|Memory of war: Lieutenant-general Pham Xuan The polishes his battledress.
HA NOI (VNS)— Major-general Nguyen Duc Huy put on his glasses to see photos of himself and his comrades more clearly at an exhibition by photographer Tran Viet Van that opened yesterday in Ha Noi.
Called Generals in Peacetime, the exhibit marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Viet Nam People's Army (1944-2014) with 70 coloured and monochrome photos depicting the day-to-day life of Vietnamese military commanders.
Huy was fascinated by an image in which Van takes an upward angle, making him look "like a statue". At first glance, he couldn't even recognise himself.
"Van is a creative photographer with a unique vision," Huy said. "The photos he captured tell visitors the personalities of the characters."
The photos displayed at the exhibition were taken since 2009 and depict top-ranking commanders like General Vo Nguyen Giap, senior lieutenant-generals Nguyen Van Rinh, lieutenant-generals Nguyen Duc Soat, Nguyen Van Tinh, Pham Xuan The, Nguyen An and Nguyen Quoc Thuoc and major-generals Nguyen Duc Huy, Do Van Phuc, Nguyen Van Minh, Le Xuan Tau and Do Quoc An.
Through the photos, visitors see the simple life of the commanders, who are all retired and find joy in taking care of their grandchildren, playing chess, pruning bonsai and contemplating their collections of medals. Van also captured their happy moments at family meals and meetings with old comrades.
The idea of taking photos of the generals in peacetime came to Van when he photographed the late General Giap in 2009 to illustrate an article for Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper, where he is on staff.
"Seeing the simple life of General Giap at his private house, I thought of other military commanders who fought with fortitude in battle," he said. "I wondered how they live during peacetime."
Beside photos, Van also displays stories and conversations with the commanders. The text and photos will be published after the exhibition closes.
"Since its establishment, Viet Nam has fought many resistance wars against invaders," Van said. "History records many famous generals who led the people and army to defend the country."
Generals Tran Quoc Tuan (1228-1300) and Vo Nguyen Giap (1911- 2013) are listed among the top generals in the New Encyclopaedia Britannia [published in 1983]. Van hopes that his exhibition will help young people understand contemporary generals as thoroughly.
"The generals live closely to their community," he said. "Through my lens, I express my gratitude and respect for their devotion and sacrifices."
Van said he learned many moral lessons from the retired generals.
"The commanders want a peaceful life," he said. "Moments with their families are the most precious thing to them. No one is more aware of the price of peace."
The photo that brings Van the most satisfaction is one of General Giap after meeting soldiers and children on the 55th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu victory in 2009. His guests having departed, Giap looks thoughtful in the red glow of the setting sun.
Photos from the collection have won prizes in international contests. The photo of major-general Nguyen Duc Huy, former Acting Commander of Military Region 2, polishing medals in his house won a prize this year at the sixth international Pollux Awards, the largest annual journalism photo contest. Other photos of major-general Huy won prizes at the 2011 Pollux Awards. Photos of other generals also received honours in Greece, the Czech Republic and France.
The exhibition will run until May 24 at the Exhibition House, 29 Hang Bai Street, Ha Noi. — VNS