Local photographer takes a look back at the Vietnam War

Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 at 12:28 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s been 45 years since the last American helicopter took off from Vietnam on April 30th, 1975. Many veterans of that war still have a tough time dealing with it, and one photographer who is now in Savannah is hoping he was able to help out just a little bit.

Tom Sanders seems proud of his work in his newest book, “The Vietnam War, The Faces and Voices.” It’s his second book, coming after “The Last Good War” about WWII veterans.

“It always surprised me that all the World War II veterans came back as heroes, and the Vietnam veterans did not,” said Tom Sanders, SCAD Photography Professor.

Sanders believes this is his opportunity to let them tell their stories. The subjects are a wide variety, War relics, Vietnamese immigrants, nurses, veterans, and conscientious objectors.

“I think some of the veterans would be upset with the conscientious objectors in my book, especially the Marines who volunteered to be in the Vietnam War, but I think it’s my job to represent the Vietnam War the best I can,” Sanders said.

Sanders was able to give SCAD Photography Chair Rick English a quick preview of the book before it comes out in early March. After being rejected early on, he believes Ken Burns’ series on the war made it possible to re-visit and feels like that’s an important step for the veterans.

“I think as history goes on, we have to remind ourselves from the past, and I think the book is cathartic for Vietnam veterans, it honors them and it also introduces the war in a different way for our current generations to learn from the Vietnam War."

And while he feels good about his work with those that fought in the war, there were some uncomfortable times during sessions.

“When I photograph the Vietnam veterans, I always feel bad about doing this, but I ask them to think about their war experiences when I photograph them, to get that real expression, and get that real nostalgia on their faces."

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