Ho Chi Minh’s Vision
Posted May 14, 2013
Ho Chi Minh learned two lessons from the French. The first, freedom, is well known. The second, photography, is not. While historians know that he worked as a photo retoucher during his years in Paris, most overlook the importance of photography--an invention often credited to the French--for his vision of national independence. In 1953, Ho Chi Minh authorized the establishment of Vietnam Pictorial. With the assistance of Chinese benefactors, the picture magazine launched in October 1954, shortly after victory at Dien Bien Phu earned the Viet Minh freedom from French colonialism. As a photography magazine, Vietnam Pictorial drew heavily on both international, but especially local, sources for images of the nation.
Since this time, the magazine has broadcast Ho Chi Minh's vision to foreigners abroad and overseas Vietnamese. One of its aims is to demonstrate revolutionary solidarity, as the cover of the 1973 issue shows. Featuring Angela Davis with her signature Afro, this cover photo bears her personal message of support for anti-colonial struggles.
During what's known in Vietnam as the American War, the picture magazine was sent to antiwar activists, many of them organized as "friendship societies" that were sympathetic to the National Liberation Front. Published in several languages, including French, English, Russian, and Chinese, the magazine heralded the accomplishments of the socialist state and condemned US violence. While a number of reasons account for the NLF's victory over American-aided ARVN fighters, the picture magazine helped on the ideological front.
1-5. Courtesy of Vietnam Pictorial