. carrie: it's closing. catherine: very much so. it's very hard to go and photograph. they put you on the bus, and they want you to shoot propaganda. vietnam was not the case, you could go anywhere you wanted. carrie: olivia washington, good morning. host: i wanted to say that the
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media has been able to stay in vietnam after the north took over. i really believe the american people were seeing after what really happened, i know people who are against the war might have changed their minds, i believe that with all of my heart. i believe we did have a purpose there, and if we would've had more, it would've helped. catherine: it's very interesting that all of the media left, the american media at least. that was the end of the story. i came from paris to weeks before the fall of saigon, and to me, i wanted to be there to see it happen, much more than just to be there for professional reasons. i was not seeking in terms of career.
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vietnam had been very close for all those years, i have been very close to vietnam. and i wanted to see the end of it. it's interesting, because the less helicopter left -- again, this very famous picture of the helicopter on the roof. this is also something we always remember. when the less helicopter left -- the last helicopter left, it seemed this country went into a deep sleep. nothing ever transpired of what had happened after. it's very interesting. carrie: would you go back now? catherine: i came back in 1980. i would not want to go back now, because as i told you earlier, the very strict propaganda program for you, they show. i would not want to do that. i just want to be able to go on my own, and look around, and
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take my time, which i did in 1980 for two months. i would not want to go back right now at this precise time, i don't think so. carrie: chicago, illinois. host: i am wondering about subjectivity versus objectivity of photojournalism. do you have much trouble with the editor going through your material and throwing out some pictures that you think you would like to have? catherine: when i first started to be a photographer i was working for 80, and i remember going back to the ap, i was meeting, i was so tired and exhausted. i would hand in my films and
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they would be processed immediately, and the picture editor was looking at the picture, and he was clicking the negative. i think the choice as far as ap was concerned was perfectly valid. what is more worrying is when you send your film 10,000 miles away to a magazine, and of course, the editing is their choice and not your choice. in 1985, pictures are extremely limited. time is not a picture magazine. our pictures illustrate text. it is also editing. carrie: is the photographs
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decreasing for publications? catherine: it is decreasing, yes. there are no more picture magazines like life magazines the way they were 10 or 15 years ago. carrie: why is that? catherine: they don't exist anymore. probably because of television. it's just not there. we have to look for other magazines, and obviously, they're not exactly picture magazines. carrie: new york city, good morning. >> [indiscernible] how close are you to the best -- catherine: right.
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the camera -- you see the world through a viewfinder. you feel incredibly protected. when you don't have your camera, you feel like a target, this is true. it's very interesting. you are a target anyway, like everybody else. carrie: is it possible to separate your own emotional involvement from the work you are doing? catherine: emotional involvement is total. it's 1000% emotional. i have this experience in japan a couple of years ago, i was doing a fashion shoot. a japanese designer, japanese fashion. i was 50 kilometers from tokyo, was locating for a shoot i
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wanted to do for the art of archery. i spent a few hours with archery masters, buddhist monks practicing archery. i stood there and cried, literally, because i realized, after being a photographer for 15 years, but i was doing. let me explain. when you shoot in archery, you should targets. but inside you shoot yourself. you hit in your being hit. this is what i was doing and i do not even know. when i photograph, i can take millions of photographs, sometimes i know i hit. and i hit myself tremendously. all of the photographs, i think this is what has happened, i was hit very much. it's very rare, but it is
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emotional, and this is exactly what happens in archery. carrie: that's interesting. alexandria, virginia. caller: good morning. some of her colleagues and peers do not seem to have that same proclivity. could you make a comment on the fact that quite often, the newspapers and periodicals here in the u.s. showed pictures of supposedly american atrocities, however we never saw, i mean i know they did occur, atrocities committed by the viacom or the north vietnamese or south gate miss people. catherine: of course, yes. there were atrocities committed by the north vietnamese and the
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viacom -- gift, -- v8. i doubt the north vietnamese had photographers and journalists running around with them. we were allowed to cover vietnam on the side of the south vietnamese, and the americans to have access everywhere. this is precisely the very big difference. of course there were atrocities committed, but there was no one to record them. carrie: you were one of the few women photojournalists. . there to that make a difference? catherine: it made a tremendous difference. i was accepted very well. i think although my life as a photojournalist has helped tremendously, people are inclined to give you more help because you look more helpless.
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you can use this -- it helps. yes. caller: good morning. [indiscernible] i participated, i remember quite well. i was there between 1965 in 1966. catherine: i think maybe i could find some pictures of the 103rd. i spent a lot of time with the 103rd, and with everybody. yes. carrie: there you go. catherine: i have a lot of other pictures.
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i was supposed to take 16 pictures. [laughter] carrie: is it important for you to see photographs like this? caller: i can see the photographs. catherine: that must be the marines. they are the marines. carrie: thank you for the call. catherine: fantastic, yes. [laughter] [indiscernible] i had long pigtails, and i was swimming in my size six boots. carrie: the one over here is on the way down. do you think men and women have different perspectives of
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activities, or activities? -- war activities? did it make your photographs different from your male colleagues? catherine: a lot of people thought my photographs were taken with a women's i. -- woman's eye. i really don't know. i still wondering about it. caller: i was wondering why it had never been brought out of the background that we really into the war -- entered the war to prop up french colonialism. the french collaborated with the japanese [indiscernible] many of the vietnamese people were starved to death, and treated atrociously by the
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french people during the colonial days, actually 100 years. vietnamese nationalism has never been brought up. catherine: i don't really understand what the question is. carrie: i am not sure either. catherine: i hear about french colonialism, collaboration with the japanese, things like that. i am afraid it is confusing in my mind. i do not think i understood. carrie: do you want to give us one more chance? caller: by 1952, the united states was paying 85% of the french war bill to keep france and vietnam. from mike and 45 tonight -- from 1945 to 1975, we financed that war. thank you. carrie: do you have a different perspective on that also, being french as well? catherine: being french, of
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course. the vietnamese were speaking french a lot, so that was an advantage. i still do not know what this lady -- carrie: and people magazine, in march, there was a special section on the photographs of the war. a couple of yours appeared. you were telling us earlier, that because of this, you heard from coworkers from many years ago. is there a special bond between you and them, and people that spent time that -- catherine: there is a very special bond. i met them a few years ago, i called my colleague, and we met in a bar on a saturday evening.
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it was filled with people happy, drinking, having a good time. and i was waiting for him at the bar, he came, it was difficult for him to walk, he had a cane. we just fell in the hands of each other and cried. it was very emotional, very emotional. it was like we had left a few days before. we are so close to each other, we could talk, and talk about very personal things, which we would have not done to anybody. we could talk and talk. and unwind. yes, definitely a strong an emotional bond. carrie: in just several minutes we will be going live to a symposium sponsored by the washington times, it's called
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vietnam, a noble cause. later jean mccarthy and george mcgovern. that will be in about four minutes. good morning. caller: good morning. i am wondering why it was that in all those wars [indiscernible] these events going on in our classrooms. i personally feel that the american government should not have allowed any cameras in the war zone. this has never happened. and most of the people who went over had lots of their own, they
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had made their choices. they look for those things that would confirm that they already believed, and that is one of the reasons america while -- lost the war. i strongly feel that the world and america took a very bad turn. i wish that next time, if america has to go to work, like in korea and all those other places, places that are not directly concerned with american interests, but for us in the whole world -- [indiscernible] two feel for the country. i am quite sure of that. carrie: thank you for the call. catherine: no image, nothing.
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that is very interesting coming from an american. frightening. a little bit like the russian lady who would say, we do not want to see anything coming from afghanistan. i'm sure there is nothing much coming out of afghanistan. carrie: could there be another war -- catherine: it's exactly what is happening. there is no image, nothing. carrie: our people interested? if images are coming out? is the bulk of the american public -- catherine: i am sure there interested to have an image.
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part of living in a democratic society, it's the opposite of freedom of movement and speech, and information. carrie: if you are watching this on tape, we want to make sure we thank catherine, photographer for time magazine, spent many time innewspapers about the viem war. >> i am a new zealander, that makes me the only foreigner here.


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