Late, great photojournalist Hứa Kiểm remembered

July 08, 2021 - 08:00

Hứa Kiểm once said that to be a war photographer is to know how to accept danger and sacrifice to take good photos.

Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam (right) presented the 2017 State Prize for Literature and Art for photography to journalist Hứa Kiểm, on the morning of May 20, 2017. — VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam

HÀ NỘI — Hứa Kiểm once said that to be a war photographer is to know how to accept danger and sacrifice to take good photos.

The journalist recently passed away at the age of 83 and his funeral was held on Wednesday, July 7 at the National Funeral House No 5 Trần Thánh Tông Street in Hà Nội. He was then buried in his hometown in Lạng Sơn Province.

Trần Mai Hưởng, former General Director of the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), expressed surprise and mourning at Kiểm's passing.

"Although I know this is inevitable when he is old and seriously ill, I still feel very sudden. On the occasion of Reunification Day April 30, talking to me, he still passionately talked about his plans and reviewed the memories we had together. I still feel a lot of desire and enthusiasm in the 83-year-old cameraman with whom I used to have a lot of attachments.”

Active on many battlefields

Journalist Hứa Kiểm, whose real name was Hứa Thanh Kiểm, was born in 1938 in northern Lạng Sơn Province.

In 1953, while still a student, he volunteered to join the army.

When peace was restored in the north, Kiểm worked as a culture teacher of the General Department of Politics. In 1964, when the US imperialists attacked the north, he volunteered for battle.

In early 1966, after being trained in journalism, he took a job in the war photo group of the Vietnam News Agency, working at anti-aircraft artillery battle spots at key targets for American aircraft such as the Nam Định Textile Factory, the Thái Nguyên Iron and Steel Factory and the Phú Lương Bridge in Hải Dương Province.

At the end of 1966, he was assigned to be a permanent reporter in Vĩnh Linh District, the central province of Quảng Trị. Since then, he was regularly assigned to photograph major battles and important campaigns. From 1970, he accompanied Cambodian soldiers to take pictures of battles. In 1971-72, he photographed all kinds of battles in the north.

In the spring of 1975, Kiểm was assigned to accompany Regiment 66, Division 304, Army Corps 2 on its mission to liberate Sài Gòn and the southwestern provinces. Four years later, he returned to Cambodia to photograph the struggle against genocide in the country.

Throughout his career, he always wondered how he could convey the most realistic images of the war and contribute to the promotion of all classes of people.

One of photo in the set of photos "Road 20 decided to win" which won the State Prize for Literature and Art for photography in 2017. — VNA/VNS Photo Hứa Kiểm

Glory came to him from those efforts as the set of photos Road 20 decided to win consists of five photos was awarded the State Prize for Literature and Art for photography in 2016. He was also personally awarded many noble titles by the Party and State such as the Third Class Military Merit Medal in 1981, Victory Medal the Second Class in 1960, Military Medal of the Decisive Victory in 1981, and Order of the Glorious Soldier, First, Second, and Third Class in 1960.

A passionate person

Those who met Hứa Kiểm will surely never forget the generous, enthusiastic and old-fashioned photographer.

Journalist Chu Chí Thành, former chairman of the Vietnam Association of Photographic Artists, said that the Kiểm was one of the few ethnic minorities involved in journalism during the war.

Thành said the Tày man was a humble, sociable, cheerful, gentle person who was loved and respected by friends and colleagues, and in his profession, was enthusiastic, passionate and devoted. In the military photo group in the years 1967-75, Kiểm was always ready to rush into danger to take vivid pictures of the war to inform both the public at home and abroad.

Thành said in 2013, he introduced journalist Kiểm to the French International Press Photo Organisation named Visa pour L´Image.

After seeing Kiểm's photos, French photographers invited him to send photos and attend the 26th International Press Photo Festival at the end of September 2014 in Perpignan.

At the festival, Kiểm's photos surprised and moved the public. His photo Engineer crossing the swamp on Trường Sơn Road was enlarged to about 60-70sq.m, stretching across the stream in the heart of the old city with three other large horizontal photos of Vietnamese authors Đoàn Công Tính, Mai Nam and Chu Chí Thành.

Thành said that in the history of Vietnamese photography, Kiểm's photos are invaluable. These are photos that depict the hardships and difficulties of the war, but also artistic photos.

“Journalist Kiểm produced top-notch photo works, precious images, through which the public can see many generations of Vietnamese people during the war years. Thousands of photos left by him to the VNA are extremely valuable documents. These are not only precious documents but also valuable artworks that contribute to the richness of Viet Nam's photographic art treasure," said Thành.

Thành said that he and his colleagues will continue to select valuable photos by Kiểm to put them on display at an upcoming exhibition, as a tribute and gratitude to their departed comrade. — VNS