Second Generation Artist: Covered the Conflict in Vietnam with America
Lê Minh Trường was born in 1930 in Huế, Thừa Thiên Province.1 He took up photography after being wounded fighting the French in the First Indochina War.2 He worked as a war correspondent and photographer for the Liberation News Agency and won first prize at the National Photography Exhibitions in 1969 and 1971.
Lê Minh Trường in an interview on National Geographic: Vietnam’s Unseen War, 2009, National Geographic
Trường was one of the most venerated photographers in Vietnam during the second half of the twentieth century, recognized for his black-and-white photographs. A pioneering documentarian of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Trường famously developed his photographs while on location, carrying chemicals and china plates in his backpack and washing his prints in nearby streams at night.
Due to inferior equipment and limited film – the Vietnamese photographers did not have access to telephoto lenses –Trường constantly put himself at risk. During trench warfare in
Along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Trường was one of the only photographers to document the female bomb diffusers, some as young as teenagers. Not just a documentarian, Trường contributed to the moral of Vietnamese troops in his own way, showing compassion by sending photos of subjects home to their families for support.
Even after he had finished his film, Trường would not be free from danger. Often shooting behind enemy lines, he was required to walk back through enemy territory – sometimes as far as 50 miles – in order to relay film back to Hanoi.3
As a result of his infamy as a photographer, Trường was featured in the National Geographic documentary film National Geographic: Vietnam’s Unseen War released in 2009, alongside Tim Page and others who risked their lives capturing the Second Indochina War through photographs. He was also included in various international exhibitions and publications, including the 2002 National Geographic book Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the other side, and the corresponding exhibition at the International Centre for Photography in New York.
Lê Minh Trường passed away in 2011 in Ho Chi Minh City.
National Geographic: Vietnam’s Unseen War, 2009, National Geographic
Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the other side, 2002, National Geographic
Ken Burns, The Vietnam War, 2017, PBS Series
Private international collections
2002 – Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the other side, International Centre of Photography, New York
REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES:
- After 1975, Thừa Thiên Province was renamed Thừa Thiên-Huế Province.
- Biography from independent interviews with Lê Minh Trường in 2006 and 2007 conducted by Witness Collection.
- National Geographic: Vietnam’s Unseen War, 2009, National Geographic.