Monday, 6 October 2008

Agent Orange: Philip Jones Griffiths

Once upon a time, I used to freelance for the Far Eastern Economic Review. This was my favourite news magazine of all time. It reported on Asia in a manner unlike any other magazine, and had charming and delightful editors like Brian Keeley, Jane Camens and Miranda Lam - they always made things better. Sadly, Feer got taken over by Dow Jones, had the wrong kind of makeover and was put to sleep suddenly.

A few years back, I wrote a piece for Feer on Agent Orange - based on Philip Jones Griffiths RIP book of the same name. Interviewing scientists working in the field was a revelation to me. The completeness bitchiness and cat-calling, accusation and counteraccusation of the scientific community (though not by any of the people mentioned in the article of course!) was a revelation - this person was "a purveyor of factoids", that person's results were determined by the funding body (the chemical industry) and so on. And the worst thing was it was all true. As for Griffiths book - everyone agreed that it was a "coffee table book".

An exhibition of Griffiths' Agent Orange is on display at the Brighton Photo Biennale. Also on show are Paul Seawright, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Frank Hurley, Simon Norfolk, Geert van Kesteren, Larry Burrows, Susan Meiselas, Harriet Logan, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and many, many more. Quite a line-up in other words and Brighton is always such a lovely place to be..

Here is the text from the Feer review piece.

Agent Provocateur (From the Far Eastern Economic Review: 2004, Vol 167(5))

Welsh photographer Philip Jones Griffiths first heard about the dangers of Agent Orange (the highly toxic herbicide used as a defoliant during the Vietnam War) in Saigon in 1967. "During the war there were these rumours that babies were being born without eyes and it became a quest to find them," says Griffiths. "I visited as many catholic orphanages as I could, but I was barred entry from most of them and I became convinced that the Americans had put the word out - don't let any press in."

Continue reading here.

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